Young defense getting job done for Flyers

Oliver Lauridsen celebrates his game-winning goal with teammates against the Islanders. "We have kept it very simple," Lauridsen said of the Flyers' defense.
Oliver Lauridsen celebrates his game-winning goal with teammates against the Islanders. "We have kept it very simple," Lauridsen said of the Flyers' defense. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff)
Posted: April 27, 2013

Maybe it's because they are hungrier and playing with more passion than their predecessors.

Or maybe it's partly because their recent opponents - most of which have already clinched playoff spots - seemed to be going through the motions.

Whatever the reason, the Flyers' young, no-name defense has keyed a late-season surge that has produced five wins in their last six games.

The Flyers (22-22-3), trying to finish with more wins than regulation losses, and their patched-up defensive corps will conclude the disappointing season Saturday night in Ottawa.

In Thursday's home finale, a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders, the Flyers' defensive pairings looked like this: Luke Schenn and Oliver Lauridsen; Erik Gustafsson and Andreas Lilja; Brandon Manning and Matt Konan.

Of that group, Schenn is the only one who has not spent most of the season in the minors.

"We have kept it very simple, and I think that is a great asset to have as a D-core, no matter who is out there," said the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Lauridsen, who has scored the game-winning goal in the last two games. "With regards to the guys we have out there, I am actually pretty proud of what that D-core has done. We have had so many guys in and out. We haven't given up that many goals. We have gotten some great support from our goaltenders."

The Flyers' defense is decimated by injuries. Braydon Coburn (shoulder), Nick Grossmann (concussion), Kimmo Timonen (foot), Andrej Meszaros (shoulder), Kent Huskins (concussion) and Bruno Gervais (abdominal tear) are all sidelined, forcing the D to be filled by castoffs and call-ups.

Oddly, the makeshift group has performed better than the regulars. In the last eight games, the Flyers have allowed just 2.1 goals per contest.

For the season, they have surrendered 2.94 goals per game, placing them in a tie for 22d in the 30-team league.

"They have a great opportunity to play and show themselves what they are capable of doing," goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said of the youthful defense. "If they play hard and play well, lots of teams, and management are watching. This is just a chance; maybe it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Matt Konan, 21, who was recently promoted from the AHL Phantoms, got his chance Thursday. The 6-4, 186-pounder played solidly in 13-plus minutes while making his NHL debut in the Flyers' 2-1 win over the playoff-bound Isles.

Konan, a California native, said it was a "relief" to have so many former Phantoms teammates on the defensive corps. His goal, he said, was simple: "Play hard and hopefully just be an impact and just help the team as much as I can and not be a liability out there."

Breakaways. Scott Hartnell said Saturday's game is to show "pride in the jersey." . . . Classy winger Mike Knuble, who will turn 41 on July 4, said he would decide in the off-season whether he will retire; he doesn't expect to play Saturday. . . . Saturday is expected to be the final game in Flyers uniforms for veterans Knuble, Danny Briere, Ruslan Fedotenko and Andreas Lilja. . . . Defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon, sidelined with a concussion, practiced with the team for the first time this year.


Contact Sam Carchidi @ scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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