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Cousins leaves with injury, Phantoms fall to IceCaps



Photo: Kate Frese/Flyerdelphia

One inch. According to Lehigh Valley Phantoms' Head Coach Scott Gordon, that's all that separated his team from getting at least a point Friday night, as the St. John's IceCaps netted a split of the two game series in Allentown with a 3-2 victory on Friday night.

Whereas the Phantoms controlled Wednesday night's matchup nearly start to finish, this game started out different entirely. Both sides were extremely measured in the first, and both goalies were stopping everything in sight. 

The best chance of the first belonged to St. John's. An errant clearing attempt bounced off of a Phantom in the left face off dot and bounced in to the slot, right to the IceCaps' Christian Thomas. Thomas fired a wrist shot, but Anthony Stolarz made the chest save to keep the game scoreless.

The second period was a different matter, as there were 3 goals total in just over nine minutes. Sven Andrighetto, who opened the scoring on Wednesday, did so again Friday, just 30 seconds into the period. 

Bud Holloway fired a shot wide of the net from the far point, the puck caromed off of the end boards behind the net, right to Andrighetto in the near faceoff circle. Stolarz lost track of the puck and it was 1-0, just like that.

Charles Hudon made it 2-0 on the power play just 5:30 later. With Danick Martel in the box for a high stick, Holloway collected the puck behind the net and dropped it to Hudon who was at the edge of the crease, Stolarz again lost sight of the puck, and it was an easy goal.

Chris Conner got Lehigh Valley on the board less than 3 minutes later with a gutsy individual effort. He streaked down the far wing and cut to the slot, drilling the puck through the pads of St. John's netminder Zach Fucale. assists on the goal went to Andrew MacDonald and Matt Lashoff.

The Phantoms had glorious chance to to tie the game, and possibly take the lead, midway through the period. Andrighetto got a double minor for charging and roughing, but too much passing from the Phantoms led to no real scoring chances in the four minutes.

Conner struck again at 5:55 on a two on one.  Nick Cousins (Pictured above with the Philadelphia Flyers last season) took an elbow to the head in the neutral zone, but got the puck to Martel. Martel sprang with Conner on the break and buried it past Fucale.

Then, Controversy.

Michael McCarron got his fifth of the season, and eventual game-winner at 8:49. Mark Barberio flipped the puck on net, it bounced off Stolarz' chest and to McCarron, who batted it out of the air and into the net. Just one problem, the entire play was offside from the beginning.

However, because linesman Jason Mandroc left the game late in the second due to injury, that left only a referee and a linesman (there was no second referee assigned to this game) on the ice, and the call was missed. The Phantoms protested, but as offsides is not reviewable under AHL replay, the goal was made to stand.

Notes: Cousins, who took the elbow on the second Conner goal, only played one more shift and didn't return. The same can be said for Forward Evan Rankin. Rankin took a slap shot to the face and also didn't return. Danick Martel returned to the lineup after missing three games with an undisclosed injury. Lehigh Valley returns to action Sunday afternoon on the road against the Hershey Bears.

Quotes: Andrew MacDonald on the missed offsides that led to the game-winner: "It was offside, it really did look offside. I know it's tough with a linesman going down, they only had two refs going. I think we felt it was offside. That being said, we have to do a better defending that."

Scott Gordon on the last goal: "I can honestly that it was offside. But, I had it in super slow motion, and it was off by maybe an inch. It's real easy for me to make that call with pause and play, versus the ref not having the ability to do that. He's gotta make a judgment call. He made the call. I can understand from his perspective. That's it, nothing we can do about it."

On Martel's return to the lineup: "He skated with his usual energy, you know. You're gonna get that from him. I thought that there were some small areas he was off on system wise/ Nothing that had an impact on the game, it just would have made his shifts easier. Overall, I thought he had a great effort."

