Flyers open crucial week with loss to Rangers

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Flyers open crucial week with loss to Rangers

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Are they a playoff contender? Or a pretender?

This is the week the Flyers get to answer that question about themselves with games against Pittsburgh, Boston and Tuesday’s opponent … the Rangers.

Their first attempt wasn’t very good.

A series of poorly executed line and defensive pair changes cost the Flyers dearly in a 4-2 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Peter Laviolette’s club hit the midway point again under .500 at 11-12-1, while the Rangers (24 points) also dropped the Flyers (23 points) from eighth to ninth in the Eastern Conference standings.

“Not good, we’re not good,” goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said when asked how he’d sum up the Flyers after 24 games.

“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be. And the farther it is gonna be is going to be more ugly. This is the reality.”

What has to get better?

“I can’t afford to say,” he replied. “We have coaches who are responsible for improvements.”

Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan did all the damage with two goals apiece.

Nash broke a 2-2 tie just 2:50 into the third period after the Flyers had a strong shift in the Rangers’ end with Henrik Lundqvist making a save on Jakub Voracek.

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi caught the Flyers in a line change, outletting the puck quickly to Nash, who beat Bryzgalov stick side under his arm.

Nash put it away with another goal soon after off a bad defensive change involving Luke Schenn coming off too late.

“There’s been too many of them,” Laviolette fumed. “Too many discussions and too many topics about the line changes. It needs to be executed and it’s not.”

His players knew, too.

“Their third and fourth goals came off line changes,” Wayne Simmonds said. “Things like that can’t happen. You got to keep the game simple, maybe keep one guy out there. That was the difference.”

Bryzgalov also had problems trying to poke check Nash and Callahan on three goals coming right at him.

The game saw two injuries, as well. Flyers defenseman Nick Grossmann suffered a groin injury, sources said, in the opening period and did not return (see story).

Then, with 14:15 left to play, the Rangers lost defenseman Marc Staal. Kimmo Timonen’s slap shot off a faceoff was deflected upward by Voracek and hit Staal above the right eye.

Staal, who does not wear a visor, was bleeding, crumbled to the ice and rolled around in obvious pain, but actually got up on his own -- a good sign.

As has been the case, the Flyers started slowly, then rebounded for a strong first period only to lose the lead in the period’s final minute.

They came into play having killed off 15 power plays in a row (it was 17 but the NHL reduced it because of stat changes).

Timonen, who is second on the Flyers in minor penalties this season an unusually-high 13 (seventh in the NHL), picked up a holding call at 1:09 of the first period.

It took the Rangers all of 21 seconds to score with Derek Stepan feeding Callahan for the first of his two goals.

Six minutes later, the Flyers went on their first power play and it resulted in a beauty of a pass from Claude Giroux to Simmonds in the crease to tie it.

“Jake found the seam and passed it to G. I was lucky enough to be wide open back door and G put the puck right on my stick,” Simmonds said.

The game seemed to settle into physical play and forechecking until the final three minutes of the period when, again on the power play, Voracek beat Lundqvist on his own rebound, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead they should have taken into intermission.

Voracek now has 17 points in nine games, as he also picked up an assist on Simmonds' goal.

“We made a couple mistakes and a player like Nash, when he is coming at you full speed, you have to stop him,” Voracek said of the game’s outcome.

The Flyers got a little sloppy with their passing in the final minute of the period. Brayden Schenn’s pass to Simmonds caromed off the boards to Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who dished to Callahan up the ice.

Callahan flew around Luke Schenn, then completely faked out Bryzgalov to tie it.

Bad way to end the period. Even worse, the second period was flat.

“Giving up that goal like that, that was tough late in the period in the first,” Laviolette said. “The second period was minimal chances both ways.

“You’ll never see 48 shots against the Rangers. It’s going to be hard fought. Tough to get your ice and that was the second period.”

Grossmann finished the first period but that was it.

Midway into the second period, Scott Hartnell had a glorious chance to break the tie, unexpectedly getting a puck in the high slot completely alone for a slapper that Lundqvist kicked out with his pad.

“Any time a team scores at the end of a period, it kills momentum a bit,” Giroux said. “We had the lead. It would have been huge for us.

“A couple mistakes in the third … we gotta find a way to win those third-period games.”

Ron Hextall pleased with Flyers' draft after filling team need with 7 forwards

Ron Hextall pleased with Flyers' draft after filling team need with 7 forwards

BUFFALO, N.Y. — They came to the NHL draft with a simple mission: fortify themselves at the forward position.
 
