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.

NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

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NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings agreed to terms with winger Tomas Tatar on a $21.2 million, four-year contract Friday.

The 26-year-old Czech native led Detroit with 25 goals last season and also had 21 assists. He has 20-plus goals in each of the past three seasons, including a career-high 29 in 2014-15. In 345 NHL games, he has 99 goals and 95 assists.

The team announced the deal a day after Tatar's arbitration hearing and before the ruling was to be handed down. Tatar will count $5.3 million against the salary cap through 2020-21.

Tatar's cap hit moving forward is the same as Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who also signed a long-term deal as a restricted free agent.

The Red Wings missed the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since the 1989-90 season. They're moving into a new arena next season and will need a new core of players to return them to relevance. Pavel Datsyuk left the team before last season, and although Henrik Zetterberg had 68 points -- his highest total in five seasons -- Detroit didn't have anyone else reach 50 in 2016-17 (see full story).

Wild: Foligno seeks more in Minnesota
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Marcus Foligno has left the leap behind in Buffalo.

That doesn't mean his offensive production can't or won't continue to rise in Minnesota.

Coming off a career-high 13 goals for the Sabres last season, the 25-year-old was acquired by the Wild to bring some needed grit and strength to the left wing position on the third or fourth line. He's capable of putting the puck in the net, too, though he has so far been more of a sporadic scorer in the NHL.

"Definitely, 20 goals is something I envision myself to reach, and I hope to do that in a Wild jersey," Foligno said. "Playing with some big centermen, playing on a well-rounded team, I think I can do that. I felt last year that my offensive side was getting there, and I'm looking to improve on that this season" (see full story).

Blackhawks: Wingels recovering from broken foot
CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Tommy Wingels broke his left foot during offseason training, but is expected to be ready for training camp.

The 29-year-old Wingels, a suburban Chicago native, agreed to a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on July 1. He had seven goals and five assists for the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators last season.

The Blackhawks announced the injury on Friday.

A high school hit, Flyers draft pick Noah Cates now looks ahead

A high school hit, Flyers draft pick Noah Cates now looks ahead

VOORHEES, N.J. — Noah Cates was just a teenager playing high school hockey in Minnesota.
 
Then he spun himself into a national sensation.
 
Back in February 2016, Cates scored a goal you see in movies with a fairytale finish. To push Stillwater Area High School into the Class 2A state tournament, Cates shook the only defender in sight with a stunning spin move before reaching around the goalie and finding the net for the punctuation.

The result was a 1-0 overtime win and pure chaos in the stands. What ensued over the following days, Cates never could have imagined.
 
"Oh geez," he said with a smile last week at Flyers development camp. "Attention right away, but it was just a crazy experience all around. That, and the next couple days with the tourney and stuff — it was a great time in my life playing high school hockey with all my friends."
 
Cates, a junior at the time, was featured on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays, while the goal made waves on the internet across national media outlets.
 
All while he was preparing for states.
 
"It was just a whirlwind those couple days, but it was unbelievable," he said. "Unforgettable."
 
Cates is now moving on from Stillwater, looking to write a new chapter of his young but already exciting hockey career. His junior season ended in the semifinals of the state tournament. As a senior, Cates racked up 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists) in 25 regular-season games.
 
A little over a month after high school graduation, Cates was skating on the Flyers' practice ice and seeing the NHL life. The 18-year-old left winger was selected by the Flyers in the fifth round of the June entry draft and took part in the team's six-day July development camp.
 
"Just see what elite players are like from my age, year older, two years older," Cates said of the Flyers' annual youth gathering. "See what I need to work on, see what the next steps should look like for me and my development.
 
"It was definitely cool to see but you try to calm down. They drafted me, so you've got to feel you belong here."
 
Cates will play for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL in 2017-18 before starting his college career at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2018-19. He still has long ways to go in accomplishing the NHL dream, but his potential was obvious at development camp. Cates stands at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, and brings a slick shot as well as strong puck skills, as evident by his famous goal.
 
"I like skill, I like trying new stuff," he said. "Just kind of try new stuff, try new things out there."
 
Getting a feel for the Flyers was a nice start to his year of preparation for the college ranks in the USHL.
 
"Strength and speed, just getting bigger, faster, stronger," Cates said of what he hopes to improve. "Those players, you see them out here, they're so big, strong and skilled. They'll be tough to keep up with them, but if you're in the weight room and you're working out hard, it'll make it easier."
 
It's all part of moving on from high school. He'll never forget the spin and goal to send Stillwater into states — and how could he? It's hard to top such a memory.
 
An NHL goal might do it.