Atlantic Watch: Flyers’ long break, Penguins extend lengthy winning streak, Rangers grab eighth place, Brodeur returns

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The Philadelphia Flyers didn’t help their case to make the 2013 postseason this week, as they only earned two points over three games. To make matters worse, the Orange and Black will endure a five-day break to let the other teams in the Eastern Conference catch up with them in games played. After their lengthy break, the Flyers play a game in Pittsburgh before starting a five-game homestand against another Atlantic Division club fighting to make the playoffs.

The Flyers’ week started with a 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on Wednesday. In the first game this season that Luke Schenn didn’t participate in due to the flu, Adam Henrique had a three-point night, as he provided two of the five shots that beat Ilya Bryzgalov. Ilya Kovalchuk potted the game-winning goal on a shorthanded bid late in the opening period, as both Andrei Loktionov and Patrik Elias scored in New Jersey’s first regulation win since their 3-2 decision over the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on February 21st. Jakub Voracek and Scott Hartnell each had two-point nights, as Johan Hedberg stopped 23 attempts for the victory.

Philly won the second part of their home-and-home with the Devils on Friday by earning two points with a 2-1 shootout victory at the Wells Fargo Center. Goals from Matt Read and Claude Giroux in the shootout grabbed Philly the additional point, as Bryzgalov made saves on David Clarkson and Elias in the skills’ competition. A goal from Max Talbot late in the first period was answered by a tally from Clarkson a little over six minutes into the middle frame to earn the clubs a point each. Bryzgalov made 27 saves to Hedberg’s 21, as the Devils outshot the Flyers 6-2 in the extra period. Jersey’s Loktionov left the game early on Friday and didn’t take part in last night’s contest against the New York Rangers due to an undisclosed injury.

The Flyers concluded their week with a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday by a score of 4-2 in Florida in Kimmo Timonen’s 1,000th NHL game. Teddy Purcell recorded the game-winning tally halfway through the final stanza, while Steven Stamkos notched his 200th goal in the NHL with an empty-net goal in the final seconds of the contest. Ondrej Palat and Tom Pyatt also scored for the Bolts, as Anders Lindback made 28 saves on 30 shots from the Flyers. The only two visitors to beat Lindback were Talbot and Giroux, as the Orange and Black allowed two goals in the final 20 minutes to lose. Hartnell was benched for taking an ill-advised roughing minor in the second period, as the Flyers lost their fourth straight road game. The loss marked the fourth and final game of Harry Zolnierczyk’s four-game suspension. He has since been sent down to Adirondack.

In transactions this week, the Flyers have inked forward Ben Holmstrom to a one-year extension and have added Derek Mathers back to the Phantoms’ roster.

Holmstrom will be with the Flyers’ organization through the 2013-2014 campaign, as he’ll make $285,000 in the AHL and $600,000 in the NHL next season. He is currently out for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury, which required surgery. He had eight points in 22 games with the Phantoms this season and has yet to record a point with the Flyers in seven games in the NHL since 2010-2011.

As for Mathers, the pugilist has rejoined the Phantoms due to the conclusion of the OHL season, where his Peterborough Petes just missed eighth place in the Eastern Conference. He had 29 points in 64 games with the Petes, as well as 125 PIMs thanks to 11 fighting majors.

The Orange and Black return to action on Sunday, when they play the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center. Philly concludes the week with a contest at home against the Rangers.

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Pittsburgh Penguins: 4-0-0. The Pens have won 10 straight games and have tied the Chicago Blackhawks for the longest winning streak in this shortened season. Pittsburgh will have their hands full next week, as they take on two clubs desperate to edge into the playoff picture and another team that is fighting them for first in the Eastern Conference.

Pascal Dupuis helped the Pens post a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday at the Air Canada Centre to make it seven straight victories. Tyler Bozak gave the Leafs a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes, but two tallies from Dupuis in a 5:08 span put the Pens up by one with 2:10 left. Craig Adams added on an empty-netter for his third of the season and the Penguins third of the night. Marc-Andre Fleury had 28 saves to Ben Scrivens’ 25, as both Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby had two assists in the road win.

On Saturday, the Pens hosted the New York Rangers and handed the guests a 3-0 loss thanks to a 23-save shutout from Fleury. It was the Flower’s first shutout of 2013 and his first shutout since he blanked the same club on February 21st last season in a 27-save performance, while the Rangers were shut out for the second time this year by the Pens and the third time overall. Beau Bennett had the eventual game-winner 1:30 into the tilt, while Tyler Kennedy and Dupuis tallied 43 seconds apart to finalize the score. Kennedy also had an assist for a two-point night, while Dustin Jeffrey had two helpers in the win as well. Henrik Lundqvist made 24 stops in the loss, as he allowed three goals or more for the third time in a four-start stretch for the Blueshirts.