And of that end, the Flyers seemed to succeed, taking seven forwards, two defensemen and one goalie during the two-day draft, which concluded Saturday.
 
General manager Ron Hextall moved one of his 11 total picks to 2017 in a late deal with the Islanders.
 
“We had a lot of picks, and sometimes you get a little too greedy on the day of the draft and you want to use your picks, and you forget about next year or the year after,” Hextall said. “Going into today, I wanted to move one or two. We have nine picks next year.”
 
Six of his seven forwards were taken Saturday. The team selected centerman German Rubtsov (22nd overall) during the first round Friday night.
 
“We’re happy,” Hextall said. “The needs we filled, moving into the draft, we knew we’d be heavy with forwards. We ended up that way.”
 
Here's Hextall's quick take on his nine picks from today:
 
Second round

36: Pascal Laberge, 6-1, 174. Center/wing. 18. Victoriaville (QMJHL).
Hextall: “Character, the grit, the will, he fit the bill. We see a kid who is potential top six forward. He has speed and skill. Good size.”

48: Carter Hart, 6-1, 180. Goalie.  Turns 18 in August. Everett (WHL).
Hextall: “We feel he has a good shot at being a No. 1 goaltender. Brady Robinson spent time with him the last couple weeks and was real impressed with his ability and work ethic. Most important, the mental part of it. Big part for a goaltender, and he seems to have everything in place.”
 
52: Wade Allison, 6-1, 205. Right wing. 18. Tri-City (USHL).
Hextall: “We didn’t expect him to be there. We zeroed in on some bigger bodies later in the draft not knowing if we’d get a kid like him. He’s got speed, got size, real good shot. Good intelligence. A good support player who can play up in your lineup.”

Third round
 
82: Carsen Twarynski, 6-2, 201. Left wing. 18. Calgary (WHL).
Hextall: “A prototypical power forward. We knew we needed to add some size and grit. Our guys to a man all liked him. Terrific character and work ethic with a nice set of skills, too. He’s not just a bottom-end guy.”

Fourth round

109: Connor Bunnaman, 6-0, 183. Center. 18. Kitchener (OHL).
Hextall: “We really like him. Good skill later. His feet need to come a little bit, which I can probably say about a few of these guys. Excited we got him where we did. Another guy who fell.”
 
120: from Arizona: traded to NYI for 4th round in 2017
 
Fifth round

139: Linus Högberg, 6-1, 183. Defense. 17. Växjö HC (SHL)
Hextall: “That’s our sleeper. He’s a guy we talked about through our meetings. His name kept popping up as a late guy. An undervalued and underrated guy. He’s our sleeper.”
 
Sixth round

169: Tanner Laczynski, 6-0, 174. Center. 19. Chicago (USHL).
Hextall: “Going to school, Ohio State, I believe. Again, a skill player and we got four years with him. As you saw, our emphasis was a little on skill and size and we feel we filled both with some of these kids.”
 
172: Anthony Salinitri, 5-11, 170. Center. 18. Sarnia (OHL).

Hextall: “Smaller guy but a skill forward. You try and hit on his skill. He has lots of ability and upside. Obviously, he is not the biggest guy. But to add some skill, we like him.”
 
Seventh round

199: David Bernhardt, 6-3, 203. Defense. 18. Djurgårdens IF J20 (SHL)
Hextall: “Decent-sized guy, good with the puck but a little inconsistent. Enough there though where you can grab onto.”

NHL Notes: Sabres acquire defenseman Dmitri Kulikov in trade with Panthers

NHL Notes: Sabres acquire defenseman Dmitri Kulikov in trade with Panthers

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sabres general manager Tim Murray filled his team's wish list by acquiring veteran defenseman Dmitri Kulikov in a trade with the Florida Panthers.

The deal was announced shortly after the second round of the NHL draft opened Saturday. Besides swapping second-round picks, with Buffalo moving up to No. 33 from No. 38, the Panthers acquired defenseman Mark Pysyk and the Sabres' third-round pick, 89th overall.

Entering his eighth NHL season, Kulikov adds experienced depth to Buffalo's young group of defensemen. And he has a left-handed shot, something Murray said was among his key offseason needs.

