Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Gostisbehere, Laughton sent to Allentown

Two players who need to break out of camp and into game action with the eye of the tiger have been officially loosed from the Flyers' cage.

On Wednesday, the club sent forward Scott Laughton and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere down to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms as part of further roster trimming. Samuel Morin, Gostisbehere's partner during the last several preseason games, will get an extended look given the struggles that Nick Schultz has encountered in limited play.

Both players who landed up the Northeast Extension will not play at PPL Center tonight, per Gary Blockus and Bob Rotruck, for the Phantoms' exhibition opener against the Hershey Bears.

As Laughton and Gostisbehere have been touted as short-term solutions for all kind of things which ail the parent club, they should take roughly the first quarter of the schedule to give the Flyers pause for keeping them down on the farm much longer.

In addition, Ron Hextall said that defenseman Zack Stortini was placed on waivers with the intention of keeping him with the Phantoms. We can only hope another GM is dumb enough to take him off the organization's hands by noon on Thursday to open up another contract slot for someone more deserving.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Giroux returns as Flyers beat Rangers

Philadelphia, PA --  Matt  Read added a marker  and two helpers as  the Philadelphia Flyers welcomed back their captain by doubling up the Rangers,  4-2, in preseason action on Tuesday night.

Nicklas  Grossmann and Sean Couturier also tallied for the Flyers, who dropped a  6-3 decision in Manhattan on Monday in the opener of the home-and-home set.  Mark Streit added a pair of helpers for the victorious hosts.

Wayne Simmonds posted a goal and assist,  while Ray Emery stopped 24-of-26 shots for the win, the Flyers' third in three tries on home ice.

Giroux  participated  in  his  first  preseason  game following  a lower-body injury, posting two shots on goal in almost 17 minutes of ice time.

He didn't get to see much of the third period due to the Orange and Black taking four penalties in a span of just over four minutes in the middle part of the stanza, but appeared not to be laboring except for one camera shot in the second period where he hunched over at center ice.

Carl  Hagelin scored  shorthanded and Anthony Duclair at even strength for the Blueshirts.  Cam  Talbot allowed three goals  on 22 shots through two periods. Jason Missaien worked the third and halted all seven shots he faced.

After looking suspect 24 hours earlier at Madison Square Garden, Braydon Coburn led all Flyers skaters with 22:09 TOI but managed to break even. Luke Schenn logged the most time of any forward at 20:43.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare seemed to have the most jump outside of Vinny Lecavalier, and tied for the team lead with four shots on goal in 13:39 of action.

Five New York skaters finished with a game-worst minus-2, including defenseman Kevin Kline and Boston College forward product Kevin Hayes. Duclair, 19, has recorded a goal in each of the three preseason games he has played this year.

Craig Berube's club has one more exhibition tune-up, on Thursday in Washington against the Capitals. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sixers announce camp roster

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia 76ers today announced their training camp roster Monday in advance of  the 2014-15 NBA season.

Training camp will take place at Stockton College in Galloway, N.J. from Tuesday, Sept. 30 through Saturday, Oct. 4.

In conjunction with the start of training camp, the Sixers have announced the signing of three players:

Chris Johnson (6-6, 201) was eligible for the 2012 NBA Draft following a four-year career at Dayton.  He earned Honorable Mention All-Atlantic 10 honors as both a junior and a senior.  Johnson appeared in 40 games for the Celtics last season.

Ronald Roberts (6-8, 225) was a four-year player at St. Joseph’s.  He was named Atlantic 10 All-Conference Third Team as both a junior and a senior.  Roberts shot 60% from the floor as a senior and 57% for his career.

Jakarr Sampson (6-9, 214) was an early entry candidate for the 2014 NBA Draft following his sophomore season at St. John’s.  The 21-year-old was named BIG EAST Rookie of the Year as a freshman and averaged 14 points and six rebounds for his career.

Here is the entire Sixers 2014 Training Camp roster:

Prior to NBA/Home Country
Brandon Davies
Brigham Young/USA
Michael Carter-Williams
Nerlens Noel
Arnett Moultrie
Mississippi State/USA
Ronald Roberts
St. Joseph's/USA
Tony Wroten
Jakarr Sampson
St. John's/USA
Luc Mbah a Moute
K.J. McDaniels
Chris Johnson
Casper Ware
Long Beach State/USA
Joel Embiid
Jason Richardson
Michigan State/USA
Elliot Williams
Hollis Thompson
Henry Sims
Jerami Grant
Jarvis Varnado
Mississippi State/USA
Alexey Shved
CSKA Moscow/Russia
Keith Bogans

Lane Johnson officially returns from suspension

Not a moment too soon, apparently.

The Philadelphia Eagles activated right tackle Lane Johnson from the reserve/suspended list on Monday, in anticipation of his return to action from an offseason suspension.

Johnson  was  sidelined four  games without  pay by  the NFL  in late July for violating  the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances by taking a medication he says he failed to check out properly.

