Flyers aim to end 'soft' play against Sabres

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Flyers aim to end 'soft' play against Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- "Soft" isn't a word normally tossed around when discussing the Flyers, but winger Scott Hartnell used the adjective in describing his team's two-game losing skid. 

"The last couple games especially, we got away from our game plan and got away from playing simple hockey, winning hockey," Hartnell said as the Flyers prepared for their 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night game against the Buffalo Sabres.

"We are just trying to be too cute. We're all collectively soft as a group on battles in front of their net and especially in our D zone. We've talked about it and addressed it and we're going to have a hard, tough game tonight."

The Flyers have been outscored 10-4 in consecutive losses, the first at home against Tampa Bay and the second a 4-1 Sunday loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

"We were a little lackadaisical the last two games," said Wayne Simmonds, who's a minus-3 in that span. "We missed quite a few defensive assignments and we gave up quite a few goals because of the missing of those assignments. We've gotta refocus and recalibrate a little bit and be ready to go."

And lessen the softness.

"You've gotta compete," Hartnell said. "You've gotta play without the puck. We've talked about it. You can't do anything but do your own job. There's going to be some times in the game where somebody does get beat or falls down and you have to recover, but you can't just get out of your own position and leave guys open."

The Flyers won't face American Olympic goaltender Ryan Miller Tuesday night, but his backup will also be suiting up in Sochi next month. Swedish Olympic backstop Jhonas Enroth is expected to get the call for Buffalo.

Enroth hasn't gotten much help from his offense. Despite a goals-against average (2.46) and save percentage (.916) better than his career average, Enroth has a 1-8-4 record thanks to a team in front of him that's scored just 17 goals in his starts and been shut out thrice.

"Buffalo is Buffalo," Simmonds said. "It's always a hard building to play in. Over my last three games in the Eastern Conference, it's probably one of the harder buildings to come into and play. We gotta focus on ourselves and make sure we're doing the right things."

The Sabres are mired in the league standings after a historically bad start, but have turned things around a bit, especially at home. Buffalo's 6-0-2 in its last eight home games.

"They play well here at home and they're playing a lot better defensively, so we expect a hard game," said Flyers coach Craig Berube.

Hartnell said the Flyers are treating the Sabres like a team vying for the playoffs and not taking them lightly because of their status in the Eastern Conference standings.

"This is a team that's playing really well and other than the start, they'd be right there, right in the mix," Hartnell said. "They got nothing to lose and we've gotta be ready to go."

The Flyers' back-to-back losses come on the heels of a 10-2-1 hot streak.

"We know where we went wrong in those two games and it's up to us to correct that," Simmonds said. "We've gotta have a good start tonight, a strong start to the game and make sure we're playing 60 minutes."

Facing long NHL draft lottery odds, Flyers land 2017 No. 2 pick

Facing long NHL draft lottery odds, Flyers land 2017 No. 2 pick

The Flyers are movin' on up. W-a-a-ay up.

The NHL held its annual draft lottery Saturday night in Toronto to determine the first 15 picks in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft and the Flyers shocked everyone.

They came into the lottery in the 13th position and despite l-o-n-g odds, managed to catapult themselves into the No. 2 pick.

New Jersey won the top pick with Dallas taking the third. Neither Colorado, which had the worst record in the league, nor the Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team, finished in the top three.

It's sweet revenge for finishing last in 2007 and not getting the top pick (Patrick Kane), which went to Chicago. The Flyers chose James van Riemsdyk that draft.

Suddenly, the Flyers have a shot at picking from among the top-five forward prospects, as ranked by NHL Central Scouting for this draft. They are: Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, Casey Mittelstadt, Gabriel Vilardi and Michael Rasmussen.

Obviously, not making the playoffs has its rewards.

Dave Hakstol's club had a 2.2 percent chance to capture the first overall pick, as well as a 2.4 percent chance and 2.7 percent chance at the second and third overall pick, respectively.

They beat the odds.

The highest percentage saw them remaining at 13th overall (84.3 percent).

Because of the rules of the lottery, the 12 clubs not selected in the NHL draft lottery will be assigned NHL draft selections four through 15, in inverse order of regular-season points.

Hence, the Flyers could not pick fourth-12th and could only pick in the 1-3 positions, or fall to 14th (8.3 percent) or 15th (0.1 percent).

As was the case last year, the first three picks are decided by a lottery, but this year also included the newest NHL franchise, the Golden Knights, as part of the group.

Vegas was given the same odds as the team finishing with the third-fewest points during the 2016-17 regular season and held a 10.3 percent chance at winning the first overall pick.

The best chance at No. 1 overall going in was the Colorado Avalanche (18 percent) followed by the Vancouver Canucks (12.1 percent). Vegas and the Arizona Coyotes were next (10.3 percent).

Vegas was guaranteed to pick no lower than the sixth overall selection but held a 30 percent chance to finish with either the first, second or third overall pick.

The draft is June 23-24 in Chicago.

NHL Playoffs: Cam Talbot, Pat Maroon lead Oilers to 2-0 series lead over Ducks

NHL Playoffs: Cam Talbot, Pat Maroon lead Oilers to 2-0 series lead over Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Cam Talbot made 39 saves, Patrick Maroon scored a power-play goal and the Edmonton Oilers moved halfway to the Western Conference finals with a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 of their second-round series Friday night.

Andrej Sekera scored an early goal for the Oilers, who took the first two games on Pacific Division champion Anaheim's home ice. Talbot was the difference in Game 2, making all manner of impressive saves while Anaheim dominated the last 30 minutes.

Jakob Silfverberg scored and John Gibson stopped 21 shots for the Ducks, who had gone 18 games without a regulation defeat before this series. Anaheim has never recovered from an 0-2 series deficit, losing all seven series after digging that early hole.

Game 3 is Sunday in Edmonton (see full recap).

Tarasenko scores twice as Blues beat Predators
ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal with 3:51 left to give the St. Louis Blues a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 2 on Friday night to tie the Western Conference semifinal series.

Jori Lehtera also scored for the Blues, and Jake Allen stopped 22 shots -- including 14 in the third period.

Ryan Ellis had a goal and an assist and James Neal also scored for the Predators, who had their franchise-high five-game postseason winning streak snapped. Pekka Rinne finished with 17 saves.

Game 3 is Sunday at Nashville, Tennessee.

Tarasenko's game-winner came on a lucky bounce. Jaden Schwartz led the rush and initially tried to pass it to Carl Gunnarsson, but the pass was off the mark and bounced off of Gunnarsson's foot right to Tarasenko's stick.

It was the first lead for St. Louis in 116:09 of the series (see full recap).