Philadelphia Flyers

For Flyers, Hall becoming valuable faceoff ace

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For Flyers, Hall becoming valuable faceoff ace

Adam Hall has taken only 101 faceoffs this season.

He’s won 63.4 percent of them -- the best percentage of any player on the Flyers, albeit with far fewer faceoffs taken than either Claude Giroux or Sean Couturier, who each have won 49.7 percent of their draws.

Hall has always been a defensive, fourth-line center and a sure-handed draw in the circle. He says he does extensive video study of the players he might go up against before every game.

The Flyers sometimes use him late in games as a second center in case one gets thrown out of the circle, like they did in the third period against Buffalo on Thursday.

He’s a vital part of the Flyers’ penalty kill, averaging 2:59 shorthanded minutes per game, second only to Couturier (3:03) among the forward group.

“We do all kinds of things,” Hall said of staying sharp on draws. “The coaches dropping pucks for us after practices and pregame skates.

“It’s a skill like anything else. The more you work on it, you get a little bit better, your timing gets better and there’s a lot of different techniques and factors that go into it.

“What works against one centerman may not work against another. You are constantly trying to update other centerman’s tendencies that you are going against. I watch video sometimes. It depends on a situation.

“We talk to each other, even during games if guys are going against the same centerman. You talk about what is working and try to help each other out. Any tiny little thing can help give you an edge.”

Getting your stick down quickly, turning it, moving your body slightly after a draw and knowing who is behind you are all factors of being a good faceoff man.

Bob Clarke, who worked with Giroux on draws when he first came here, would teach players how to cheat and get away with it.

Mike Richards said it took him three years in the league before officials would allow him to cheat like veterans.

“You had to earn it,” Richards once said.

Flyers coach Craig Berube said every one of his centers does homework on their opponent.

“He’s really good at it,” Berube said of Hall. “He’s competitive, real competitive. Players watch more film now than we did.

“He’s done a great job with faceoffs, penalty killing, plays center or wing. He’s a very valuable guy to have on your hockey team. He does everything properly and works hard, blocks shots, all the dirty stuff.” 

Hall scored his first goal in 64 games Tuesday against Ottawa, albeit an empty-netter. He also assisted on Scott Hartnell’s empty-netter Thursday against Buffalo.

The 33-year-old from Kalamazoo, Mich., is not a scorer, though he once tallied 16 goals early in his career when he was with Nashville.

Hall wasn’t brought here to score goals, yet he feels it’s his job to try and add points when he can.

“You try to help any way you can,” Hall said. “You try to play the game consistently away from the puck defensively and make sure you’re consistent in those ways.

“Maybe you’re not relied upon in scoring but if you’re able to help in that department as well, it’s a great feeling.”

NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

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NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have lost top center Travis Zajac for four to six months with a pectoral injury.

Devils executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero announced that Zajac had surgery to repair the pectoral muscle on Thursday.

Shero said the Zajac was hurt last week during offseason training.

Dr. Jonathan L. Glashow performed the surgery and estimated that Zajac's recovery time could last until February. The season starts in October.

The 32-year-old Zajac had 14 goals and 31 assists last season. He has 155 career goals and 280 assists. He has played for the Devils since the 2006-07 season.

The 20th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Zajac signed an eight-year, $46 million contract in 2013.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons to 2-year deal

Sabres: Team signs forward Girgensons to 2-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have signed forward Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year contract.

The team announced the deal Thursday that carries an average value of $1.6 million.

Girgensons, from Latvia, is the last of the Sabres' restricted free agents to sign with the team. Buffalo's first-round pick in 2012 has 37 goals and 49 assists in 277 career games over four seasons.

He skated in a career-best 75 games last season after signing a one-year extension last September.

NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The extension runs through the 2024-25 season, similar to the eight-year, $100-million extension superstar captain Connor McDavid signed with the team in July.

With the signings, the Oilers are banking on McDavid and Draisaitl providing a potent one-two punch for the team as it looks to build on last season's return to the playoffs after a decade of futility.

Draisaitl, a 21-year-old German, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) last season, his third in the NHL.

He finished eighth among NHL scorers, and second on the Oilers behind McDavid.

He led the Oilers in scoring during the 2017 playoffs, posting 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.

Draisaitl was selected third overall by the Oilers at the 2015 draft (see full story).

Avalanche: Hobey Baker winner Butcher now free agent
College hockey's top player is an NHL free agent after former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher allowed a deadline to pass without signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner who led Denver to a national championship in April.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Butcher already has had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The person said Butcher has not yet narrowed his list, and is also talking with other teams.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The Denver Post first reported the three specific teams expressing interest in Butcher (see full story).

Wild: Cullen comes home for 21st NHL season
The Minnesota Wild and center Matt Cullen have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, bringing him back to his home state for a 21st season in the NHL.

The Wild announced the deal, which includes $700,000 in potential performance bonuses, on Wednesday.

Cullen played the last two years with Pittsburgh, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He played three seasons for the Wild from 2010-13, his first return to Minnesota since launching his career at Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State.

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, had 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games in 2016-17 for the Penguins, plus two goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games. He has played in 1,366 career regular season games, the sixth-most among active players (see full story).