Johnson started all 16 games as a rookie last season after being drafted No. 4 overall by the Eagles out of Oklahoma.

To make room on the roster, the Birds released offensive lineman Kevin Graf.

Johnson's return comes on the heels of Nick Foles and the offense struggling for the first time all season in Sunday's 26-21 defeat in San Francisco. Despite 21 points officially on the ledger, the offense contributed to none of that total and only posted 213 yards.  

Philadelphia Flyers 2014-15 Season Preview: Goaltending

The Phanatic continues its look at the 2014-15 Philadelphia Flyers for Part 3 of four weekly installments.

Once again, Rob Riches takes up the quill and dissects the issues of the Orange and Black crease featuring a pair of familiar faces. 

The Flyers entered the 2013-14 campaign with a fresh start between the pipes, after inking Steve Mason and Ray Emery to a pair of one-year contracts. 

Mason played seven games in the Orange and Black in the previous season after being acquired from Columbus in a trade-deadline deal, while Emery returned to the team as a free agent after backing up Corey Crawford on the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Naturally, the two netminders entered training camp with some friendly competition for the starting job. The team committed just $3.15 million between both goaltenders ($1.65M to Emery, $1.5 to Mason). It wasn't a bad turn of events for a team that had just bought out Ilya Bryzgalov and the $34.5 million owed on his massive deal just several weeks beforehand.

Mason assumed the starting role in the second week of the season, and went on to play 61 games. Courtesy of a lackluster offense, he earned losses in seven of his first 10 appearances, despite allowing three-or-fewer goals each time out. However, he finished the season with a 33-18-7 record, 2.50 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and four shutouts. Those numbers were the best he's produced since his Calder Memorial Trophy-winning season in 2008-09, and at season's end, he placed seventh in Vezina Trophy voting.

The Ontario native's steady presence between the pipes bailed the Flyers’ shaky defense out in numerous games as they rose from the pits of despair into a playoff berth, and helped steal some wins for the team in a battle with the Blue Jackets for positioning. In January, he was rewarded with a three-year, $12.3 million contract extension -- indicative of the organization's confidence in him for the foreseeable future.

Here's an inside look at how the Flyers' starter prepares for a night in goal:

Of course, Mason’s 2014-15 campaign will come with some skepticism. A glance at his following seasons in Columbus after his rookie campaign, when he established himself as a below-average goalie throughout the league, displays the following: save percentages .901 or below, and his lowest GAA was 3.03. In addition, his Goals Saved Above Average ratings -- goals prevented given his save percentage and amount of shots faced, compared to the league’s average save percentage at the same number of shots allowed -- fluctuated between negative-16.33 and negative-25.84.

It’s likely Mason won't repeat his brilliant overall performance from last season, but with full confidence from the organization and its fans, there’s plenty of room for optimism. At 26 years old, there’s still room to improve and establish himself, and if he can win 29 games this season, he would usurp Martin Biron as the franchise's 10th-winningest goaltender.

Emery, on the other hand, started the season slow and allowed four goals in each of his first three appearances. His biggest highlight early in the season was going after counterpart Braden Holtby during a 7-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals on Nov. 1, which prompted league-wide speculation and discussion about a possible 10-game suspension for leaving the crease to fight and new hand-wringing about the nature of fighting within the game.

The very next night, Emery blanked New Jersey, making 14 saves in the process. A 30-save effort (on 31 shots) against Pittsburgh on Nov. 13, followed by a 29-save game against Buffalo eight days later appeared as though his season was getting back on track, but he then proceeded to lose four of his next five appearances between Nov. 27 and Dec. 21.

Emery finished his second stint in Philadelphia with a 9-12-2 record in 28 appearances, a 2.96 GAA and a .903 save pct. Because of a Mason concussion, Emery was pressed into duty for the first three games of the club's first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers, going 1-2 with a 3.49 GAA and .888 save percentage. It's debatable that the outcome of the Flyers/Rangers series may have been different if Mason was healthy for the first three games, but as fans have learned countless times through the years, hockey is not a game of  "ifs" and "buts."

When free agency began in July, Emery, who turned 28 on Sunday, was brought back on a one-year, $1 million contract -- a $650,000 pay cut for veteran assurance once it was clear no one else was a bargain for either performance or money. As it was last season, the once-undisciplined Emery will provide a wealth of veteran assistance to his younger partner in the crease as he matures.

Both men are led by goaltending coach Jeff Reese, who enters his sixth season with the organization. Emery worked with Reese in his first tenure in the Orange and Black, before avascular necrosis in his hip put his career on hold just before the Vancouver Games. In Reese and Mason’s time together, Reese made some technical adjustments to Mason’s game, and helped give him confidence that he was sorely lacking with the Blue Jackets.

The Flyers' struggles at the goalie position since the days of Ron Hextall's second tenure in the crease are well-documented. After the Bryzgalov experiment backfired spectacularly, it seemed as if the Flyers would have to keep searching in vain for that one guy who could put it all together. 

