The Philadelphia Flyers fought hard this week to stay in the playoff hunt, but a laundry list of injuries is only going to make things more difficult for the Orange and Black to reach the postseason. With a depleted defense and the loss of a key energy forward, Philly will need to grab a handful of points against three teams in the playoff picture and one looking to crack the Eastern Conference’s top eight.
The Flyers started the week with a 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Islanders in Philly on Thursday. Josh Bailey beat Ilya Bryzgalov on the final shot of the shootout to give the Isles the additional point, as both Bryz and Evgeni Nabokov made 33 stops in regulation and overtime. After Scott Hartnell and Mike Knuble made it 2-0 at the end of 20 minutes, John Tavares made it a one-goal game in the second before Colin McDonald potted two in a 5:33 span in the third period for a 3-2 Islanders’ lead. Hartnell tied the game in the final minute to give the Flyers a point. To make matters worse, Braydon Coburn left the game with a separated left shoulder and hasn’t played since.
On Saturday, the Orange and Black beat a slumping Boston Bruins’ club 3-1 at the Wells Fargo Center. Knuble scored his second goal in as many games to open the game and Matt Read extended the lead to two in the middle frame before Nathan Horton made it 2-1 with 15 minutes left in regulation. Ruslan Fedotenko put home an empty-netter to finalize the score at 3-1 with just under a minute to play. Bryzgalov had 33 saves to Tuukka Rask’s 19, as Zac Rinaldo and Brayden Schenn led the charge in a physical victory. Oliver Lauridsen made his NHL debut in the win, as he posted a shot on net and two PIMs in 17:12 TOI.
The Flyers finished their week on a dramatic note with a 5-4 decision over the Washington Capitals in Philly. After Jakub Voracek fought to stand up for Claude Giroux, the Caps scored two goals on four minutes worth of power-play time to make it 4-2 with 13:12 left in regulation. Giroux made it 4-3 six minutes later before Kimmo Timonen leveled the score with 9.5 seconds left in the contest. Timonen proceeded to set up Fedotenko for the game-winner in overtime to give the Flyers a crucial pair of points. Kent Huskins, who was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a conditional pick in the seventh round of the 2014 NHL Draft, was minus-1 in 16:02 TOI in his Flyers’ debut. Unfortunately for Philly, Max Talbot left in the second period with a broken leg and is out indefinitely.
In addition to the Huskins’ trade, the Flyers also acquired Jay Rosehill from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Harry Zolnierczyk. Harry Z had an assist in seven games this year with the Orange and Black, as the gritty winger also picked up 36 PIMs. Rosehill, who hasn’t played an NHL game since last April, had four goals and four assists in 33 games with the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL this season. He also accrued 90 PIMs.
In another roster move this week, the Flyers waived Kurtis Foster. With a goal and four assists in 17 games with Philly so far this season, Foster was most likely waived due to the fact Huskins was acquired and Nicklas Grossmann is close to returning to action.
The Flyers upcoming week will be a difficult one and it starts by ending their homestand tonight against the Montreal Canadiens. Philly then completes a three-game road trip with games in Toronto against the Maple Leafs on Thursday, in Winnipeg on Saturday against the Jets, and in New York Tuesday against the Islanders.
Pittsburgh Penguins: 2-1-0. The winning streak is over for Pittsburgh, as the Buffalo Sabres ended the Pens’ stretch of victory at 15 games last night. The Penguins hope to rebound quickly with a home-and-home against a divisional foe.
In his first game back after missing nine games with a shoulder injury, Evgeni Malkin potted a goal in the Pens’ 4-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. Tomas Vokoun posted a 20-save shutout, as Pascal Dupuis recorded his 16th and 17th goals of the year for Pittsburgh’s second straight blanking. Chris Kunitz was the other goal scorer for the Penguins, as the forward had a two-point performance and Sidney Crosby had two helpers in the contest. Unfortunately for the Pens, blue liner Paul Martin suffered a wrist injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the regular season. However, Douglas Murray did make his Penguins’ debut in the win, as he was plus-1 with two shots on net in 18:20 TOI.
