NHL notebook: Flyers coach could make changes, Flames' top line looks for offence - InfoNews

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NHL notebook: Flyers coach could make changes, Flames' top line looks for offence

Montreal Canadiens left wing Tomas Tatar, not shown, scores on Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart (79) as teammate Montreal Canadiens centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15) looks on from the net of the net during second period of NHL Eastern Conference Stanley Cup first round playoff action in Toronto on Friday, August 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
August 15, 2020 - 2:54 PM

TORONTO - While much of the focus in the Montreal-Philadelphia series the past few days has been on the Canadiens' coaching situation, Flyers bench boss Alain Vigneault figures to face some key decisions on Sunday.

After winning 13 of their past 14 contests, the red-hot Flyers finally hit a speed bump on Friday in suffering a 5-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series at Scotiabank Arena.

With top regular-season scorer Travis Konecny suffering an injury blocking a shot on Friday, the ex-Ottawa 67's star's status is in question. Meanwhile, winger Michael Raffl warmed up before Game 2 after missing the previous four games while being declared unfit to play.

So what will Vigneault do with his lineup with the series tied at 1-1 heading into Sunday's Game 3?

"That's why they pay me the big bucks," Vigneault said with a laugh on a video conference with reporters on Saturday. "At the end of the day, that was our first really tough game in the last 16 or 17. Do you make some minor changes? Do you make some major changes? Do you show faith in the group that brought you to the dance and played extremely well down the stretch. Tune in, you'll find out tomorrow."

The upstart Habs rewarded Claude Julien with a big effort on Friday, as the head coach watched from home while recovering from a health scare.

Julien, who was admitted to hospital following the Canadiens' 2-1 loss in Game 1, had a stent installed in a coronary artery Thursday. Doctors expect a full recovery.

Associate coach Kirk Muller took over head-coaching duties and guided the lowest-seeded team in the NHL's restart to its fourth win in six post-season outings.

"I didn't notice much of a change to be honest with you. He's always somebody who talks with a certain intensity ... he's been in your shoes, he battled," Canadiens winger Paul Byron said of Muller. "Anybody who watched Kirk Muller play hockey knows the kind of hockey he played. You have instant respect for him, what he says to you, his opinions."

Muller hopes to see more of the same from former No. 3 overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who had two goals on Friday to give him four in the post-season after scoring just six in 36 regular-season games.

The 20-year-old Finn, who spent time with Laval of the American Hockey League this season, also is playing a more physical game. He has 26 hits in six post-season games after having 51 in the regular season.

The production is coming with an average ice time of 13:09, just nine seconds more than in the regular season.

"I'd say maturity," Muller said when asked about the biggest different in Kotkaniemi's game. "It was a great decision and I know he didn't like it, but going back and playing some games (in the AHL), coming to North America and playing a lot of hockey in the minors was a good opportunity for him to get his feelings for understanding the game over here better."

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

The Calgary Flames have a 2-1 lead on the Dallas Stars without a goal from their top line at even strength.

The Stars were second in the league in goals against this season, so offence is always tough to come by against Dallas.

Flames coach Geoff Ward said Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau need to stay patient and support each other in Game 4 on Sunday in Edmonton.

"Dallas is good defensively and they do a good job taking the middle away. We have to understand first of all there will be a lot of times when we've got to play through the muck," Ward said.

BUBBLE BOOST

Vancouver Canucks centre Jay Beagle knows all about deep playoff runs, having won a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018.

This year, of course, is an entirely different experience with players in secure zones and no fans in arenas.

Beagle feels there's at least one positive about the situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's almost a little bit easier because you really have no distractions," said Beagle, whose team can take a 3-0 lead on the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Sunday. "There's no tickets and having people coming. I've always found you have people coming out of the woodwork trying to get tickets for playoffs and just all those distractions kind of away from the rink. It's a little bit easier just to stay focused."

Gaudreau also has found something to enjoy.

"Not travelling is kind of nice, obviously," he said. "Not switching hotels, not going from home to a different city, that's one of good things about the bubble."

GOALIE CHANGE?

Blues coach Craig Berube said he hasn't decided on a goalie for Game 3.

Jordan Binnington has allowed nine goals in two games against Vancouver.

Jake Allen is Binnington's primary backup.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published August 15, 2020.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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