Flyers have shot to gain ground on rest of trip

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Flyers have shot to gain ground on rest of trip

There are four games left on the Flyers' road trip, even though they returned home briefly to Skate Zone on Thursday for practice.

Three of those games loom as extraordinarily significant because they involve New Jersey, Montreal and Pittsburgh -- three clubs currently ahead of the Flyers in the Eastern Conference standings.

If anyone thought the Devils' run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring was a fluke, coach Peter DeBoer is again proving there’s more to this team than meets the eye.

“It would have been easy for them to dwell on losing [Zach] Parise,” Mike Knuble said. “You miss a 40-goal guy, it’s easy to look around your locker room and feel sorry for yourself.

“That you’re missing that guy and who’s going to replace him. They’ve done it by committee. Seems like no matter who they switch in or out, they play by the same philosophy and Marty [Brodeur] has been in net and they keep turning out good seasons.”

The Devils occupy the No. 1 seed in East simply because they made the most of their head-to-head matches against tough opponents.

They picked up a point in a shootout loss to Boston in January. This month, they have victories over Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and the Rangers, plus a road loss to the Penguins. In other words, they’ve amassed seven of a possible 10 points against clubs right in the thick of the race.

Which is precisely why the Flyers need to get wins against the Devils, Canadiens and Penguins to finish off this road swing with a significant advance in the standings.

“All the games are important -- the two points are important,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We have to continue to climb back into this from the hole we dug early.

“We seem to be going down a road that is putting us back on track, but we continue to work regardless of who comes into our building or which building we go into.

“The most important thing is to keep winning hockey games. Don’t necessarily pick ones which are important or not important.”

Fattening up on Washington or the Islanders doesn’t help enough because they’re below the Flyers in the standings.

DeBoer has had Laviolette’s number since before the playoffs, winning six of the last eight games going back to last season.

“They were great last year. Look how great they have been for how many years now?” Jakub Voracek asked.

“All those years in a row they made the playoffs. Such a solid team from the goalies to the forwards and they are so tough to play against. It’s always tough against them.

“These are tight standings. Every time you win it’s a four-point game. What do we have, 13? We had a tough start, but we’re 4-1-1 right now. We need every point possible.”

The Flyers played the Devils hard in January, dominating early, holding them without a single shot for almost 13 minutes and still trailed 2-0 after one period.

A couple bad bounces, a penalty, plus a converted penalty shot by Ilya Kovalchuk did them in.

“I really liked the first game we played against them,” Laviolette recalled. “The first period-and-a-half we played a game we needed to play to be successful and it got away from us.

“We have to make sure we’re disciplined and stay out of the box and don’t give them opportunities on the power play ... we have to clean up our game a little bit from the last time.”

The Flyers fought hard behind goalie Ilya Bryzgalov for a narrow 3-2 victory in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

“Guys dug in and paid a price, too,” Danny Briere said. “Everybody sacrificed their bodies, even if they were tired. That is what impressed me about that win.”

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.