Flyers blank lowly Avalanche in final game before trade deadline

Flyers blank lowly Avalanche in final game before trade deadline

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If only every game for the Flyers down the stretch could serve up the Colorado Avalanche. Were that to transpire, Dave Hakstol's club would be a lock to make the playoffs.
 
Tuesday was the final time the Flyers will see Colorado this season. Too bad for the Flyers because they threw snowballs at the Avs to the tune of a 4-0 win at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
 
The Flyers finished February with just four wins in 11 games. Now the team gets set for the post-trade deadline portion of its schedule, which features 20 games in 40 days to end the regular season.
 
How the Flyers fare will determine their playoff fate.
 
Amid this rout, general manager Ron Hextall was spending a lot of time on the phone while assistant GM Barry Hanrahan, his capologist, was on his computer much of the night as the deadline hits Wednesday.
 
According to a report by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, the Flyers had contract talks with pending unrestricted free agent Michal Neuvirth. Sources said Neuvirth did not agree to a contract. His agent, Patrik Stefan, did not comment.

Hextall is apparently trying to work a deal, and you would have to think it was something larger (see story).
 
The opening period was all Wayne Simmonds on Tuesday, who briefly appeared to have a natural hat trick midway into the first period before it was determined the Flyers' third goal went off an Avs player and was credited to Jakub Voracek (see feature highlight).
 
"I hope it's the first and last time I get booed for scoring a goal," Voracek said after it was taken away from Simmonds.
 
The Avs are the worst team in the NHL. This win was certainly welcome news for the Flyers, who played a fast and energetic game in which they seemed relaxed.
 
"Twenty games left … a good step but the thing is not to get too high," said goalie Steve Mason, who picked up his first win this month. "It's one win, but we have a lot of work to do."
 
It gets harder immediately with Florida and Washington up next.
 
"We had the same type of start tonight we had the last couple nights and tonight we had some reward for it," coach Dave Hakstol said. 
 
Simmonds came into this game with one of the club's two shorthanded goals this season. He now has two himself after Matt Duchene coughed up a puck to Andrew MacDonald to start a rush that ended with Simmonds scoring on goalie Jeremy Smith.
 
His next goal was a redirect on the power play off a point blast from Shayne Gostisbehere. Voracek's goal was actually a pass intended for Simmonds on the power play when it glanced off of Francois Beauchemin to make it 3-0 at 10:35.
 
"It was good for us. We need that," Simmonds said. "It was a good win. I thought we played well. We didn't play perfect but well enough to get the win."
 
Asked about losing a natural hat trick, Simmonds didn't want any part of taking credit for the goal. 

"No, not a chance," he said. "I knew it was Jake's goal."
 
All those hats on the ice went to no good, too. Feel any responsibility to return them to their rightful owners?
 
"What am I supposed to do?" Simmonds said. "Go give every single one their hat back? It's not my fault, sorry."
 
Simmonds is on pace to score 35 goals this season. Of his 27 so far -- most of which have come in the crease -- he has 13 on the power play, which places him second behind Brayden Schenn (14) for the NHL lead.
 
"I'm lucky, I'm getting some bounces right now," Simmonds said. "But the whole idea is to try to disrupt the goalie's flow and to take his eyes away and get some rebounds.
 
"Whether I am scoring goals or not scoring goals, I am doing the same thing. I got a good bounce on the first one and G (Claude Giroux) and Ghost made a great play on top of the second one."
 
Now Mason, who sat six straight games, certainly wasn't going to be in game shape. Yet he had several good stops and finished with 33 saves. His last win, Jan. 25, was a shutout, as well.
 
He also had to handle a penalty shot from Mikko Rantanen, who was hooked from behind by Radko Gudas early in the second period. Mason knocked Rantanen's penalty shot away into the corner with his stick. 

This was Mason's 216th game played, third most of any Flyers goalie all-time.
 
"It's been a tough month, a lot of practice," he said of being benched in favor of Neuvirth. "When you're practicing, you're not getting game action and practices become tedious. … Pretty much every game now is must-win.
 
"It's hard to make up ground with three- and four-point games and people playing each other. For us, we have to focus on one game at a time and understand the importance of each."
 
Jordan Weal's first NHL goal early in the second made it 4-0. The Flyers had not scored four goals since Jan. 12 when they came from behind to stun Vancouver, 5-4, in a shootout.
 
"It felt really good," Weal said. "It was a long time coming. I'm just trying to work as hard as I can and create as many chances when I'm out there."
 
He again played on the top line with Giroux and Simmonds.
 
"It's awesome when you get to play with guys like that," Weal said. "First couple games, I was playing with Coots (Sean Couturier) and Jake and when you play with guys like that, you play your own game and work with them.
 
"If you can get your give and go and cycle game going with them, you'll create a lot of offense. When you get to play with guys like G and Simmer, you just have to get open and good things will happen."

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.