Blues’ grind continues in Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA — Going head-to-head against one of the biggest and strongest teams in the NHL, Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol decided to sit defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who is 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, and rookie forward Travis Konecny, who is 5-foot-10, 175 pounds.
The Flyers had one of their strongest defensive efforts of the season in a 1-0 overtime loss to the Kings and will try to carry that same defensive mindset into Monday night’s home game against the decidedly smaller St. Louis Blues.
“We will consider who our opponent is,” Hakstol said when asked if Gostisbehere and Konecny would return to the lineup after two straight games in the press box. “Those two young guys are a huge part of what we are doing. They have been a big part of any success that we have had. They happen to have been out the last couple of nights, nothing more than that.”
Physically, the Blues are an imposing team on the blue line with Jay Bouwmeester and Colton Parayko, but up front, they have only a handful of forwards over 6-foot-1 and will be without forward Robby Fabbri, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury to his left knee in Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Those facts could mean a return to the lineup for Gostisbehere and Konecny.
The Blues (25-22-5, 55 points) and Flyers (26-20-7, 59 points) are in similar positions in their respective conferences, with the Flyers barely holding onto the final playoff berth in the East and the Blues within striking distance of one in the West.
Since the firing of Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1, the Blues have split their last two games, beating the Maple Leafs 5-1 in Mike Yeo’s debut as head coach, and dropping a 4-1 decision to the Penguins on Saturday.
“I know it’s been a long emotional week for everybody,” Yeo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the loss to the Penguins. “We had a good game (on Thursday) and this was not a good game. What I’ve said all along is, we need to continue to build our game. It has to be our focus.”
The seriousness of Fabbri’s injury was announced Sunday by the Blues. St. Louis president of hockey operations and general manager Doug Armstrong expects Fabbri to be ready for training camp.
Fabbri, who is fourth among Blues forwards with 11 goals and fifth with 29 points, left Saturday’s game midway through the first period after being checked hard into the boards and did not return. He’s gone 16 games without a goal but provides the Blues with speed down the middle.
“That’s never something you want to see and we’re wishing the best for him,” Blues forward Jaden Schwartz said Saturday. “That’s a tough break there.”
The Blues have lost six of their last eight games and have been outscored 32-15 in those losses and their 3.10 goals-against this season ranks 26th in the NHL.
The Flyers, meanwhile, have gotten three straight solid efforts from goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who is expected to get the start against the Blues. Neuvirth has allowed one goal in each of those three starts, going 2-0-1, and could be on the verge of replacing Steve Mason as the Flyers’ No. 1 netminder.
“So many times the more I play, the better I play,” Neuvirth said. “I felt really good out there (on Saturday). I am seeing the puck well. It would have been nice if we could win that game (Saturday) but, it didn’t happen. We have to be ready for Monday because we have another tough team coming.”