Analysis: Injuries spark Flyers' trade for Gagne

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Analysis: Injuries spark Flyers' trade for Gagne

On the surface, it didn’t make much sense: Simon Gagne to the Flyers for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft (see story).
 
How would another ex-Flyer -- who turns 33 this Friday, doesn’t have a goal in 11 games and has been benched in Los Angeles -- help get the Flyers’ offense going?
 
After all, this isn’t the same Gagne whose last most-productive season as a Flyer was 2008-09, when he scored 34 goals on Mike Richards’ line with Mike Knuble.
 
The deal didn’t make sense.
 
Not when there were rumors out there about the Flyers' interest in forward/defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, a guy who could have an impact in two parts of the lineup.
 
And then general manager Paul Holmgren finally shed some light Tuesday night when he revealed that Tye McGinn had suffered an orbital bone fracture during his fight with Toronto’s Mike Brown on Monday. McGinn will likely need surgery, a source said.
 
Now the trade makes sense.
 
“Obviously, with the injury bug and Matt Read being out [six weeks with rib cage injury], and now we lost Tye McGinn last night for a few weeks, we have some holes," Holmgren said on a conference call.   

"Simon is a guy who has a lot of experience and played in a lot of positions -- penalty kill, power play and regular shifts. 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.
 
Kings GM Dean Lombardi called the Flyers prior to McGinn’s injury -- in the midst of Gagne getting benched for five games -- to gauge interest in moving him here.

“He wasn't fitting in, so to speak,” Lombardi said. “We were able to put him in a place where he would be happy. He was very pleased with it.”
 
It wasn’t until the McGinn injury, on top of Read’s, that Holmgren bit on the deal, which required a bit of a cap maneuvering (see story).
 
“I talked to Dean a few days ago,” Holmgren said. “He said he might be in a position to move him and asked if we would have any interest. I said we might and then when the injury bug hit us in the last few games, it was a good opportunity [for someone] who can play higher up our lineup and add to our team.”
 
Gagne seemed taken aback with the whirlwind of activity, including the sale of his South Jersey house that was previously rented to coach Peter Laviolette.
 
Gagne is slated to take a red eye back to Philly tonight to play Wednesday against the Washington Capitals.
 
“It’s going to be maybe a tough one tomorrow night. I think they want me to be in the lineup,” he said. “First of all, I’m excited to be back and play in front of the fans in Philly tomorrow night.
 
“Right now, the plan for me was there is no flight left for this afternoon, so I have to take the red eye and fly all night. So it’s going to be a special game tomorrow, but I’ll try to take all that emotion and try to bring that energy to the game.”
 
Three seasons ago, Gagne had 17 goals for Tampa. All he has now are five assists. The Flyers need more scoring. There is no guarantee how many goals are left in his stick even though he is physically fine (concussion free) and his neck issues have been surgically repaired.
 
He has always kept himself in shape, too.
 
Gagne was very close to Danny Briere and Claude Giroux. He has a Stanley Cup ring now. Perhaps he can help relax a young player like Sean Couturier, who seems to be going through the “sophomore jinx” this season.
 
Then again, Gagne himself needs to get going.
 
“It’s not an easy situation,” Gagne said. “As a hockey player not playing a lot last year and not playing at the end in the [Stanley Cup Final] and having the long lockout, not playing for almost six months before we started the season.
 
“But I have to say, I felt really good -- the games that I played this year, I felt really good on the ice. My leg was feeling good, the skill was coming back, but it’s hard when you start to feel your game coming back and you’re not playing the next five games, and after that you have to go back into the lineup.
 
“[For] any player it’s going to be hard to ask someone to go back in the lineup after not playing for five games. It’s almost like a week not playing. It’s hard. But like I said, the games I played here this year I was feeling really good. I think it’s just a matter of playing a little more hockey and all that stuff will come back.”
 
The thing is the Flyers are running out of time. They need points. They are a bubble team that right now doesn’t appear headed to the playoffs.
 
Gagne, a true class act and one of the most professional of athletes ever to play in Philadelphia, returns with a certain amount of pressure on him -- to help get this team into postseason.
 
