After offseason, Flyers loaded with captain savvy

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After offseason, Flyers loaded with captain savvy

If inexperience was a problem for last year’s Flyers, it shouldn’t be this time around.

Never mind the understanding Claude Giroux now has of what it takes to be the Flyers’ captain -- though that will certainly help. Thanks to GM Paul Holmgren’s offseason moves, Giroux has two new teammates who also wore the "C" last year, as well as a new goaltender who already knows what it takes to play in Philadelphia.

Those new additions will more than make up for the supposed excess of youth (and lack of veteran leadership) on last season’s team.

“Having guys like Vinny Lecavalier and Mark Streit come in, they've been captains in the league and they are good leaders,” Giroux said. “A guy like Ray Emery has been around the league for a while. To have guys like that come in and help the young guys -- and help me -- it's obviously a real good thing for us.”

The Flyers bought out alternate captain Danny Briere’s contract over the summer, and with him they lost a veteran well known for his off-ice influence. Briere mentored and even hosted Giroux and Sean Couturier in his home when they were new to the team, was captain of the Buffalo Sabres before he came to Philadelphia, and wore the "A" on his jersey while he was here.

But, arguably, the Flyers were able to upgrade on the ice while bringing in comparable leadership experience even as they let Briere go. And that’s the idea.

“They were great additions,” Max Talbot said. “You look at the three guys they brought. You have two captains and [two] Stanley Cup winners. All guys with experience and all of them have great attitudes, as well. That is the base. And we know they can all play.”
 
Streit and Lecavalier agreed that having served as captains in the past will help them personally, as well as help the team when there's a need for players besides Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen (the latter two will serve as alternates this season) to speak up.

They won't, according to Lecavalier, fade into the background just because they're no longer wearing a letter stitched onto their jerseys.

"I don't really think like that," Lecavalier said.

Instead, he said, he thinks having so many players with leadership experience is "great” for the team.

“When you’re captain, you need a group of guys, you need to help each other out," Lecavalier said. "And of course our leaders, Claude Giroux, and great leadership with Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell and other guys coming up, and obviously Mark Streit, and myself being captain in Tampa -- we’re all going to help out each other and try to lead by example, for sure.”

There are times and places for different players to raise their voices throughout the year, and Giroux will benefit from having others around him who've been through tough times, as well as the best times (like those aforementioned Stanley Cup victories).

As Streit said, "it’s a long season. There’s a lot of ups and downs."

“Experience, leadership, it’s going to help us down the stretch,” Streit said. “For me, it was a great experience being captain for two years. I learned a lot.

"The [Flyers'] guys are all great, it’s a great room, and I think that’s really important, to have great chemistry. And I can tell -- I’ve been here for a few days and already feel comfortable. It made my adjustment really easy.”

Best of NHL: Sabres snap Blues' 6-game winning streak

Best of NHL: Sabres snap Blues' 6-game winning streak

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Robin Lehner stopped 16 shots in the third period and 37 overall, and the Buffalo Sabres snapped the St. Louis Blues' six-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory on Saturday.

Evander Kane and minor-league callup Nicholas Baptiste each had a goal and an assist in Buffalo's third straight win, matching a season best accomplished three times. Ryan O'Reilly also scored for the Sabres (26-23-10), who have three more wins than losses for the first time since closing the 2011-12 season 39-32-11.

Vladimir Tarasenko also scored for St. Louis, which lost for the first time since a 4-1 defeat to Pittsburgh on Feb. 4 (see full recap).

Jets spoil Julien's return to Montreal
MONTREAL -- Patrik Laine and Mathieu Perreault each had a goal and an assist, and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled Claude Julien's return to Montreal with a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday.

Joel Armia also scored for Winnipeg (27-29-5), and Connor Hellebuyck stopped 19 shots. The Jets had dropped five of six.

The Canadiens fired coach Michel Therrien on Tuesday and hired Julien in hopes of getting their season back on track. Julien also coached Montreal from 2003-2006.

But Julien's first game back was more of the same for the first-place Canadiens (31-20-8), who have lost three in a row and seven of eight (see full recap).

Senators top Leafs to gain on Canadiens
TORONTO -- Mark Stone had a goal and four assists, Derick Brassard scored twice in the third period and the Ottawa Senators recovered after blowing a two-goal lead to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Saturday night.

The Senators pulled within two points of Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa led 2-0 after one period but trailed 3-2 in the third before getting a tying goal from Mike Hoffman and a power-play goal from Brassard. Stone and Brassard added empty-netters, and Chris Wideman and Ryan Dzingel also scored for the Senators.