3 Stars: 3) STJ-Bud Holloway (2 Assists) 2) LV-Chris Conner (2 Goals) 1) STJ-Michael McCarron (Game Winning Goal)

Post-game Perspective: Penalties doom Flyers in loss

For the second time this week, the Flyers fell to the lowly Buffalo Sabres (see recap), essentially assuring that the Sabres will win at least one season series this year. 

We all know of the Flyers' perpetual issues with playing against lesser teams. They've toppled teams such as Chicago and the New York Rangers with ease, yet in a three-game stretch where they've faced the Sabres and New Jersey Devils, they've mustered just one point.

Of course, the Flyers (4-4-2) had a similar issue tonight that did them no favors in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Devils -- too many penalties. The Flyers could not stay out of the box, and it hampered their ability to generate any offense and scoring chances.

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Sixers drop home opener to Jazz; Stauskas makes debut


PHILADELPHIA - Playing in their home opener for the 2015-16 NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers largely disappointed in front of their 17,122 attending fans at the Wells Fargo Center.

Trailing for the majority of the contest against the Utah Jazz, the Sixers were ultimately defeated by a margin of 28 points, 99-71, to fall to 0-2 on the season.

Tonight off the bench in his Sixers debut, guard Nik Stauskas shot 3-6 from the floor, 2-3 beyond the arc, with three rebounds, two assists, and four converted free-throws to yield a total of 12 points.

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Flyers dismally begin road trip; fall 3-1 in Buffalo

For the Flyers, the five-game road trip that they started on Friday was a chance to regroup and generate positivity, following a pair of largely-unspectacular losses earlier in the week. 

Dave Hakstol changed his lines up -- most notably, splitting the top pairing of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Michael Raffl -- in order to develop new chemistry amongst his forwards. This came one day after changing up the entirety of his defensive corps, prior to their 4-1 loss to New Jersey.

These drastic changes were not enough of a spark for the Flyers, as they fell 3-0 to the Buffalo Sabres to kick the road trip off. As was the case on Thursday, the Flyers were plagued by a lack of discipline, and they failed to generate possession and scoring chances.

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Phillies prospect Jorge Alfaro is almost ready to play

When the Phillies acquired Rangers catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, he was out with an ankle injury that required surgery.  Alfaro did not return in time for the 2015 season at any level.   Alfaro now is just about ready to play baseball again:

Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports the progress:

According to Joe Jordan, the team’s director of player development, Alfaro is working out in Clearwater and should be ready to join the La Guaira club in Venezuela in a few weeks. Phillies coach/instructor Jorge Velandia is the general manager of that club.

“We’ve been cautious with him, but we’re almost ready to turn him loose,” Jordan said of Alfaro. “The ankle is good, no issues. You can see that in his blocking and defensive work.

There are still some winter league options for Alfaro if he is ready to play.

As Salisbury notes, the Phillies will have to figure out how to play both catching prospect Andrew Knapp and Alfaro, as well as catcher Gabriel Lino, who is not considered to have the upside of either, but could find his way into the Major Leagues nonetheless.  Lino is only 22 and likely needs some additional development.

Salisbury notes that Knapp has played outfield in the past and that Kapp is playing a bit at first base during the Arizona Fall League.  However, that could be because the Glendale Desert Dogs are balancing three catchers and one first baseman.  Alfaro could play some first base down the line, too.

While both Knapp and Alfaro have the greatest value as catchers, hopefully both play well enough that the Phillies have to make some tough decisions.

Game 10 Preview: Flyers look for redemption in Buffalo

Following their sluggish 4-1 loss to New Jersey on Thursday, the Flyers (4-3-2) will immediately take the ice again tonight, as they head to Buffalo to close out a three-game-in-four-night stretch. 

The Flyers will continue their season series with the Sabres (3-7-0), which began Tuesday night. In a game that saw the Flyers play down to their opponent -- sound familiar? -- the Sabres won 4-3 in overtime, thanks to a Zemgus Girgensons breakaway.  