“He seems excited to be coming back and looks forward to an opportunity to play and help us,” Holmgren said.

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jonathan Toews had three goals and two assists and the Chicago Blackhawks beat rival Minnesota 5-3 on Tuesday night for their second win over the Western Conference-leading Wild in less than two weeks.

Toews notched his fourth career hat trick on an empty-netter with 1:02 left to stave off a spirited rally by the Wild, who began a franchise-record eight-game homestand on Feb. 8 with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks. Toews had a goal and two assists in that one and has 37 points in 35 career games against Minnesota.

Chicago's captain has been chewing up almost everyone else, too, with 20 points in his last 12 games. Toews' wing men Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik had the other goals, giving the Blackhawks 34 goals in their last eight games. Their first line totaled nine points.

Mikael Granlund's second power-play goal for the Wild brought them within 4-3, before Ryan Suter hit the crossbar with a shot that nearly tied it (see full recap).

Islanders open 9-game road trip with win
DETROIT -- Calvin de Haan was credited with a go-ahead goal that caromed off an opponent late in the second period and the New York Islanders went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 Tuesday night.

De Haan's shot from above the left circle was stopped by Petr Mrazek, but the rebound went off Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet and the back of the goaltender's left leg and into the net. John Tavares scored early in the third period to give the Islanders a two-goal lead and they coasted to the victory.

Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots for New York.

Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit and Mrazek finished with 19 saves.

The Islanders, in contention for a wild-card spot, began a stretch of nine straight road games by winning for the third time in four games and improved to 8-13-4 away from home (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins take care of Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sidney Crosby scored the go-ahead goal on a deflection in the second period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Evgeni Malkin and Scott Wilson also scored to help the reigning Stanley Cup champions bounce back from their only loss since the All-Star break. Pittsburgh moved three points behind East-leading Washington and is 7-1-3 since the break.

Jeff Skinner scored for the last-place Hurricanes, who have their second five-game losing streak in the past five weeks. They have been outscored 19-4 during the current slide.

Matt Murray made 29 saves for the Penguins while Cam Ward stopped 19 shots for Carolina (see full recap).

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Capitals

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Capitals

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jordan Weal participated in the Flyers' full practice Tuesday at Skate Zone but will remain out of the lineup against Washington on Wednesday with an apparent concussion.

He was nailed in Edmonton by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba. The hit in the corner came at 13:57 of the opening period.

Video replays show Gryba sandwiched Weal hard on the boards with Weal striking his head and right shoulder, then falling to the ice. Actually, Gryba hit him earlier in the period as well, but it was the second hit that seemed to go the most damage. 

Weal said both he and trainer Jim McCrossin agreed it was better to not return to the game after the second hit.

“He kind of drove me in pretty good there,” Weal said. “It’s a hockey play, though. Not much you can do.” 

The Flyers are being cautious with the head injury.

Coach Dave Hakstol was vague as to when Weal would re-enter the lineup. Weal had just been called up last week to replace Travis Konecny, who was placed on IR.

“I feel good,” said Weal, who took extra practice on Tuesday. “It definitely has been progressing every day. ... I’m day-to-day and as soon as I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go.

“It’s one of those injuries you just have to take your time with. I think when I feel I’m ready to play, I’ll be in.

“It’s frustrating. But it’s part of the game. With these injuries, it’s tougher than if it was, say your finger or your shin or something where you could put ice on it and get it better. You just have to treat it right and get back as quick as I can.”

Gudas’ departure
Defenseman Radko Gudas left early during what was a brief but long-delayed 45-minute practice on Tuesday.

What was noteworthy about Gudas’ departure, however, was that he picked up his gear and headed back to the dressing room while both trainers remained on the bench.

So he wasn’t injured.

Immediate speculation was that he might have been traded. An hour later, general manager Ron Hextall announced Gudas had had a dentist appointment to fix a broken tooth, incurred during the recent road trip.

Needless to say, Gudas’ leaving blew up Twitter with trade rumors.

Lower, lower body
Jake Voracek took a shot below the belt and couldn't stand for a few minutes near the end of practice. He remained in obvious pain in the dressing room and did not talk … as if he could.