And Theyre Off: Flyers Open Abbreviated Season Against Bitter Penguins

And Theyre Off: Flyers Open Abbreviated Season Against Bitter Penguins

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The NHL transitioned from lockout to hockey so fast, we’ve hardly
had enough time to cobble together a proper preview of the season to come. Every
year begins with the same simple yes-or-no question though: is the home team
equipped to compete for a championship?

When it comes to the Flyers, the answer usually seems to be Yeah, but...

2012 doesn’t appear to be any different. Philly’s potent
offense is still among the most dangerous
in the league, but head coach Peter
Laviolette must seek a replacement on the top line, plus fill the role of a
puck-moving defenseman. Speaking of the blueliners, the work stoppage was over
for all of a day when we were already dissecting whether or not this team is deep
enough on the back end.
Then there is eccentric Ilya Bryzgalov in net, good
enough to post a 10-2 won-loss last March en route to setting a franchise
record for consecutive shutout minutes, yet still only manages to finish 32nd
in the NHL with a .909 save percentage.

This squad looks like the definition of yeah, but.

And while the Flyers have plenty of concerns on their own
roster, the Atlantic Division is no picnic, either. The New Jersey Devils lost
Zach Parise to free agency over the summer, but were just in the Stanley Cup
Finals, so they should be tough. The New York Rangers met them in the Eastern
Conference Finals, and added a big-name reinforcement in the name of Rick Nash,
instantly making them the favorites in some eyes. Then there are Sidney Crosby’s
Pittsburgh Penguins, perennially the favorite.

That’s where our season begins today, at the Wells Fargo
Center against the “favorite.” Conveniently that’s where the Penguins’ season
ended last April, in the first round of the playoffs as the “favorite.”

You could say there is no love lost between Philly and
Pittsburgh, but that probably only serves to downplay the animosity between the
two at this point. The rivalry reached its boiling point right before the postseason
even got underway with a feisty encounter that nearly culminated with Lavvy
diving into the opposing team’s bench after Pens’ coach Dan Bylsma. A short
time later, the Flyers were scrapping their way to a 4-2 series victory. They
were winning the fights for the puck, and they were winning most of the actual fights,
too.

As fun as it was to watch though, and as much they undoubtedly
despise black and yellow, the Flyers need to put that series behind them to a
certain extent. The Penguins looked distracted by all of the extra-curriculars
a year ago, taking way too many penalties while tumbling into a 3-0 hole. I
would expect them to walk into the enemy’s building with a renewed more focus
today. They’ve been waiting for this opportunity for almost eight months now.

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Something to watch is how everybody holds up on the ice after
the extended time off and/or apart. The speed and quality of the game stands to
be impacted as guys get used to playing together again, or in some cases playing
again, period. However, given these are two clubs that a) didn’t have a ton of
turnover in the offseason and b) are extremely familiar with one another, we
should be in for a treat of a hockey game – and yeah, a bit of brawling as
well.

As for the Flyers’ yeah-buts, how they answer those
questions remains to be seen over the course of the next 48 games. Yet while
championships normally would be on our minds already this time of year, we wouldn’t
want to take for granted the simple fact that the game is back on the ice
today. There will be plenty of time to hash out what this team is made up, but
for one day at least, we’re just going to enjoy the show.

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mikael Granlund beat two defenders to find open ice and wrap the winning shot around goalie Jonathan Quick just 12 seconds into overtime, giving the Minnesota Wild a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

Granlund's 20th goal of the season gave goalie Devan Dubnyk his NHL-leading 33rd win and the Wild their 15th comeback victory. They answered all four goals in regulation by the Kings, from Nick Shore, Tanner Pearson, Jake Muzzin and Marian Gaborik.

Jason Zucker's spinning wrist shot midway through the third period tied the game for the Wild, who also had goals from Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Schroeder and Ryan White in his debut. White and Martin Hanzal were acquired in a trade with Arizona the night before (see full recap).

Kucherov's hat trick carries Lightning past Sens
TAMPA, Fla. -- Nikita Kucherov scored three power-play goals in the second period and the Tampa Bay Lightning kept their fading playoff hopes alive with a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

Kucherov had the second hat trick of his career and added an assist in the third period. Jonathan Drouin assisted all three of his goals and Victor Hedman assisted on two.

A day after trading goaltender Ben Bishop to Los Angeles and just hours after trading forward Brian Boyle to Toronto, the Lightning improved to 6-1-2 over their past nine games.

The Senators, who won at Florida on Sunday night, are 6-6 over their past 12 games (see full recap).

Galchenyuk lifts Canadiens over Devils in OT
NEWARK, N.J. -- Alex Galchenyuk scored on a power play at 2:54 of overtime and the Montreal Canadiens rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Monday night.

Max Pacioretty scored twice in the final 11:23 of regulation to tie the game and Alexander Radulov added a goal for the Canadiens, who won consecutive games for the first time since early January. Al Montoya had 34 saves for Montreal.

Kyle Palmieri, John Moore and Travis Zajac scored for the Devils, who have lost four straight games (0-2-2), the past two in overtime. Cory Schneider made 29 saves.

Galchenyuk beat Schneider with a shot from between the circles less than a minute after Damon Severson was penalized for hooking (see full recap).

NHL Notes: Capitals acquire Kevin Shattenkirk from Blues

NHL Notes: Capitals acquire Kevin Shattenkirk from Blues

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals have acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in a trade with the St. Louis Blues.

Washington sent a 2017 first-round pick, conditional 2018 second-round pick, forward Zach Sanford and minor leaguer Brad Malone to St. Louis in the deal that also sent former Capitals goaltending prospect Pheonix Copley to the Blues.

The teams announced the deal Monday night.

Shattenkirk, 28, is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He has 42 points on 11 goals and 31 assists this season and has 66 goals and 218 assists in 471 NHL games (see full story).

Senators: Alex Burrows acquired from Canucks
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Ottawa Senators are gearing up for a push to the postseason, acquiring forward Alex Burrows from Vancouver for prospect Jonathan Dahlen.

The trade gives the Senators a skilled pest with plenty of playoff experience at forward.

Burrows, 35, has played 822 regular-season games with the Canucks, with 193 goals, 191 assists and 1,066 penalty minutes. He has added 19 goals and 15 assists in 70 playoff games.

He had four straight seasons of at least 25 goals from 2008-09 to 2011-12 playing largely with the Sedin twins. His best offensive days are behind him -- he has nine goals in 55 games this season -- but he will still bring an edge to a Senators team that is pressuring Montreal for the top spot in the Atlantic Division (see full story).

Wild: Parise, Pominville out with mumps
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild forwards Zach Parise and Jason Pominville have been diagnosed with mumps and must miss at least three games.

The Wild announced Monday, shortly before faceoff against Los Angeles, that Parise and Pominville have the highly contagious virus along with other members of the organization. The veteran wings have been placed in isolation for a five-day period, meaning they'll at least miss games Tuesday at Winnipeg and Thursday at Columbus.

The Wild said players and staff were recently provided with a measles-mumps-rubella vaccination.

Vancouver played Saturday night without five players because of the mumps or symptoms associated with the virus.

With Parise and Pominville out, forwards Martin Hanzal and Ryan White made their well-timed debuts Monday after being acquired Sunday in a trade with Arizona.