Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers look to regroup after rough weekend

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Flyers look to regroup after rough weekend

NEW YORK -- They talked about using the weekend as a bit of a barometer on their season.

Flying high, 10 wins in a row at home, a 9-2 record in their previous 11 games going into Saturday’s matinee against Tampa Bay.

Then ... a collapse. A stunning, 6-3 loss to a very, very fast club at Wells Fargo Center, followed by a bad 4-1 loss Sunday night to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Just like that, the Flyers went from second in the Metropolitan Division to fourth. Just like that, they looked very average against two very good clubs.

The bubble burst on Craig Berube’s team.

“We allowed 10 goals,” Jakub Voracek said. “We didn’t play very well defensively. I wouldn’t say we lost the games in the first period but we were half a step slower than them. They came out with some jam.”

You could almost sense the Flyers were toast after that first period, too.

“You’ve got to work really hard without the puck in this league, especially in this building,” Mark Streit said. “We didn’t do that. Once you’re behind by two or three goals, it’s tough to catch up. The last period obviously was better.

“You can’t turn around every game in this league. It doesn’t work like that. You can do it a few times but we have to make sure we’re ready to go on Tuesday and shake this one off and learn from our mistakes.”

This marked the first time since mid-October that the Flyers lost back-to-back games. That it came to really good teams, including one that has been a thorn in the Flyers' side for a long time now -- the Rangers -- is disconcerting.

“It hasn’t cost us anything yet,” Kimmo Timonen said. “We still have [37] games left. But every game matters. Obviously, it’s been a tough stretch. It feels like eight weeks we’ve been on the road.

“That’s not an excuse but sometimes you find these moments when the energy is not there and it wasn’t there tonight for whatever reason.”

Timonen continued to say that the Flyers aren’t skating enough against quick teams.

“It’s all about skating energy,” he said. “They came out hard and we didn’t. That’s what happens when they do a good job coming at you and hanging onto the puck. And skating.

“This game these days is all about skating. It’s not about what kind of defense you have or who you have on defense. It’s all about skating, putting the puck behind the other D and go get it.

“The last two games, against Tampa Bay we skated but didn’t play any defense. Today, we didn’t do any of that.”

As Wayne Simmonds said, “Ray [Emery] was under siege at the start. A slow start.”

And when it became 3-0, it was over.

Three wins in succession in early January give way to two bad losses in a row. The mood has quickly shifted in Flyerdom.

“You don’t want to lose two in a row but we still have a lot of hockey left,” Brayden Schenn said. “What’s left is a lot of division games to make up ground.”

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).

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

Ron Hextall never told fans to "trust the process," but apparently any faith in the Flyers' GM has been vindicated.

At least that's the case if you believe ESPN NHL writer Corey Pronman's latest farm system rankings (it's an Insider story, so apologies in advance). Pronman has the Flyers' farm ranked as No. 1 in the NHL. 

"The Flyers don't have as much game-breaking talent as our No. 2 team (Coyotes) does at the top of their system," Pronman writes, "but 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick is right up there; after Patrick, the Flyers have the cupboards lined with talent at every position."

Pronman credits the Flyers with nailing his first-round picks (Patrick, Ivan Provorov), grabbing middle-round prospects that have blossomed (Shayne Gostisbehere, Oskar Lindblom) and specifically mentions Phil Myers, an undrafted defenseman that has become "one of the very best defense prospects in hockey."

For so long, the Flyers' organization was perpetually in "win-now mode," but the late Ed Snider hired Hextall away from the Kings and eventually made him GM, knowing that Hexy was taking a broader view of the organization. Instead of trading away young talent and draft picks for aging veterans, Hextall restocked a dreadful farm system to get the team where it is today.

"Not too long ago, the Flyers' farm system was a laughingstock, with C-grade college free agents making it into their top five," Pronman said. "Today, they are in the best position of any NHL team in terms of adding young premium players to their roster."