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Shifting Gears as Week 2 of Training Camp begins

Flyers make changes to groups, prepare to take on heavy preseason schedule

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer

Over the first few days of training camp, the Flyers simultaneously mixed and matched players with widely varying levels of experience and development while taking a look at several possible preseason combinations. Practices, especially on Day One, were skating-intensive and loaded with battle drills in various situational settings. 

Now that the team has played its first preseason game and is gearing up for split-squad games against the New York Islanders on Wednesday in Allentown's PPL Center and the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, there has been a slight shift in emphasis - although the conditioning skating and battle drills are still prominent. 

As the second week is now well underway, here are three things to watch in camp:

1. Systems play - Monday's session was the first day in camp where there was considerable systems work (breakout patterns, forechecking schemes, 5-on-5 segments, coverage and support, etc.) on the ice. That emphasis will only increase in the days to come.

"Today was the first day we spent a good amount of our day - both before we got on the ice and out on the ice - working on some of the detail of our game," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said.  

"That's going to be a work in progress. There's not a lot of time to practice between now and opening day in San Jose. So we have to take full advantage of the time we do have both at practice and in exhibition games to work on our game as a team."

At the same time as systems work increased, players also still engaged in various close-quarters battle drills, including a one-one drill with the goaltenders stationed at the bottom and top of the circle. Flyers right winger Jakub Voracek noted that winning the majority of these game-within-a-game battles goes a long way toward gaining the upper hand in a game.

"There's not a lot of room out there. There's not much opening going around the corners and around the net, so if you're good in the battles, you're going to create some openings and get more [scoring] chances," Voracek said.

Video: Hear from Voracek, Sanheim and Read after practice

 2. Thinning the herd - Through Monday morning, there have been six cuts to the initial training camp roster. There will be a host of cuts to come over the week. In preparation for the phase of NHL camp where the remaining players on the ice are either those with locked-up NHL jobs or those still in the running for opening night spots, there will be less spreading out of the veterans and top rookie candidates between Group 1 and Group 2.

Some of this process got underway on Monday. Nothing is carved in stone as to which players will remain in the NHL job hunt and which will be assigned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms or junior teams. Young players will still have opportunities to shine. However, Monday's Group 1 roster was at least an approximation of what may come over the next week.

 Monday's Group 1 lines were as follows:

Oskar Lindblom - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Travis Konecny - Sean Couturier - Dale Weise

Taylor Leier - Nolan Patrick - Jordan Weal

Michael Raffl - Scott Laughton - Matt Read

Jori Lehtera - Valtteri Filppula - Colin McDonald

 Monday's D-Pairings were as follows:

Ivan Provorov - Andrew MacDonald

Robert Hagg - Shayne Gostisbehere

Brandon Manning - Radko Gudas

Samuel Morin - Travis Sanheim

 Michal Neuvirth, Brian Elliott and Alex Lyon in goal.

Wayne Simmonds took a maintenance day on Monday. Originally on the Group 2 roster, Taylor Leier skated with Group

Players in Group 2 on Monday included defensemen Phil Myers and Mark Friedman, forwards Mike Vecchione, Cole Bardreau, German Rubtsov, and Mikhail Vorobyev and goaltender Carter Hart.

Noting that there is still considerable time to go in camp, Hakstok said that there is still fluidity between the groups.

 "They tell you a little bit [about the players' NHL roster-battle status] but I don't think you can read everything into it," Hakstol said. "You'll probably see some adjustments to the groups tomorrow, with some shifting."

 Hakstol said that, in Wednesday's split squad games, there were be a mixture of veterans and rookies assigned to both the Allentown and Brooklyn matches. Hakstol will coach the game in Lehigh Valley, while Gord Murphy and Ian Laperriere will be behind the bench in Nashville.

 3. Stamina put to the test - Early in camp, everyone's adrenaline runs high as veterans and rookie hopefuls alike try to put their best foot forward. As camp progresses and some fatigue sets in, it can be hard to sustain the early energy and attention to detail. It will be the roster-bubble players who avoid drop-offs in their performance at practice and in exhibition games who will emerge from camp with opening night roster spots.

 "You have to do the little things well," said Matt Read, who is now in his seventh Flyers training camp but the first since his stellar 2011-12 rookie season where he didn't have a sewn-up NHL roster spot heading into camp. 

 "If you play well defensively, forecheck, create some offensive scoring chances from those things and hopefully put a few in the net, you'll get more shifts and more opportunities."

 Hakstol said that what's gone on so far in camp and the first exhibition game is the building of an evaluation baseline. In other words, the coach is looking beyond what happens in a particular game or an isolated shift and is focused on day-in-and-day consistency. A multi-point game isn't going to automatically secure a spot nor is an isolated costly turnover or rough night on special teams assignments necessarily going to close the book on a player's opening night roster hopes.

 "As we evaluate, we're looking at a body of work," Hakstol said. "Throughout camp, we're building on that."

Video: Hear from head coach Dave Hakstol following practice 

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