VOORHEES, N.J. — All signs from Saturday’s morning skate pointed to the Flyers’ 2019-20 leading scorer and goal scorer being benched for tonight’s game against the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.
Travis Konecny was not on either power play unit in practice as he stayed off to the side and then skated with the other apparent scratches (Robert Hagg, Nate Prosser and Brian Elliott) following the morning session.
Samuel Morin, the club’s 13th forward who has not appeared in a game yet this season, led the team’s post-practice stretches. Typically, when a player leads stretches, there’s some type of significance to it. Also, teammates often tap their sticks or cheer during such a moment, depending on the reason, but it was rather quiet and subdued Saturday given the circumstances of Konecny appearing to be out of the lineup.
Head coach Alain Vigneault confirmed in his pregame media availability at 4:45 p.m. ET that Konecny would be scratched tonight.
“I believe that T.K. is one of our top three forwards, tremendous potential, is doing some things right like going to the net, stopping and scoring a couple of big goals for us,” Vigneault said. “But I also believe that right now our 5-on-5 play is not where it needs to be. I’ve been talking to the players about it for some time, areas that I believe that we need to be better at, areas that we have been good at in the past. T.K. is the one tonight that is not going to play. His 5-on-5 game needs to be better in the areas that he’s aware of; I had a good conversation with him this morning and expect him, the next time he’s back in the lineup, to play the right way.”
Konecny did not have a shot on goal and had two giveaways in 17:33 minutes of the Flyers’ 3-1 win Thursday over the Devils. He played only 4:20 in the third period and played around 30 seconds in the final five minutes of the game. After the game, Vigneault was left displeased with and perplexed by the performances of his top two forward lines in the first two periods.
Getting Morin a game in a back-to-back set would be one thing, but doing so at the expense of Konecny’s spot in the lineup says something. This is the Flyers’ first game against the team that eliminated them in a second-round Game 7 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This is a loud message sent from Vigneault nine games into the 2020-21 season. Konecny was an All-Star last season and led the Flyers in goals (24) and points (61) over 66 games. The 23-year-old winger has five goals, three assists and a plus-5 mark through the first eight games of this season.
“There’s a bigger game, there’s a 200-foot game that you need to play,” Vigneault said. “Tonight he’s going to get an opportunity to reset and I’m sure the next time he’s going to be in the lineup, he’s going to be real good for us.”
The message is not only sent to Konecny, but also to the Flyers’ entire roster. Despite their 5-2-1 start, the Flyers have been outshot in seven of their eight games, with five of them by double-digit margins. Last season, the Flyers allowed the NHL’s fewest shots per game.
“I’ve addressed this with the group a couple of times — not a couple of times, basically after every game — about our need to play better 5-on-5. Our need to do the right things, to play the right way,” Vigneault said. “My intention, and I came here to Philly to win a Stanley Cup, and to win a Stanley Cup there’s a certain way that you have to play. I’m especially talking to the forward group right now. I think our D is trying real hard to play the right way. We won’t be perfect, we won’t be perfect on defense and up front, but there’s a certain way that you need to play, certain decisions you need to make with and without the puck. That’s what I’m here to do and that’s what I’m going to get out of this group.”
Philippe Myers will return Saturday night from a fractured rib. He skated alongside Travis Sanheim and is good to go. Carter Hart will start in net, while Brian Elliott is expected to play the second game of the back-to-back set Sunday.
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