Simon Gagne Makes It Home in Time for Rivalry Night with the Washington Capitals

Simon Gagne Makes It Home in Time for Rivalry Night with the Washington Capitals

While Philly fans had to be happy on some level when they
heard Simon Gagne was coming home, the move did raise a few questions – not to
mention eyebrows. The Flyers are fighting for their playoff lives, and general manager
Paul Holmgren’s cure was to trade for a 33 year old who hasn’t played a full
season at a high level since 2008-’09?

That of course would be reading too much into the deal.
Gagne isn’t the answer to all of the Flyers’ problems, but he could be a viable
solution to one: the club’s increasingly-challenged depth at left wing.

Shortly after the trade with Los Angeles was announced, the
Flyers revealed Tye McGinn would miss two weeks with an orbital bone fracture, a
result of his fight with Toronto’s Mike Brown on Monday night. Check it out:

McGinn joins Matt Read, Tom Sestitio, and Jody Shelley on
the list of injured forwards. Read surprisingly skated on Wednesday, but is
expected to be out another five weeks with torn rib cage muscles. Sestito’s
timetable is six-to-eight weeks with a groin injury, while Shelley is on
injured reserve recovering from hip surgery.

All of which has left the Flyers thin at wing. That doesn’t
even include the prior absences of Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, or Zac
Rinaldo for varying lengths of time, nor does it account for the relative lack
of production from Ruslan Fedotenko or Mike Knuble up to this point.

As for whether Gagne can fill the void in ways that
Fedotenko and Knuble haven’t, or if he’s just another old timer temping for the
cash-strapped Flyers, that remains to be seen. On Wednesday, Tim Panaccio provided
some additional insight
on Homer’s line of thinking, as well as that of the
Kings.

"Simon is a guy who has a lot
of experience and played in a lot of positions -- penalty kill, power play and
regular shifts,” Holmgren said on a conference call. “He is a good two-way
player that can skate. We think he will add to us a lot.”

 

Gagne had fallen in disfavor with coach Darryl Sutter because he didn’t finish
his scoring chances and he is not a grinder who can play on a fourth line.
Gagne admitted he felt confused as to just what his role was.

So while Gagne’s best days are almost certainly behind him, the
belief is he could still be effective if utilized properly. Gagne’s zero goals
and five assists in 11 games were apparently a consequence of playing on the
Kings’ fourth line, and he was a healthy scratch in his final days with the
organization.

In the end, the Flyers spent a third-round pick at most to
bolster their depth, and in the process acquired a player who might stand to
benefit from familiar surroundings, plus another veteran presence inside the locker
room. And as several observers have noted, the addition of Gagne could give
Holmgren greater flexibility to make a bigger move down the road.

Ultimately how significant the trade is will depend on
Gagne’s own availability. He hasn’t played more than 63 games in a season since
08-09, so his health will be something to monitor. As long as Gagne can stay on
the ice though, there is reason to believe he can help in some capacity.

***

As for Gagne’s first game in Orange & Black, the Flyers
are back on NBC Sports’ Rivalry Night for the second week in a row, this time
drawing Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Washington has come on of late, winning back-to-back
games to jump out of sole possession of last place in the Eastern Conference,
and they can scramble out from the bottom of the pile with just one point tonight.

For what it’s worth, the Flyers and Caps are only separated
by six points – with Philadelphia playing three more games already – so they’re
really in no position to overlook any opponent. Puck drops at 7:30 for Rivalry
Night.

photo courtesy the Flyers

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Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks, 1-0, in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story).