Pittsburgh made it 15 straight wins, and three straight shutouts, on Saturday with a 2-0 decision over the visiting Islanders, but lost Crosby in the process. A shot from Brooks Orpik at the point ricocheted off of an Islander and hit Crosby in the jaw. The Pens’ captain broke his jaw and needed surgery for the incident, which will put him out indefinitely. As for the game, Matt Cooke and James Neal beat Nabokov in a span of 4:54 in the third period, while Vokoun stopped all 35 of the Isles’ shots on net. Despite the bad news about Crosby, Jarome Iginla, who the Pens acquired from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Ben Hanowski, Kenny Agostino, and a first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, was plus-1 with three shots on net in 17:30 TOI.
The streak came to a close last night, as the Sabres dominated the Penguins for a 4-1 win at the CONSOL Energy Center. Iginla was the lone Pen to beat Ryan Miller in the loss, as the American netminder stopped 19 of the 20 shots Pittsburgh put on net. Vokoun allowed four goals on 13 shots before being pulled early in the second period. Marc-Andre Fleury, who hadn’t played since leaving Pittsburgh’s win over the Canadiens last week, filled in for Vokoun and stopped all 16 of the shots he saw. After going 15-0-0 in March, the Pens are now 0-1-0 in April.
The Pens will look to extend the win streak with a home-and-home with the Rangers, as the teams play at Madison Square Garden tonight and the CONSOL Energy Center on Friday. Pittsburgh concludes the week on Tuesday in Carolina against the Hurricanes.
New Jersey Devils: 1-0-2. The New Jersey Devils are clinging on to one of the final spots in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, as they dropped two games to a pair of teams at the bottom of the standings. The Devils hope to stay in the top eight of the Eastern Conference with three contests over the next seven days.
Jersey let a point slip away on Thursday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Devils 5-4 in a shootout in Florida. After Alexander Killorn tied the game with 16 seconds left in regulation, Teddy Purcell and Victor Hedman beat Martin Brodeur in the shootout to give Tampa Bay the additional point. Alexei Ponikarovsky saw 9:08 TOI in his return to action after missing three games due to a lower-body injury, as the Devils blew leads of 2-0 and 4-2 in their loss to the Lightning. Brodeur had 21 saves in the loss, while the group of Andrei Loktionov, Tom Kostopoulos, Andy Greene, and Ryan Carter scored for the Devils.
New Jersey extended their point streak to five games with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday. For a second straight game, the Devils blew a lead in the game’s final minute, as Shawn Matthias tied the game with 27 seconds left in regulation and Dmitry Kulikov scored his first of the year 1:43 into overtime to give the Cats two points. Steve Bernier had two goals in the loss, as Brodeur allowed three goals on 30 shots and failed to make a single save in overtime to extend the Devils’ losing streak to three games. Henrik Tallinder had an assist and two shots on net in 14:47 TOI in his return to action after missing 11 games with a lower-body injury, while Tim Sestito had two shots on net in 8:56 TOI in his final game with the Devils before being sent down to Albany.
New Jersey saw their point streak snap on Monday and witnessed their losing streak reach four games, as the Devils lost to the Islanders 3-1 at the Prudential Center. Bailey and Travis Hamonic put the Islanders up by two to start the second period before Ponikarovsky cut the deficit to one with his fourth of the year in the middle stanza. Tavares made it 3-1 in the third period, as Nabokov earned the win with 24 saves to Brodeur’s 18. Dainius Zubrus, who missed 26 games due to having wrist surgery, was minus-1 in 14:14 TOI in his return to action.
In terms on transactions, the Devils signed defenseman Jon Merrill to a three-year entry-level contract. Picked 38th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Devils, Merrill had five assists and a plus-3 rating in his first five games with the Albany Devils in the AHL.
The Devils take on the Bruins tomorrow in Boston before they return home to host the Maple Leafs on Saturday. New Jersey finishes the week the following day with a contest against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center.