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Its "Philly Skyline" vs. "Stifle Tower" in Sixers Home Opener

Big Jah had a blast stream rolling Tyler Zeller into the floor of the Boston Garden, but the Stifle Tower won't go down so easily.
The Sixers' Twin Towers of Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor had an impressive debut agains the Celtics on Tuesday, with Jah going for 26 points an 7 boards and Nerly-Nerls showing off his defensive mastery with 12 boards, three steals and two blocks. Most impressive of all though was that the two did most of this damage while on the court together, putting to rest for at least 48 hours the idea that two bigs can't play together in the modern NBA. To be honest, the two looked downright fluid, with Jah providing extra space for Nerlens to work.
But lets not kid ourselves. The Philly Skyline was operating against Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, names that don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing bigs (god if ONLY we were rebuilding like the Celtics are!!). Tonight is different as the Jazz will trot our their own twin bigs comprised of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, the latter of which proved himself to be a premier NBA rim protector last season while leading the Jazz to one of the best defensive ratings in the league during the second half of the season (which coincided with a deadline trade of Enes Kanter, freeing up Gobert's minutes). While Wednesday's season opener was promising for the Sixers bigs, tonight will be a true test of their skills as a tandem.
Hopefully the Sixers will get some floor spacing help tonight in the form of one Nik Stauskas a.k.a Sauce Castillo. Sauce missed most of the preseason with a stress reaction in his leg and then Tuesday's game with back spasms, but he is listed as probable for tonight's tilt. The Sixers desperately need some of their injured players to hurry back if they want to squash any talk about another record setting losing streak to start the season, because as good as Nerlens and Jah looked, the rest of the team was lost. Considering three of our predicted five starters are injured, this is perhaps not surprising. Sixers nation has been excited about Sauce ever since Hinkie fleeced the Kings, so his playing tonight is something else to look forward to.

Game Notes:

  • Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker will play tonight after serving a one-game suspension for taking a swing at Roy Hibbert in a preseason game. No boxing tonight please, the Sixers can't afford more injuries.
  • Tonight is Utah Jazz head coach (and former Sixers assistant coach) Quin Snyder's 49th birthday. Halloween birthday parties are always the best, right?
  • While Sixers 2014 first round draft pick Joel Embiid is missing his 2nd season in a row with injury, Utah Jazz 2014 first rounder Dante Exum (who many thought were in play for the Sixers at 3) is also sitting out his second season with a torn ACL. Throw in Jabari parker missing last season with an ACL, and the top of the 2014 draft is feeling rather gimpy.

Projected Lineups:


PG Isaiah Canaan

SG JaKarr Sampson

SF Hollis Thompson

PF Nerlens Noel

C Jahlil Okafor

Utah Jazz

PG Raul Neto

SG Rodney Hood

SF Gordon Hayward

PF Derrick Favors

C Rudy Gobert

Injuries: Sixers: Joel Embiid (Out, Foot), Tony Wroten (Out, Knee), Kendall Marshall (Out, Knee), Robert Covington (Out, Knee)

Jazz: Dante Exum (Out, Knee) 

Prediction: The Sixers are going to continue to be outgunned until they get some bodies back, so while I expect a high energy affair for the home opener, Sixers ultimately fall 104-91.

State of NFC East during Eagles bye week

The Philadelphia Eagles are on their bye week, which means they won't be playing a game this weekend. At 3-4 overall with a 1-2 record against the division, the Eagles sit in third place in the NFC East.

The problem with the Eagles in recent years has been their defense, but that isn't the case in 2015. With a revamped secondary with new starters like Nolan Carroll, Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond III, the defense gives up only 19.6 points per game. That is good enough for 10th in the NFL.

The main problems with the Eagles have been on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Sam Bradford has thrown more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (9), but the struggles offensively aren't all of his fault. Poor offensive line play has put Bradford under pressure on multiple occasions, and the receivers are dropping the football. The Eagles lead the league in dropped passes with 25.  

It's a good thing for the Eagles that no other team in the NFC East division has played lights out. 

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