Flyers Notes: Voracek, Stamkos Out for Saturday’s Round Robin Finale
There are a few ways you can look at the Flyers final Round Robin game on Saturday. You can view it as one final tune-up before the playoffs begin for the Flyers. Or you can view it as one of the biggest games the team has played in years.
It’s been a long time since the Flyers had a game of such meaning in the “playoffs.” This is not a game that will clinch a series and move the Flyers one step closer to the Stanley Cup. Win or lose, the Flyers will be playing again in a week and their playoff lives will finally be on the line. But there is a magnitude to this game that wasn’t there for many years, even in playoff series the Flyers have played recently.
For Saturday’s Round Robin finale against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a battle that will be for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, both teams will be missing a key part of their offense.
Jake Voracek will not be available for the Flyers. Steven Stamkos will be out for the Lightning.
Alain Vigneault could not elaborate on Voracek’s absence, but it didn’t sound like a coach’s decision, the way James van Riemsdyk’s absence in Thursday’s game was. Voracek did miss one scrimmage in Phase 3 training camp due to a delayed test result. Stamkos has also been battling an injury.
Voracek will be replaced in the lineup by van Riemsdyk, who slots back into the third line alongside Derek Grant and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Joel Farabee will take Voracek’s spot on the top line. The rest of the forward lineup remains the same.
Defensively, the Flyers will get Shayne Gostisbehere back into the lineup for Saturday. He will take Robert Hagg’s spot on the third pairing and play alongside Justin Braun. Carter Hart will be in goal.
For now, there is still no start time announced for Saturday’s game. The NHL is likely waiting to see the result of Game 4 of the Pittsburgh-Montreal series. Montreal currently has a 2-1 series lead and Game 5 would be on Saturday if Pittsburgh wins Game 4. If there is a Game 5 in the series, the NHL would likely want to make it a prime-time game in the 8 p.m. time slot. If the Flyers-Lightning Round Robin game is the lone game from Toronto on Saturday, then they would likely push it back to 8 p.m. as well.
As a result, the playoff scenarios are also starting to form for the Flyers. Now that they have clinched a top-two seed, there are two teams still standing as of Friday afternoon that they cannot play. The Flyers will not face the fifth-seed Penguins -- if they come back in the series -- or sixth-seed Hurricanes -- who already swept the Rangers.
The seventh-seed New York Islanders have also advanced to the first round of the playoffs. They would only face the Flyers in the first round if the Flyers were the two-seed and Pittsburgh advanced. The more likely matchups for the Flyers, given the current series results, would be the winner of the 8-9 matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets -- Columbus currently leads the series, 2-1 -- or the 12-seed Canadiens.
It all remains to be seen, but for now, the focus is on Saturday’s game, whenever that may be. The opponent for the first round will be learned soon after.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.