Flyers replace Robert Hagg with Brandon Manning in a surprise

FLYREARLY23
Columbus’ Matt Calvert, left, and the Flyers’ Brandon Manning collide during the third period of a recent game. Manning will return to the lineup Thursday after a two-game benching.

For the first time this season, Flyers rookie defenseman Robert Hagg, one of the league’s most physical players, was a healthy scratch.

Hagg was replaced by hard-nosed veteran Brandon Manning when the Flyers hosted the New York Rangers on Thursday night.

Hagg (three goals, plus-5) has played two games, both alongside new defensive partner Radko Gudas, since returning from a lower-body injury that caused him to miss four contests. The Flyers beat Washington, 6-3, in the first game as the two defensemen combined for three assists, and they lost to Detroit in a shootout, 5-4.

Coach Dave Hakstol said he didn’t like the chemistry between Hagg and Gudas in the loss Tuesday in Detroit. Both players were minus-2.

“It’s not always about the individual,” Hakstol said Thursday after the morning skate. “I thought with he and Gudie, there wasn’t a ton of easy chemistry there, and we ended up in some situations … against speed, where we ended up with some bad gaps. The pair wasn’t as effective as we needed it to be, so we’re going to make a change. That’s the time of year it is.”

Manning (six goals, minus-1), 27, who was paired with Gudas on Thursday, had been a regular most of the season before being a healthy scratch the last two games. Though he didn’t not want to sit out, Manning was hoping to come back refreshed.

“For me, I’m trying to look at the best-case situation and trying to find something good out of it,” Manning said of his benching, adding he would bring “a little more edge” to his game.

The Flyers’ next three games are on the road, as they will face Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Colorado.

“They aren’t easy games coming up on the road trip, so if we get this one tonight, it helps going into that with a positive mindset,” Manning said before facing the rebuilding Rangers.

Hagg, 23, who implied Wednesday he hasn’t been feeling 100 percent since he returned to the lineup, entered Thursday tied for the NHL lead with 238 hits, and his 100 blocked shots were fourth on the Flyers.

Stolarz update

Goalie Anthony Stolarz, who had surgery on both knees in the off-season, was re-assigned from Reading in the ECHL to the AHL’s Phantoms. Stolarz, 24, went 1-1-1 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .902 save percentage with Reading.

Breakaways

Defenseman Ivan Provorov played in his 157th consecutive game since starting his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most consecutive games played by a rookie from his debut in team history. He passed Chris Therien (156). Mel Bridgman is third on the list (148)…..Entering the night, the Flyers were 18-13-6 at home and 19-12-6 on the road; they were 16-2-1 when Wayne Simmonds scored a goal.