New York Islanders: 3-1-0. With the exception of a loss to the nearly historic streaking Pens, the Islanders won all of their contests this week to move into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have three games over the next seven days against teams below them in the standings.
After three games against teams in the division, the Isles concluded their four-game week with a 5-2 victory over the Jets in New York last night. Tavares and Matt Moulson both had a goal and an assist in the win, while the pair of Mark Streit and Brad Boyes both had two-assist games in the team’s fifth win in six games. Anders Lee, who signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Islanders earlier this week, opened the scoring with his first goal in the NHL. Kevin Poulin earned the win with 23 saves for his first win of the season.
In addition to signing Lee to an entry-level contract, the Islanders also signed Andrei Pedan to an entry-level contract. Picked 63rd overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, Pedan has spent the last three seasons with the Guelph Storm of the OHL. In 174 games with the Storm, Pedan had 26 goals and 70 assists along with 386 PIMs.
New York also signed Lubomir Visnovsky to a two-year contract extension. The blue liner will earn $3,500,000 in 2013-2014 and $6,000,000 in 2014-2015, while his cap hit will be $4,750,000 in both seasons. Visnovsky, who has missed some time due to personal reasons, has three goals and seven assists with a plus-2 rating and 18 PIMs in 25 games this year.
The Isles play the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on Thursday before they return home to host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday and the Flyers on Tuesday.
New York Rangers: 1-2-0. After being shut out in their first two games of the week, the Rangers managed to grab two points on Monday with a 4-2 win over the Jets. The Blueshirts are hoping that the addition of Ryane Clowe, who they acquired from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a second-round pick and a third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft along with a conditional second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, can help bring some much needed sandpaper to their roster.
Two days after they beat the Flyers, the Rangers were shut out by the Senators in Ottawa in a 3-0 loss. Ben Bishop stopped all 24 of the Rangers’ shots on net to earn the shutout, while Henrik Lundqvist allowed two goals on 28 shots against. Andre Benoit and Guillaume Latendresse beat Lundqvist before Colin Greening tacked on the empty-netter to finalize the score. New York went 0-for-4 on the power play in the loss.
The Blueshirts were shut out for a second straight game on Saturday, when Carey Price stopped 34 shots in the Montreal Canadiens’ 3-0 win at home. Michael Ryder needed all of 47 seconds to beat Martin Biron to score the eventual game-winner, as the tandem of Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher also beat New York’s netminder to give Montreal the three-goal victory. Biron stopped 23 of the 26 shots he saw to post his third game in a four-start span where he allowed at least three goals against. Mats Zuccarello, who signed a one-year contract worth $700,000 to come back to the Rangers, had a shot on net in 18:16 TOI in his first NHL game in 2013.
New York not only ended their two-game goalless streak on Monday against the Jets at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers earned a 4-2 win in front of the home crowd. Ryan Callahan had one goal and three assists, while Derek Stepan had two goals in the game to end the team’s two-game losing skid. Rick Nash had a goal and an assist in the victory to help Lundqvist earn the decision with 26 saves. Nik Antropov and Zach Bogosian scored in the opening stanza to give the Jets a lead for 10 minutes before Callahan’s tally tied it in the second period, as Ondrej Pavelec stopped 31 of the 35 shots he saw in the loss.
In addition to Clowe, the Rangers also signed a pair of defensemen to entry-level contracts, as Conor Allen and Tommy Hughes joined New York’s organization.
Allen recently finished his third year at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he played in 99 games for the Minutemen and totaled 14 goals along with 25 assists. He also had 110 PIMs and finished with a minus-9 rating.
Hughes is currently teammates with Anthony Stolarz, as the pair is helping the London Knights along in the OHL postseason. After he had one goal and 15 helpers in 67 games, along with 64 PIMs and a plus-17 rating, Hughes had an assist with a plus-1 rating in four postseason games.
After their home-and-home with the Pens, the Blueshirts visit PNC Arena on Saturday to play the Carolina Hurricanes. New York finishes their three-game road trip on Monday in Toronto.