The Panthers' first-round pick in the 2009 draft, the 6-foot-1, 204-pound Kulikov has one year left on his contract and is set to make $4.5 million next season. He had one goal and 17 points in 73 games last year. Overall, Kulikov has 28 goals and 138 points in 460 career games (see full story).

Canucks: NHL reviewing whether to penalize team for tampering
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The NHL is reviewing whether to penalize the Vancouver Canucks for tampering after general manager Jim Benning expressed interest in acquiring players under contract, including Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos.

"I have received a number of concerns and not solely from the teams involved," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters during the second day of the NHL draft on Saturday.

"What I'll say is I have a discussion both with Jim and (Canucks president) Trevor Linden. They understand where we are in this situation and have talked about announcing something early next week with respect to what we intend to do about it."

The Canucks confirmed that they have been contacted by the NHL regarding Benning's statements (see full story).

Sabres: Kane investigated on harassment claim
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that Buffalo police are investigating an allegation that Sabres forward Evander Kane physically harassed two women at a downtown bar.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity Friday because police have not revealed any details of their investigation.

The person said Kane is accused of grabbing the woman by the arm or shoulder early Friday. The person said no charges have been filed and no one has been arrested.

Buffalo's WIVB-TV first reported the investigation.

This is Kane's second run-in with legal trouble in six months. In March, prosecutors announced after a three-month investigation that Kane would not face a sexual assault charge stemming from a December incident because there was no evidence to support the allegation.

Kings: Lewis signs 4-year extension
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Forward Trevor Lewis has agreed to a four-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Kings.

The club announced the deal Saturday.

Lewis has been a key player on the Kings' depth lines for the past six seasons, playing a defensive game during Los Angeles' run to Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014. He scored two goals in the Kings' Cup-clinching victory over New Jersey in 2012.

The 29-year-old Lewis had eight goals and eight assists for the Kings last season. The Salt Lake City native has never had more than 25 points in an NHL season, but he has 23 points in 75 playoff games.

Lewis was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

NHL draft: Flyers add physical, power forwards in Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman

NHL draft: Flyers add physical, power forwards in Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Flyers said they were going to go top-heavy at this year's NHL draft with bigger, skilled forwards and not defense, where the pipeline is already stacked.

But just to cover themselves at both ends, they took a player from the Calgary Hitmen that has played both defense and left wing in the third round (No. 82 overall) Saturday at First Niagara Center — Carsen Twarynski. 
  
Twarynski, 18, is a teammate of current Flyers prospects Travis Sanheim, a defenseman, and forward Radel Fazleev in Calgary.
 
“I played forward the last couple years but until my year midget, I switched back and forth to defense,” the 6-foot, 201-pound winger said. “Last four or five years I decided to stick to forward.”
 
He said Sanheim filled him in about the Flyers and was hoping to be selected by Philadelphia.
 
“It’s good to have that insight from those guys,” Twarynski said. “I talked to Travis a little bit at the end of the season about how this would all go down. He told me to enjoy it and told me a lot of good things about Philadelphia.”
 
Another fellow Hitman, defenseman Jake Bean, was selected Friday by Carolina at No. 13.
 
The Flyers contacted Twarynski shortly before the draft combine and had several visits.
 
“It was special because we came here as a family trip and don’t get to go out much anymore because of the travel,” Twarynski said. “This was a very proud day for my family.”
 
Scouting reports say while he lacks high-end offensive ability, he doesn’t mind going to the dirty areas of the ice or stand in front of the net and take punishment for a tough goal or assist.
 
He scored 20 goals with 45 points for the Hitmen this season.
 
“My best asset is my physicality,” he said. “I’m a power forward that is good two ways. I can put the puck in the net and make plays around the net. I got a lot of good assets and I’m a versatile player.”
 
He feels he is “couple years” away from being an NHL player.
 
In the fourth round at No. 109, the Flyers chose center/left wing Connor Bunnaman. The 6-foot, 183-pound Guelph native played for Kitchener this season with 16 goals and 38 points in 68 games.
 
“I had to play both positions at Kitchener just to get into the lineup,” Bunnaman said. “I like center more — like taking draws.”
 
He said he got the impression the Flyers were going to take him and contacted him several times throughout the season.
 
Scouts say he’s strong on the puck, plays hard along the walls and projects as a third-line center in the NHL.
 
“I feel I’m a two-way power forward who could fit into their system,” Bunnaman said, adding while he doesn’t have a deep knowledge of the Flyers, he liked watching Danny Briere play.