Ottawa has won four of five overall and three of four against the Leafs this season. Craig Anderson stopped 34 shots.

Morgan Rielly, Nazem Kadri and William Nylander scored and Auston Matthews had two assists for the Maple Leafs. Frederik Andersen allowed four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

With Jordan Weal out, Flyers' Dale Weise sees opportunity to get back on solid ground

With Jordan Weal out, Flyers' Dale Weise sees opportunity to get back on solid ground

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Jordan Weal’s pain is Dale Weise’s gain.

Weal, 24, who has showed tremendous promise in just two games and a period since being called up from the Lehigh Valley, will be sidelined with an upper-body injury Sunday, as the Flyers (24-27-7) visit the Vancouver Canucks (25-27-6) at Rogers Arena.

Weise, who has played sparingly of late, will take replace Weal in the lineup. The winger will be asked to play a prominent offensive role, as he skates on the second line alongside Sean Couturier and top scorer Jakub Voracek.

“I’m glad to be back in the lineup,” Weise said after a practice Saturday. “You never want to be out of the lineup. It’s frustrating. I’m just trying to do my work here in practice and trying to be ready when I can, and I think this is a pretty good opportunity to come in and play with two good players, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Weise will get a chance to renew his worth to the team after sitting out the last two games, and seven of the last 12 overall, as a healthy scratch.

“It’s probably the most difficult season I’ve ever had,” Weise, a 28-year-old journeyman, said. “I’ve never been scratched this much in my life. A couple games in a row, I’ve never been through that before.”

He views Sunday’s contest as a “fresh start” and, with only two goals and three assists on the season, a chance to pick up his offensive game.

“I’m just really hoping to get in and just find a way to contribute and get a couple bounces and score a number of goals,” said Weise, who has just one point in his last 29 games and has not scored since Nov. 23.

“It’s been difficult because I feel like I’m playing good hockey. I just can’t get a bounce into the net. I’m around the net. I’m getting chances. It’s just not going in, which is frustrating since it’s been the way it’s going for our whole team.”

The Flyers have lost five of their past six games, including the first two games on this three-game swing through Western Canada. Clearly, coach Dave Hakstol is also expecting Weise to make the most of his chance.

“He’s got a great opportunity to go in [Sunday] and to step in and to help our team,” Hakstol said. “I’m sure he’ll be ready and prepared to do that. Sometimes it’s about the timing of an opportunity and taking advantage of the opportunity. On a couple of different levels, obviously, that would be a real positive for us.”

Hakstol lamented the loss of Weal, who will be reevaluated after the team returns home Monday. Weal, a native of the Vancouver suburb of North Vancouver, was denied a chance to play before family and friends, made an impression with Hakstol after being promoted from the AHL.

Weal averaged 11:50 of ice time in three appearances, and Hakstol left little doubt that he will miss the chance to call upon him here.

“He added something every game,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, it was two games and a period, but he’s dynamic. He hadn’t been here [this season], but he had the puck quite a bit. He looked like a player that was confidently on the top of his game, and I didn’t think any of that was lost in the transition from Lehigh to our team.”

Now, Weise has a chance to impress the coach again in a game against one of his former teams. Weise played about three seasons for the Canucks between 2011-12 and 2013-14 before he was traded to Montreal during former coach John Tortorella’s one-and-done season with Vancouver.

Does Weise have extra motivation to shine against his former club?

Maybe not, he said.

“The first couple of years when I was traded, I always felt like I had something to prove,” Weise said. “Obviously, it’s a team I played for before, but it’s a completely different management and coach and stuff, so it’s a little different feel.”

Meanwhile, captain Claude Giroux, who has just two goals in his past 23 games, is also looking to score more. Actually, he wants his whole first line to start scoring more as the Flyers battle for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

“We have to find a way to produce,” Giroux said.

What’s been the problem?

“If we knew we would have fixed it four of five games ago,” Giroux said. “We’re getting a lot of shots on the net.”

But Hakstol was not about to criticize his captain’s effort, even though he has a woeful minus-20 mark this season.

“For whatever the reason, in the last month, he’s just gone in the wrong direction,” Hakstol said. “That’s not just [the] individual. That’s a team item, and we’ve gotta push that in the right direction.”

If they do, the Flyers can start to make up for some shoddy road play. They are 2-10-2 in their last 14 road games and have gone 0-6-2 in Western Canada lately. But Hakstol, other than for what he described as a bad game in Edmonton, has few complaints about his team’s play away from home.

“We played a hell of a road game in Calgary,” Hakstol said. “We’ve been doing that on a pretty regular basis, and I’m confident we’ll do that here.”