The Pens made it nine straight on Sunday with a 2-1 decision over the Boston Bruins in Pittsburgh. All three goals came in the first period of a game where Tomas Vokoun made 26 saves for the win over Tuukka Rask’s 16-save effort. Crosby opened the scoring with his 13th tally of 2013, but he was answered by Tyler Seguin 4:32 later to make it a 1-1 contest. Joe Vitale potted the game-winner with his first of the campaign, as his goal with 32 ticks left in the opening frame ended a 37-game goalless drought. The only bad news for the Pens was the fact Kris Letang left the contest early due to a lower-body injury. Penguins’ coach Dan Bylsma said the injury isn’t serious, but the blue liner is still considered day-to-day.

Pittsburgh extended their streak to 10 games last night with another 2-1 outcome over the visiting Washington Capitals. After a power-play goal from Alex Ovechkin midway through the second period, defenseman Paul Martin potted a power-play tally of his own to even the tilt with 8:53 remaining in the middle frame. With a little over eight minutes left in the contest, Matt Niskanen beat Braden Holtby for his fourth goal of 2013 and his second game-winner of the year. Fleury made six less saves than Holtby, but his 28-save performance was enough to earn him another win, as he posted his third straight contest where he allowed one goal or less and it marked the ninth time all season he had allowed one goal or less in a game. Crosby had a pair of assists, while Bennett and Matt Cooke also had helpers in the win, which was Brooks Laich’s first tilt of the shortened season.

The Pens will look to earn the longest winning streak of the 2013 season on Friday when they visit Nassau Coliseum to take on the surging New York Islanders, who have gone 5-2-2 in their last nine contests. Then the Penguins return to Pittsburgh to start a five-game home stand, which features contests against the Flyers on Sunday and the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

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New York Rangers: 2-2-0. With their win over the Devils last night, the Rangers earned four out of the possible eight points they could have grabbed this week, as well as moving into eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Blueshirts will look to stay in the postseason picture with their next three tilts coming against clubs that are currently outside playoff positioning.

New York started their week with a 3-1 loss against the Jets in Winnipeg. Nik Antropov scored in the first period, Antti Miettinen potted his first of the season in the second period, and Andrew Ladd tacked on an empty-netter in the third to round out the scoring for the hosts, as Lundqvist stopped 30 of the 32 he faced. Ryan Callahan deposited his ninth of the campaign in the middle frame, but he was the only Ranger to beat Ondrej Pavelec, who made 28 saves on 29 attempts. Rick Nash had six shots on Pavelec and Marian Gaborik had four, as Micheal Haley dropped the gloves with Mark Stuart early in the loss.

Following their loss to the Pens on Saturday, the Blueshirts responded with a 2-1 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday at Madison Square Garden. After Nash converted on his first round attempt, J.T. Miller beat Dan Ellis in the third round to grab New York the additional point. Lundqvist, who stopped 26 shots in regulation and three in overtime, denied both Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin in the skills’ competition. Eric Staal handed the visitors the lead in the final minute of the first period, but Derek Stepan evened the score halfway through the middle frame on helpers from Carl Hagelin and Callahan. The Rangers improved to 3-2 this year in shootouts, as they also beat the Bruins 4-3 on February 12th and the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on March 3rd.

Last night, New York pounced on a pivotal two points against the Devils with a 3-2 win at the Prudential Center. Nash’s 10th of the season came 7:25 and proved to be the game-winner, as Lundqvist made 29 stops on 31 shots from New Jersey. Michael Del Zotto’s shorthanded tally with 8:11 left in the first period was answered with a power-play goal from Travis Zajac in the final five minutes of the stanza. Hagelin restored the Blueshirts’ lead 1:35 after Zajac’s marker, but Anton Volchenkov’s first of 2013 came just 23 seconds later to make it a 2-2 game entering the second period. The win tied the Rangers and Devils at 32 points, but since the Rangers have played one less game they currently occupy eighth place.

The Rangers look to stay within the conference’s top eight, as they host the Florida Panthers on Thursday and the Caps on Sunday. New York concludes the week by traveling to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

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New Jersey Devils: 1-2-1. Due to their ability to only snag three out of a possible eight points this week, the Devils now find themselves on the outside looking in, as they currently sit ninth in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey will look to stay in the playoff picture this week with two games against clubs currently in the playoff scenario and one club that is at the bottom of the conference.