There's a lot of well-deserved optimism surrounding Mason after his career re-defining 2013-14 campaign, and there's also faith Emery could still thrive in a backup role if he remains healthy. Let's hope their performances can enhance the moves made up front and that their brilliance won't be necessary on a nightly basis for the club to remain competitive. 

Be sure to take a look at Riches' analysis over the past two weeks of the Flyers offense and defense

Eagles sputter in loss to 49ers

Santa Clara, CA -- The San Francisco 49ers got back to their hard-nosed ways and figured out their second-half woes.

The team which is seeking a fourth straight trip to the NFC Championship game stymied Philadelphia's potent offensive attack and had a late goal- line stand, holding off the Eagles 26-21 to hand them their first loss of the season on Sunday.

The Eagles (3-1), who had picked up just five first downs prior to their second-to-last offensive drive, moved the chains six times on that march and crossed midfield for the first time at the 4:57 mark of the fourth.

Jeremy Maclin made a one-handed 22-yard catch on 3rd-and-14 to put the ball at the 17-yard line. Foles then rolled right and hit Jordan Matthews, who came back to the ball for a gain of 11 yards.
LeSean McCoy dashed for five yards off left tackle on 2nd-and-goal to set the ball up at the 1-yard line, but Nick Foles tossed consecutive incompletions and Philadelphia turned the ball over on downs.

The Eagles tallied 90 of their 213 total yards on the drive.

Philadelphia forced a three-and-out to get the ball back, but Perrish Cox intercepted Foles on 4th-and-24 to seal the outcome for the 49ers (2-2) and give head coach Jim Harbaugh a victory over former Pac-10 foe Chip Kelly.

The Eagles had outscored their first three opponents 74-24 in the second half, while San Francisco had been trounced 52-3 after intermission, but the 49ers outscored Philly 13-0 over the final 30 minutes in this one.

San Francisco had the ball for 42:17 of the 60 minutes.

Frank Gore carried the ball 24 times for 119 yards and had a career-long 55- yard touchdown catch for the 49ers, who avoided a three-game losing streak.

Colin Kaepernick was 17-of-30 for 218 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the triumph.

Foles completed just 21-of-43 passes for 195 yards with two interceptions and McCoy struggled to find holes behind Philadelphia's makeshift offensive line, running for just 17 yards on 10 carries.

The Eagles posted three non-offensive scores in the first half. Darren Sproles returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown, Malcom Jenkins ran back an interception 53 yards for a score and Brad Smith recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.

Philadelphia led 21-13 at the break, but Antoine Bethea forced a Zach Ertz fumble along the sideline on the Eagles' opening second-half series and Cox was able to establish possession prior to going out of bounds.

The 49ers capitalized on the miscue, with Stevie Johnson tip-toeing and keeping both feet inbounds inside the left pylon for a 12-yard score and get San Francisco within 21-20.

Kelly's team went three-and-out on its next touch and Phil Dawson nailed a 46- yard field goal to put the 49ers in front, 23-21, with 3:33 left in the third.

Dawson added a 31-yard field goal to extend the San Francisco margin to 26-21 with 6:35 remaining.
Earlier, the 49ers, who were the only team coming in with a touchdown on each of their first three opening drives, went three-and-out on their initial touch.

Connor Barwin shot right past left guard Alex Boone and Trent Cole came around the edge to sack Kaepernick on a 3rd-and-12 for a 13-yard loss to put the ball at the 2-yard line. Trey Burton then blocked the ensuing punt and Smith made the recovery in the end zone for a touchdown.

The 49ers answered with a 29-yard Dawson field goal to conclude a 14-play, 69- yard sequence.
Gore's touchdown reception came on a 2nd-and-17 on the first play of the second. Kaepernick scrambled to his left to avoid pressure and flicked a pass back across his body to a wide-open Gore, who stiff-armed Eagles safety Earl Wolff prior to crossing the goal line.

Philly was unable to get a first down, but Jenkins picked off Kaepernick and ran it back the other way three plays into San Francisco's next touch after Kaepernick tried to fit a pass to Brandon Lloyd running a slant.

Sproles scampered down the right sideline for his career-best 82-yard punt return for a score to stake the Eagles to a 21-10 cushion at the 8:49 mark of the second.

Dawson split the uprights from 51 yards out with 59 seconds left in the half.

Notes:  The last time the Birds had a punt block, punt return and interception return for touchdowns in the same game, occurred on Nov. 22, 1992 at the Meadowlands, a 47-34 win over the Giants made famous for Vai Sikahema shadowboxing the goalpost cover following his return TD in the second half ... The 49ers were 8-of-19 on third down, while the Eagles finished 5-of-13 ... San Francisco outgained Philadelphia 232-73 in the first half ... Maclin caught five passes for 68 yards ... 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis made his season debut, but left late in the first quarter with a left knee injury ... San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis departed with a back injury early in the third frame.