Morgan Frost has some big skates to fill.
The 21-year-old center will make his 2020-21 season debut between Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny on Monday. The Philadelphia Flyers are hosting the Buffalo Sabres for back-to-back games at Wells Fargo Center.
“We feel that the other lines are building some chemistry,” said Flyers coach Alain Vigneault on Sunday about how he’s handling this situation. “I think (Kevin Hayes’) line is building chemistry, they had a real good first game, the second game was maybe a little bit more average there. I thought Nolan (Patrick) with James (van Riemsdyk) and Jakey (Jakub Voracek) are slowly but surely getting some good chemistry. And I like Scotty Laughton’s line.
“Instead of shuffling everything — Morgan is considered to be a skilled, offensive player. I might as well put him in that role, and that role with T.K. and Oskar, he’s playing with two pretty good players.”
Couturier Suffers Rib Injury
Frost was known as a playmaker in junior, and topped 70 assists twice during his four seasons with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds. He had a good training camp but was a healthy scratch for the first two games of this season. He draws in after Sean Couturier suffered a rib injury early in Philadelphia’s 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night. He’s expected to be out for at least two weeks.
Sean Couturier's last shift before exiting the game. pic.twitter.com/gI2lTOXLWp
— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) January 16, 2021
It’s bad news for any team to lose its top-line center, especially when that player is the reigning Selke Trophy winner. But the Flyers are deep up front this year. Other lines should be able to help pick up the slack, and Frost’s linemates have been buzzing in the early going.
Strong Support From Konecny, Lindblom
Despite Couturier’s absence for most of the game, Konecny tallied his first career NHL hat trick against the Penguins on Friday. And Lindblom has two goals in two games so far. One went in off his head while he was causing havoc for goaltender Tristan Jarry in Game 1. An empty-netter sealed the win in Game 2.
“They’re both tremendous players,” said Frost of his new linemates. “They both can create plays and they’re both elite goal scorers. I’ll try to put the puck on their stick as much as I can in good areas.
“They’re really good players and I’m excited for the opportunity. I’m going to do whatever I can to make plays for them and hopefully be in position for them to make plays for me.”
Heading into Monday’s games, Konecny was once again Philadelphia’s leading scorer. With five points in two games, he was tied with four other players atop the NHL scoring race, and was named the league’s Second Star of the week.
Frost Brings The Skill
Frost played 20 games with the Flyers last season, putting up two goals and five assists. With that limited NHL experience, the 27th-overall pick from the 2017 draft will still qualify as a rookie this season.
Fellow center Kevin Hayes likes what he’s seen so far.
“His game is fun to watch,” Hayes said. “If he plays the right way defensively, he’s going to provide some serious offense for this team. I think as a team, our coaches and our management are relying on him to do that.”
Averaging 5.5 goals a game in the early going, the Flyers are leading the NHL in offensive production.
After two solid wins over the Penguins to open the season, the Flyers will face a less familiar foe on Monday and Tuesday. With the Buffalo Sabres joining the East Division from the Atlantic, the two squads played each other just twice last season, both times at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers went 2-0-0 with a 6-1 win in December and a 3-1 win in March.
Sizing Up The Sabres
The Sabres are hitting the road for the first time this year, after starting their season with a pair of home losses to the Washington Capitals. Their forward group looks significantly different from last season, thanks to the addition of 2018 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall on Jack Eichel’s line, and recent World Junior Championship star Dylan Cozens lining up with veteran Eric Staal.
Sabres' lines/pairings during the morning skate in Philadelphia:
Extras: Irwin, Mittelstadt.
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) January 18, 2021
Hall and Eichel are leading the way for their team offensively, each with three points in two games.
In net, expect Linus Ullmark to get his second start of the year for Buffalo. The Flyers will go back to Carter Hart for the third-straight game. Brian Elliott could get his first start of the year on Tuesday, in the second half of the back-to-back.
The Flyers are looking to take advantage of their season-opening homestand by starting their season with three straight wins. The last time that happened was in the 2011-12 season. Ilya Bryzgalov picked up all three victories. Game-winning goals were scored by Claude Giroux, Voracek and Andrej Meszaros as the Flyers knocked off the Bruins, Devils and Canucks.