Flyers will face lethal power play against Pens

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Flyers will face lethal power play against Pens

PITTSBURGH -- The biggest test the Flyers are going to face Wednesday night in their first trip to the Steel City since last spring’s playoffs is the Penguins’ fearsome power play.

As of Tuesday, coach Dan Bylsma had the second-best power play in the NHL at 27.4 percent.

The unit boasts two league leaders: James Neal has the most power-play goals (seven) while Evgeni Malkin leads in power-play assists (eight) and power-play points (10).
 
As a team, the Penguins are 8-2 over their last 10 games and sit atop the Atlantic Division with 22 points (same as New Jersey).

They have three players in the top 11 in scoring in Sidney Crosby (second) with 24 points, Chris Kunitz (ninth) with 18 and Malkin (11th) with 17.

Pittsburgh’s lethal power-play unit uses Malkin and Paul Martin at the points, while Kunitz, Crosby and Neal are up front.

The Pens’ second unit has Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen at the points with Brandon Sutter, Pascal Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy up front.
 
“Everything presents a challenge,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “We went in there (against the Islanders) and faced (Lubomir) Visnovsky and (John) Tavares, who were tearing it up. There’s no walk in the park here. We got off easy.

“Just about any night, you can take the top five players on teams and say, 'That’s a pretty good unit.' The Penguins are extremely good on the power play. We know we’re going to have to kill penalties.”

The Flyers have killed off 21 straight power plays over the last six games.

“It’s a huge test,” Max Talbot said. “I think we can build off this game for sure.

“We know they’ve been playing good, and they’re at the top of the East right now. So for us to go in their building and play Flyers hockey is going to be huge.”

2016 Flyers free-agent fit: Blues C David Backes

2016 Flyers free-agent fit: Blues C David Backes

Each day until July 1, the day free agency begins, CSNPhilly.com producers Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.

David Backes, center

Age: 32
Height: 6-3
Weight: 221
Last team: St. Louis Blues
2015-16 cap hit: $4.5 million

Scouting report
Backes is a veteran of 10 NHL seasons.

He’s coming off a productive 2015-16 campaign in which he registered 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points. However, the points were his lowest in a full season since 2007-08.

But the 2003 second-round draft pick makes his money by being a shutdown forward, one that’s strong on the puck and makes great use of his size and smarts.

Backes has the clutch gene, as well. He potted three gamer-winners last postseason and finished with seven goals and seven assists in 20 playoff contests, helping lead St. Louis to the Western Conference finals.

The captain is the heart and soul of the Blues, a true locker-room guy.

Projection
It’s hard to imagine Backes leaving St. Louis.

He’s beloved by the entire franchise and fan base.

“I think David's got a lot of good years left in him, I'd love to keep him here, but it has to work out for David and his family first and foremost and then it has to work into our math equation,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said on May 31, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “But he's a priority." 

As for the Flyers, Backes doesn’t make much sense on multiple fronts.

He’s more suited for a win-now team in need of experience to get over the hump. The Flyers are not yet looking to add players of his age and terms. Backes may be forced to take a slight pay cut, but is still not in the Flyers’ current price range.

Heck, not many marquee names on the free-agent market are this offseason.

On top of it, the Flyers need fresher legs and greater speed.

All told, Backes isn’t right for the Flyers.

With Hall of Fame election, it all comes 'full circle' for Eric Lindros

With Hall of Fame election, it all comes 'full circle' for Eric Lindros

Eric Lindros’ career did not come with a storybook ending.

Concussions and injuries authored the final chapter of his playing days.

But on Monday afternoon, No. 88 “got his day,” as Ron Hextall put it.

In many ways, this was Lindros’ storybook finish.

“I haven’t stopped smiling,” Lindros said.

Lindros on Monday was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class (see story).

A rare breed of size and skill, Lindros quickly became an NHL star with the Flyers and now finishes as one.

“It kind of feels full circle if you can understand that," Lindros said, via conference call. 

That feeling especially resonates when he laces 'em up at 43 years old.

"I play hockey a couple times a week just to try to fit in the jeans, and to have this honor right here at the end of things when my game is certainly on the downslope," Lindros said with a laugh, "it’s a great feeling, a great honor and I’m super happy.”

Sergei Makarov, Rogie Vachon and Pat Quinn join Lindros as the 2016 group.

“I would like to thank the selection committee, things are just starting to sink in and I’m certainly honored to be a part of this class,” Lindros said. “Congratulations to Rogie, Sergei and Pat Quinn’s family. It’s a real special honor.”

Lindros, an owner of 372 career goals, 493 assists and 865 points, won the 1994-95 Hart Memorial Trophy, joining Bobby Clarke as the only Flyers players to ever take home the MVP award.

Ironically, Lindros and Clarke clashed as player and general manager, respectively.

It led to a breakup on not-so-good terms.

“When it’s all said and done, everyone wanted to win,” Lindros said. “That was the main focus.”

The past is now the past for both. Clarke pushed for Lindros’ Hall of Fame bid and the latter was grateful.

“Certainly there were some times of friction,” Lindros said, “but to have Bob’s voice in support, next to so many, I’ve got to thank them.”

Flyers GM Hextall played with Lindros and saw the uniqueness firsthand.

“It was terrific being on his team,” Hextall said. “The package of skill and size and aggressiveness, he’s got a big shot. I think at the time, he was the hardest guy in the league to defend.”

Team president Paul Holmgren said you don’t see many like Lindros, still to this day.

“Eric had a shortened career due to injuries but the impact he had on the game was phenomenal,” Holmgren said. “We are all still looking for 6-5, 245-pound guys who can skate and play a skilled and physical game like Eric could. 

“This is great news for the Flyers organization and great news for Eric Lindros and his family. I’m very happy for him.”

Hextall admitted he still wonders what would have been if Lindros stayed healthy to close his career.

“He probably was in [the Hall of Fame] a couple years ago, right, if he didn’t have the injuries,” Hextall said. “Injuries happen but I can say this, when Eric played with us, he was clearly one of the most dominant players in the league at the time and probably one of the most dominant ever.”

And it all came full circle.

Lindros got his day.

Flyers make qualifying offers to Brayden Schenn, 4 other restricted free agents

Flyers make qualifying offers to Brayden Schenn, 4 other restricted free agents

The Flyers on Monday made expected qualifying offers to restricted free agents Brayden Schenn, Nick Cousins, Brandon Manning, Jordan Weal and Petr Straka.

Right wingers Brandon Alderson and Derek Mathers, both RFAs, did not receive qualifying offers. Alderson played 18 games for the Phantoms last season, while Mathers appeared in just three.

Qualifying offers must be made to restricted free agents from their respective clubs by the first Monday following the NHL draft. They cannot be accepted before July 1, the start of free agency. If a team does not extend a qualifying offer to a restricted free agent and the player is not eligible for/offered salary arbitration, he becomes unrestricted.

Essentially, qualifying offers, mandatory by this day, officially kick off the negotiation process. Now with a qualifying offer, the restricted free agent must notify their club of an offer from a pursuing team and allow it to match the offer in seven days.

If the prior team does not match an offer, it receives draft compensation from the player’s new club. A qualifying offer expires July 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time unless an extended deadline is agreed upon.

It goes without saying that Schenn is the Flyers’ most notable and important restricted free agent.

“I venture to guess that it's not going to be the first thing we get done, but in the end, we'll get it done,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said in late April of re-signing Schenn.

Hextall expressed significant interest in bringing back Cousins and Manning, as well.

Ryan White, an unrestricted free agent, is also a priority for Hextall.

The Flyers locked up Radko Gudas, who was a pending restricted free agent, last Thursday.