Flyers focused on 2 points, not Ilya Bryzgalov

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Flyers focused on 2 points, not Ilya Bryzgalov

EDMONTON, Alberta -- It was bound to happen eventually. After all, the NHL isn’t that “hu-man-gous big.”

When the Flyers take the ice tonight against the Oilers, a familiar foe will await them in the opponent’s net: Ilya Bryzgalov.

Bryzgalov had the remainder of his nine-year, $51 million contract bought out by the Flyers last summer. He signed a new deal with the Oilers in November, after a strange, brief stint with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers.

Known for his off-ice antics as much as anything he accomplished on the ice in Philadelphia, Bryzgalov adds a definite element of intrigue to the Flyers’ matchup with the Oilers. But, coach Craig Berube warned, he cannot become a distraction.

“Our team needs not to worry about him and who’s in net,” Berube said after the Flyers’ last practice before they took off for Canada. “They need to worry about their game and how they need to play … to get two points. That’s it. That’s it. If they don’t do that, we’re not going to be successful. You need to think properly, get your head on straight before the game.”

These Flyers are no strangers to facing former teammates. Just a few weeks back, they welcomed Danny Briere to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since his contract was also bought out in June. As the season goes on, they’ll face off against Max Talbot, Jaromir Jagr and Sergei Bobrovsky -- just to name a few.

“We’ll approach it like any game,” Scott Hartnell said. “The same way you play Danny Briere or Simon Gagne, or Carts [Jeff Cater] and Richie [Mike Richards] when they were traded. I like Bryz. He was a goofy guy. You had to know how to take his personality.”

For any player who’s spent significant time in the NHL, competing against old friends and teammates is just part of the job.

“It’s like any old teammates,” Braydon Coburn said. “It’s weird playing against him. You compete against him all year in practice, and it’s kind of neat to play against guys who have been with you a while. When you get into the heat of the battle and things start moving quick out there, all pleasantries get pushed aside.”

There can be, though, a bit of an advantage to facing a goaltender you know well. Bryzgalov spent two seasons with the Flyers, a stretch during which most of the current team was on the roster. They know Bryzgalov. They know his strengths, his weaknesses, and what it takes to rattle him.

Bryzgalov has had a bit of a rough start with the Oilers. He’s 2-4-0 with a 2.80 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. Knowing how to get under his skin could help the Flyers even further. 

“Playing against him, you shoot against a goalie a couple years, you know where to shoot and what to do, and what creates havoc for him,” Hartnell said. “And we have to do that.”

Tonight’s game kicks off a significant six-game road trip for the Flyers, who could possibly pull away from some of the Metropolitan Division pack with a strong stretch (see story). Starting the trip with a win needs to be their focus -- not facing off against a wacky former teammate.

“It’s better for the media, it gives you something to write about,” Jakub Voracek said. “But for us, it’s just another game and we’ve got to get two points. It’ll be exciting to see and play against Bryz, but nothing more.”

NHL Playoffs: Senators, Capitals advance to close out 1st round

NHL Playoffs: Senators, Capitals advance to close out 1st round

TORONTO -- Marcus Johansson stuffed his second goal of the game past Frederik Andersen at 6:31 of overtime, lifting the Washington Capitals t to a series-winning 2-1 victory ove the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 on Sunday night.

Johansson pulled Washington even at 1-1 with less than eight minutes to go in the third period after Auston Matthews broke a scoreless tie with his fourth goal of the series for Toronto. It was the fifth overtime game of the series, and the record-setting 18th in the first round of the playoffs.

Holtby made 37 saves for the Capitals, who will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Andersen was sharp with 34 saves (see full recap).

MacArthur returns, wins series for Sens in OT
BOSTON -- Clarke MacArthur spent almost two full seasons recovering from a concussion, wondering if he would ever be able to return to the Senators.

"There's nothing like living in the NHL and living in these playoffs," he said after scoring a power-play goal 6:30 into overtime to help Ottawa beat Boston 3-2 in Game 6 on Sunday and advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"It (retirement) is something everyone's going to have to deal with one day," said the 32-year-old forward, who was injured in the fourth game of last season and didn't come back until four games left in this one. "But I want to stretch it out as long as I can."

Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris scored five minutes apart in the second to give the Senators a 2-1 lead, and Craig Anderson stopped 28 shots for Ottawa. The Senators, who hadn't won a postseason series for since 2013, will play the New York Rangers in the second round.

Tuukka Rask made 26 saves for the Bruins, who got goals from Drew Stafford and Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins did not get off a shot in the extra period -- the fourth overtime game of the series and the 17th of the NHL playoffs, tying the record for an opening round (see full recap).

Report: Kings to name John Stevens head coach

Report: Kings to name John Stevens head coach

A person with direct knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that the Los Angeles Kings will name associate head coach John Stevens their next head coach.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday because an announcement had not been made.

Stevens replaces Darryl Sutter after serving as a Kings assistant and then associate coach for the past eight seasons, which included two Stanley Cups. He was interim head coach for four games in 2011-12 after Terry Murray was fired and before Sutter was hired.

The 50-year-old was long considered Sutter's eventual replacement, though the firing of general manager Dean Lombardi and Sutter earlier this month put everything into question. When assistant Davis Payne was fired, the door was open to promoting Stevens.

Stevens' Flyers ties run deep.

He was drafted by the Flyers with the 47th pick in the 1984 draft and played nine NHL games with them from 1986-88. He came back to the organization in 1996 to play for the AHL's Phantoms for three seasons, including captaining the 1998 Calder Cup title team, before retiring in 1999.

Stevens moved behind the Phantoms bench in 1999 as an assistant before he took the reins as their head coach in 2000. Stevens was the coach of the star-studded 2004-2005 Phantoms led by Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Patrick Sharp that won the Calder Cup.

Stevens then caught his first NHL head coaching break in 2006 when Ken Hitchcock was fired and the Flyers promoted Stevens from Lehigh Valley to become head coach of the big club. He went 120-109-34 in three-plus seasons as the Flyers head coach, a tenure that included a run to the 2008 Eastern Conference Final a year after the Flyers were the worst team in the league. Stevens was fired by the Flyers in December 2009 after a poor start and replaced by Peter Laviolette, who helped lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final that year.

ESPN first reported the Stevens' hiring by Los Angeles.

- CSNPhilly.com contributed to this story.