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PRACTICE UPDATE: The Blueline Shuffle

Flyers resume practice, prep for Anaheim with big changes on defense

by @NHLFlyers

With the news of Andrew MacDonald out for several weeks with a lower body injury, the focal point of the first day back at Flyers practice was solely on the blueline. Most notably the pairings and who is playing with who. 

From the looks of it, not just one pairing will change, but all three pairings will have a shake up. 

"The good thing about that is the entire group is pretty versatile, so I think there are some different possibilities, but we like the group of six the way we had them today," said Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol.

With only six d-men available, the pairing were as follows:


Video: Hear from the defense on new pairings

"There's different roles that each unit has. There's a different rhythm on the back end than there is certainly up front, so there is some familiarity from each of the pairs that are there if you want to look back all the way back to preseason," added Hakstol. "Mostly it's pairing guys that we feel can be a successful combinations together in terms of what their abilities are."

At the center of attention was rookie Robert Hagg, who woke up, came to the rink and found himself on the board and bumped up to the top pairing with Ivan Provorov.

"We played in two preseason games together. He's a pretty good player," said Provorov. "I had pretty good chemistry with Mac [Andrew MacDonald]… It [stinks] that he's out, but Hagger's a really good player and we'll try and find our chemistry as quick as possible."

"Every guy that's here deserves to be here and is ready to play," added Provorov. "I think for us, we'll try and communicate as much as we can. We'll talk before the game, probably talk today about some plays, and I think we should be fine."

Should the pairings hold up through Tuesday's morning skate, what's on tap first for Hagg could be shutting down a dangerous duo in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry with the Anaheim Ducks in town to complete the Flyers five-game homestand.

"I don't think about it too much before. Of course it's a fast team out there and you need to be on your toes," said Hagg. "I'm just going to try and go out there, play physical and win my battles in the corner, and try to separate guys from the puck."

Video: Hear from the head coach as the team prepares for ANA

This being the first significant injury to the club, it creates a situation where another player can insert himself into the lineup and possibly into a long term role. As far as Tuesday's game, Hakstol confirmed that will be Brandon Manning.

Manning has played three games thus far, recording one assist and logging 16:28 of ice time.

"He's a real good veteran with great perspective and pretty good demeanor on the bench as well, so he brings some of that and the group back there will be confident and they'll be fine."

Flyers GM Ron Hextall held media availability today following practice and announced to the group that there were no plans on recalling a player from their AHL affiliate and the club will skate with six defenseman.

"We're at six right now and we're at home, so there's no reason to call someone up to sit," said Hextall. "We'll approach it on a day-to-day basis. There's only six spots so I don't really want to call a guy up to sit. We'll see how tomorrow goes and if we get banged up or whatnot, we'll make decisions as we go along."

The one luxury, added Hextall, of being able to stick with six defensemen and allow them to get away with not having an extra guy is due to the close proximity of the Phantoms being an hour drive. 

"We have enough guys down there that can at least play on a day to day basis so I don't anticipate anything," added Hextall on whether he would look to make a move to bring someone in or draw from the Phantoms. "We have enough guys down there, multiple guys, we feel like can fill in when need be."

Should they do go the call up route for a two-game road set in Ottawa and Toronto later in the week, one veteran defenseman won't be available - TJ Brennan will be out 2-3 weeks. Defenseman Philippe Myers is day-to-day, but Hextall believes him to be ok at this point. All other Phantoms d-men are healthy.

Hextall also spoke following practice today to give a status update on a pair of Flyers injuries as of late. At the forefront was forwards Jordan Weal (2 games) and Taylor Leier (1 game), who both missed recent games due to upper-body injuries.

Weal and Leier are still day-to-day, but were pronounced "good to go" from the general manager. Both players were the last off the ice, getting extra workout in as they typically do, so whether they will face the Ducks on Tuesday will most likely be determined after the morning skate.

As for the Ducks, a depleted group could get a lift as their captain, Ryan Getzlaf resumed skating on Saturday in Anaheim. He has yet to officially return to the lineup since appearing in a pair of games on Oct. 9 and 11, and has been listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

The Flyers will look to cap off a successful homestand when they wrap up the season series against the Ducks (7 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia and 97.5 The Fanatic). They are 3-1 in the previous four games of the five-game set and despite the loss, have outscored the opposition by a 15-5 margin.

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