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."

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.