5 observations as Flyers camp is set to culminate with ‘important' intrasquad game


Game day has arrived at the Wells Fargo Center again.

For the first time since March 10, 2020, the Flyers will play a game in Philadelphia.

The opponent: themselves.

With no preseason contests, the Flyers are holding an intrasquad game Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) to wrap up their blink-and-you'll-miss-it 2021 training camp. The orange and black exhibition will consist of three 20-minute periods. The club will hold a pair of morning skates at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone.

"It's an important night for a lot of players; not just about the starting lineup, but where they are on our depth chart, how do we feel we can utilize these guys at some point moving forward," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Saturday in a video interview. "It's important."

Following the game, the Flyers will cram in final evaluations and construct their roster and taxi squad ahead of Wednesday night's regular-season opener against the Penguins.

Let's get into five observations leading up to the game action.

1. No Ghost?

Shayne Gostisbehere was paired with Ivan Provorov on Wednesday and Friday in training camp, appearing in line for a juicy opportunity to play alongside the club's No. 1 defenseman in the intrasquad game.

However, Gostisbehere was unexpectedly listed as unfit to play Saturday. Gostisbehere appeared fine in Friday's practice, scrimmage and power play work. Wade Allison was also listed as unfit to play Saturday. He practiced Friday but did not compete in the scrimmage, suggesting the 23-year-old winger possibly felt something injury-related during practice. 

Both of their statuses for the intrasquad game are uncertain.

"At this point, [Gostisbehere] is unavailable just like Allison and that's all I can say about players during training camp that are not at practice," Vigneault said Saturday.

If Gostisbehere can't play, it will be a missed opportunity to impress the staff in the only game action prior to the opener. The 27-year-old is competing for a lineup spot following his difficult 2019-20 season.

On Saturday, instead of playing with Gostisbehere, Provorov was paired with Justin Braun.

Here were Saturday's defensive pairs:

Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun

Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers

Robert Hagg-Erik Gustafsson

Egor Zamula-Mark Friedman

Tyler Wotherspoon-Nate Prosser

Chris Bigras-Derrick Pouliot

Over the past three days of camp, Sanheim has been with Myers, and Hagg with Gustafsson, so those top three pairs above very well could be what you see in the intrasquad game.

More: From lineups to live stream, everything fans need to know for Flyers intrasquad game

2. Konecny's net gains

Practicing on the Flyers' first power play unit Friday, Travis Konecny was heavily utilized behind the net and in front of it.

He did damage.

Konecny isn't the biggest but he scraps for space and has the skill to either finish or facilitate with the puck in that area on the man advantage.

Given Konecny is coming off a breakout regular season but a goalless playoffs, his willingness to score those types of goals is a good sign. Whether it's at even strength or on the man advantage, net-front play is the most consistent way to score, especially if players want to get to the net.

The 23-year-old All-Star took a lot away from seeing former teammate Wayne Simmonds work at the net on the power play.

"I feel comfortable there," Konecny said Friday in a video interview. "I'm still learning a little bit how to play it effectively every play and every night. But I also had the benefit of watching Simmy. He played in that position the first couple of years that I was here and he was one of the best guys at playing the net front. A lot of things that I do are from what I picked up from him."

3. Moving forward

Here were the Flyers' combinations at forward Saturday:

Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny

Claude Giroux-Kevin Hayes-Joel Farabee

James van Riemsdyk-Nolan Patrick-Jakub Voracek

Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Connor Bunnaman-Morgan Frost-Linus Sandin

Samuel Morin-Andy Andreoff-Carsen Twarynski

Morin, who is making the transition from defenseman to left winger, got a look with Laughton and Aube-Kubel on Friday. Maybe the Flyers give him another chance with those two in the intrasquad game. The Flyers obviously know what they have in the veteran Raffl (and his spot is secure), but they've seen only five on-ice days of Morin at his new position, a switch that he has been working on for only a few months. Putting him with Laughton and Aube-Kubel would make for quality evaluation.

Van Riemsdyk, Patrick and Voracek have been together for three days. Many eyes will be on that line.

4. The read on Z

Egor Zamula, the club's rising 20-year-old blue-line prospect, played alongside Braun for a couple of days.

The organization is — and has been — high on his upside.

But he's still pretty thin (listed at 177 pounds) and needs to continue to add muscle to his long frame (think of a younger Sanheim).

One of the biggest areas Zamula will have to work on is fending off the forecheck along the back wall. It's a crucial, high-pressure play for defensemen. He struggled with drills focused on that aspect and it's where he looked shaky during the exhibition game against the Penguins in the Toronto bubble.

"Z's got tremendous amount of potential," Vigneault said Friday. "Big man, he's gained some weight, he's gotten stronger. Not quite sure he's quite ready for this competition right now, but we wanted to take a look at him. I know that he was with us last year when we went into the bubble, got a chance to practice with us.

"The veteran players on this team have taken notice of this young man and we're just giving him an opportunity to skate with different people. Every time he's on the ice and practicing or scrimmaging, he's improving. He's definitely a young man this organization believes at some point will become a Flyer and will help us win moving forward here."

5. Braun sees a winner

Braun, a veteran who turns 34 years old in February, has played in 100 career playoff games. The rest of the Flyers' defense has played in a combined 104:

Provorov — 22

Sanheim — 20

Gostisbehere — 17

Myers — 16

Gustafsson — 15

Hagg — 14

Braun, who will be relied upon more this season as he picks up some of Matt Niskanen's minutes, re-signed with the Flyers this offseason on a two-year deal. The team's young outlook played a big role in his decision to return after he came to the Flyers in a trade the previous offseason.

"These guys have just been fantastic since Day 1," Braun said Friday in a video interview. "I’ve enjoyed hanging out with them, trips, being on the road, the bubble — it’s a great group. On top of that, a really talented group. When you get a little older, you want to be with an organization that has a chance to win, and this one does.

"You just look at this group and the talent up and down the front, it’s unbelievable. You’ve got two great goalies, back end solid. It’s a group that can make some noise, but we've got to put in the work. The season's not going to be easy, we’ve all seen the division we’re in, the teams we've got to play night in and night out and how important every game is. But this team has the ability to put something together special."

Braun, a 2007 seventh-round pick, went to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final with the Sharks but has not won a championship.

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