Stolarz leads way in his debut
PHILADELPHIA >> Anthony Stolarz made 29 saves for his first NHL victory in the Philadelphia Flyers’ 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday night.
Stolarz also became the first New Jersey native to appear in goal in an NHL game. The 22-year-old was born in Edison, about 60 miles northeast of Philadelphia.
Michael Raffl, Jakub Voracek, Chris VandeVelde, Wayne Simmonds and Roman Lyubimov scored to help the Flyers snap a two-game losing streak and improve to 10-10-3.
T.J. Brodie, Matthew Tkachuk and Alex Chiasson scored for the Flames. They are 10-13-1 overal, and 3-2-0 on a six-game trip that will end Monday night against the New York Islanders.
*** It took Michael Del Zotto a surgery to repair torn wrist ligaments and a full offseason’s rehabilitation to get his left hand somewhat competently around a stick again, only to see a left knee problem in training camp delay the start of his season until Nov. 6.
All those missed games clearly have had an impact, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol indicated Sunday, and led to the three straight healthy scratches that Del Zotto just endured.
“I’m not going to get into specifics ... (but) Michael’s coming off a good chunk of time where he didn’t play regularly, if you go all the way back to last season,” Hakstol said before the Flyers took on the Calgary Flames. “So there were some inconsistencies in his game. And the group of six (defensemen) that was in there the last couple of games was battling hard and playing hard so ... it was moreso that.
“It was tough to make a change when the group of six is battling hard.”
Yes, but the numbers and the eyes of any observer would argue that there hasn’t been much reason to think the Flyers should feel like they don’t have to change a thing defensively. No team in the NHL had given up more goals than them (75) through Saturday’s games.
You can’t put all of the blame for that on the defense. Just a big chunk of it.
So with the convenience of Brandon Manning not being as well as he said he was (surprise, surprise) the day before, a spot opened up for Del Zotto to return to action Sunday night against the Flames at Wells Fargo Center.
“He comes in with all the confidence in the world from us as a staff,” Hakstol said. “Come in, play a strong, solid game and keep rebuilding himself back into that form before injuries got in the way.”
Manning, by the way, was held out of the game due to what general manager Ron Hextall called “precautionary reasons.” He had been belted hard both into the boards and by Chris Kreider’s fist in Saturday’s loss to the Rangers. Manning’s status going forward isn’t known.
*** Del Zotto wasn’t the only one making a return to the lineup, as checking line forward Roman Lyubimov was back in after seven straight healthy benchings. Yet Hakstol is still raving about him.
“He probably wasn’t deserving to be out of the lineup,” Hakstol said of the 24-yearold
Russian free agent forward. “He’s such a worker. Right from Day 1. I wish I could say something different about him because it sounds like a broken record, but I’m happy that I can’t say something different because he’s just a worker. He’s precise in everything he does out there. Always extra effort, always focuses on good execution.”
*** NOTES >> Hakstol has been juggling lines quite a bit, and had Michael Raffl back on left wing of the top line Sunday night. That worked out fine early on, as Raffl’s goal late in the first period tied the game with the Flames. “He’s comfortable there in terms of chemistry,” Hakstol said of Raffl. “He’s played there in a pretty significant number of games. He brings a straight-line power forward element to them.” ... Anthony Stolarz on finding out late Saturday that he was going to make his NHL crease debut against the Flames: “For me it was exciting to finally hear those words. I’ll go out there tonight and work hard, have fun and give this team a chance to win. It’s exciting to finally get this opportunity.”
The Flames’ Alex Chiasson (39) tries to get a shot past the Flyers’ Michael Del Zotto (15) Sunday in Philadelphia.