In between their home-and-home with the Flyers and their loss to the Rangers last night, the Devils lost to the Canadiens on Saturday by the score of 2-1. After Colby Armstrong scored his first of the season for Montreal in the first period, Peter Harrold potted his first of 2013 in the second period to make it a 1-1 game after 40 minutes. Tomas Plekanec tipped home a Jarred Tinordi shot in the early stages of the final period to grab the Canadiens the victory. Carey Price made 32 saves for the win, while Hedberg made 12 less saves to earn the loss, as the Devils lost their second straight game in as many days.

As for transactions, the Devils were busy thanks to two moves with players at the junior level and the return of Martin Brodeur.

Jersey signed Reid Boucher to an entry-level contract. Picked 99th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft by the Devils, Boucher had 62 goals and 33 helpers in 68 games with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting this season. He also suited up for one game with the Albany Devils last season.

The Devils also returned Stefan Matteau to his junior team this week, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Matteau had one goal and two assists in 17 games, as well as a minus-1 rating and six PIMs.

As for goaltending, the Devils received news that Brodeur will return to action and is expected to start tomorrow night against the Hurricanes. Brodeur missed ten games due to a pinched nerve and last played in the Devils’ 3-2 win over the Caps on February 21st. He backed up Hedberg last night, but didn’t see any ice time during the tilt.

With the return of Brodeur, Jersey sent Jeff Frazee back to Albany. Frazee made his NHL debut on March 9th, as he relieved Hedberg after 40 minutes of action and managed to make three saves on the three shots he faced. The Albany Devils have yet to play since Frazee’s return to the AHL.

New Jersey will travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes tomorrow night before they return home to host the Panthers on Saturday. The Devils conclude their week with a trip to Scotiabank Place to take on the Ottawa Senators.

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New York Islanders: 2-1-0. With 19 games left in the regular season, the Islanders find themselves just three points out of a playoff spot. New York will be tested this week, as two of the four clubs they face lead a division in the Eastern Conference.

The Isles started the seven-day span with a 2-0 decision over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum. Evgeni Nabokov earned his second shutout of the year with an 18-save night, as John Tavares put home a power-play tally past Lindback in the second period to earn the Islanders two points on the road. Brad Boyes potted an empty-netter with 40 seconds left to finalize the score, as he was the only skater to produce two points in the two-goal decision. Matt Moulson also registered an assist in the win. The only downside to the win was the loss David Ullstrom, who is expected to miss three-to-four weeks with a groin injury.

Despite receiving a bit of a scare on Saturday, the Islanders held on for a 4-3 win over the Panthers at the BB&T Center. After Kyle Okposo and Radek Martinek scored in the first stanza, Boyes extended his goal streak to three games in the middle frame to give the Islanders a 3-0 advantage with 20 minutes left. The hosts tied it at three, as the trio of T.J. Brennan, Marcel Goc, and Mike Santorelli all beat Nabokov in a span of 1:43 early in the third period. With just over seven minutes left in the contest, Casey Cizikas potted his first game-winning goal in the NHL to hand New York two points in the standings. After he compiled 15 saves in the first two periods, Nabokov stopped 12 of 15 in the final period for the win.

The Islanders experienced another multi-goal lead evaporate on Tuesday, but this time they couldn’t pull out another win, as they fell to the Sens by the score of 5-3 in New York. After Matt Kassian deposited his first of the season, and first as a Sen, Keith Aucoin leveled the contest at one later in the period to make it 1-1 after 20 minutes. Goals from Josh Bailey and Lubomir Visnovsky in the second frame gave the Isles a two-goal lead heading into the final stanza before Ottawa erupted for four goals to walk out of Nassau Coliseum with the two-goal win. Nabokov allowed three goals on nine shots in the third period and suffered the loss with 18 saves on 22 shots. Okposo had two assists in a loss where not a single Islander finished with a plus/minus rating of plus-1 or better.

As for news surrounding the Islanders, New York placed Michael Grabner on injured reserve and signed Colin McDonald to a contract extension.

Grabner was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week due to a shoulder injury he suffered in Pittsburgh on March 10th. After missing the team’s last three games, Grabner returned to skating recently and is expected to return to the lineup soon. He has 10 goals and three assists in 26 games this season.

The Isles inked former Pittsburgh Penguin McDonald to a two-year contract this week. He will be an Islander through the 2014-2015 campaign, as he will earn $600,000 in both the AHL and NHL in 2013-2014 and $675,000 in 2014-2015. His cap hit for both seasons will be $637,500.

New York will conclude their four-game homestand this week with tilts against the Canadiens tomorrow night, the Pens on Friday night, and the Panthers on Sunday. The Isles start a four-game road trip on Tuesday at the Verizon Center against the Caps.