After slow start, Flyers playing with swagger again

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After slow start, Flyers playing with swagger again

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- A lot has happened during the month of November for Craig Berube.
 
His Flyers are 4-2-1 and have crept to within three points of a playoff spot.
 
Yeah, it’s way early to think playoffs, but keep in mind, since 1993 about 75 percent of the teams nestled from first through eighth place on Thanksgiving Day qualify for the playoffs.
 
At various points in October, the Flyers looked like a team without any kind of playoff shot, behind by seven points at late as Nov. 7.
 
And then … this club got angry after being annihilated 7-0 by Washington, had a team meeting after losing to New Jersey at home, the owner called the club “pathetic” and voila! Three straight wins to get back into the hunt, just three points behind the eighth-seeded Rangers.
 
“For me, it’s about one game at a time,” Berube said as the Flyers pulled into The Peg on Thursday afternoon, after their everything-on-the-ice 2-1 win in Pittsburgh the night before.
 
Earlier this week, Berube mused privately that it would be nice to go on a six-game win streak and get this team’s foundation where it should be.
 
He’s halfway there with the final game of this three-game road swing Friday against the Jets.
 
“As a coach, obviously, in your mind you want to go on a streak,” he said. “But it’s been one game at a time and that is all we have preached. Take care of tonight’s game. And we’ll move on. And when it’s over, forget about it … get ready for the next one.”
 
He didn’t bother to give the team a speech before this crazy, cross-country trip began, starting in Ottawa, then going to Pittsburgh, then flying all the way to Manitoba for three games in four nights.
 
Berube said the Flyers started off so poorly, every game since has been do or die. The Flyers need points every night to gain ground. They are 7-7-1 under him.
 
“Oh, I know this is a big [trip], but it’s been important for a while now,” he said. “I can go back to that Jersey game at home and how big that was. We didn’t play good enough to win it.”
 
He says there’s enough pressure on this group just to crawl back into the race one game at a time without being pressured by the coaches reminding them they need quantum points.
 
The Flyers have played two near flawless road games with the 5-0 blitz in Ottawa and the 2-1 win over the Penguins.
 
Berube has been harping about play away from the puck and defense as the standard by which all good things will emerge.
 
Both came into play during those two victories, along with outstanding goaltending from Steve Mason and Ray Emery.
 
Also, the Flyers have just six giveaways in the past two games versus 30 by the opponents.
 
“It’s skating, it's the forechecking, it’s getting on people,” Berube said. “That is a big part of it. When you are working, reloading and skating and getting on people, they will turn pucks over. When you don’t and you give them time, they’re going to make plays.”
 
Players, especially team captain Claude Giroux, are feeling good about themselves. Heads are high. Some of the old Flyer swagger is visible again.
 
You know it’s going good when Evgeni Malkin crosschecks Sean Couturier after the whistle, hits him again and Coots pushes him back without taking a penalty.
 
Berube said getting out of town for this road trip was helpful for the Flyers to settle themselves down.
 
“The way things have been going at home with the fans and everything," Berube said. "Pressure has built up there.
 
“On the road, you can play a little bit more relaxed. You don’t hear [boos]. You don’t have to be perfect on the road. You just play. At home, sometimes, we get a power play and it’s not clicking and the fans get on you. You tense up. It’s natural.”
 
There’s still one more road game to go against a Jets club that has been a problem for the Flyers in this city with a 2-2 record since the franchise relocated from Atlanta a few years back.
 
“It’s just a start,” Berube said. “It’s not where it needs to be yet. We have to keep working on it. It’s my job to get harping on it and driving it home.”
 
Loose pucks
Berube said that while Michael Raffl was healthy, he was also wiped out by the flu and needs to get some skating in. … He also said there is really no reason to make lineup changes, but if and when he does, he is often “tweaking” things based on the opponent and not necessarily the players coming out of the lineup. … Look for Mason to start Friday in goal.

Best of NHL: Henrik Lundqvist's 36 saves leads Rangers past Kings

Best of NHL: Henrik Lundqvist's 36 saves leads Rangers past Kings

NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist stopped 36 shots to lead the New York Rangers over the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Monday night.

Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel and Mats Zuccarello scored to help New York win its third straight since a three-game skid.

Jordan Nolan and Kyle Clifford scored, and Jeff Zatkoff finished with 14 saves for Los Angeles, which has lost four straight and five of seven.

Lundqvist has given up just four goals on 84 shots during the winning streak -- including a 1-0 shutout at Detroit on Monday -- after allowing 20 on 113 shots the previous four games.

The veteran goalie needed to be at his best in this one as the Kings, who last played Saturday across town against the Islanders, seemed a step faster from the start and controlled play for most of the first two periods (see full recap).

Caps top 'Canes to extend point streak to 14 games
WASHINGTON -- Defenseman Dmitry Orlov scored twice and the Washington Capitals kept the offense rolling to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 on Monday night and extend their point streak to 14 games.

Orlov doubled his goal output for the season and Justin Williams, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller also scored for the Capitals, who have won three in a row and haven't lost in regulation since Dec. 27. Washington scored on six of its 25 shots on Cam Ward and handed Carolina its fourth consecutive loss.

Braden Holtby made 25 saves for his 23rd victory of the season. The only goal he allowed came from Jordan Staal on the power play in the first period.

The Capitals allowed the first goal for the first time in 11 games but scored six unanswered to continue their winning ways. They've scored 44 goals in their past eight games (see full recap).

Kadri reaches 20 goals as Leafs beat Flames
TORONTO -- Nazem Kadri scored twice to tie his career high with 20 goals this season, Frederik Andersen stopped 26 shots and the Toronto Maple Leafs ended a two-game winless streak with a 4-0 win over the Calgary Flames on Monday night.

Kadri beat Brian Elliott twice, and Andersen captured his second shutout as a Leaf.

Rookies Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman also scored for Toronto, which sits third in the Atlantic Division with 53 points.

Elliott gave up four goals on 28 shots, dropping his fourth consecutive start.

The Flames have lost three in a row and five of the past six. They are a point up on Vancouver for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference (see full recap).

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Kevin Hayes will miss two to three weeks with a lower-body injury.

The team announced the timeline Monday after Hayes underwent an MRI in the morning. Hayes left the Rangers' game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period.

Hayes had seven points in his previous six games and is third on the team in points with 35. The 24-year-old has 13 goals and 22 assists in 47 games this season.

His injury is a major blow to New York, which holds the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The silver lining for the Rangers is that Hayes will miss fewer games because of the upcoming All-Star break.

Senators: Smith signed to 4-year, $13 million extension
OTTAWA, Ontario -- The Ottawa Senators have signed forward Zack Smith to a four-year contract extension worth $13 million.

The Senators said that the extension goes through the 2020-21 season and carries an annual average value of $3.25 million.

Smith, 28, has 11 goals and 11 assists in 43 games this season and is averaging a career-high 16 minutes, 13 seconds per game.

He set career highs with 25 goals and 36 points in 2015-16. He has 75 goals and 61 assists in 443 games, all with the Senators.

Smith was Ottawa's third-round pick (79th overall) in the 2008 draft.