Flyers must be patient against Hitchcock's Blues

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Flyers must be patient against Hitchcock's Blues

Craig Berube played for Ken Hitchcock in Kamloops as a junior player.

As an NHL player he knew Hitchcock and knew him even better when Hitch was here coaching the Flyers while Berube was handling the Phantoms.

On Saturday, the Flyers will face the No. 1 club in the NHL in the St. Louis Blues at the Wells Fargo Center.

It’s the first time the Flyers will meet Hitchcock as the Blues coach.

Berube says nothing has changed about Hitchcock, the kind of club he builds, or the system he employs. It’s all about defensive structure.

“They’ve been a very good team a couple of years, good size, a physical team, pretty solid all-around,” Berube said.

Ten Blues players have better than 30 points, yet none rank among the top 30 in league scoring leaders. Meanwhile, trade deadline pickup Ryan Miller has been outstanding in net with a 7-1-1 record, 1.92 goals-against average and .923 save percentage since joining St. Louis.

While the Flyers, who have won four straight, have 30 goals from their defense, the Blues have 36, led by Alex Pietrangelo.

“We can’t have anyone not showing up and not competing hard tomorrow,” Berube said. “We need a 60-minute effort. His teams are always good defensively, they work hard, [they are] sound with their system, they play physical.”

Unlike the Penguins or Blackhawks, the Blues don’t play an up-tempo, skating game. No shinny hockey. The Blues will check and check much like New Jersey and try to frustrate the Flyers into making turnovers and taking bad penalties.

“Chicago and Pittsburgh are maybe more of an attack team,” Berube said. “They [Blues] have some real good defensemen who can move the puck and get up in the rush.

“They’re dangerous. They’re going to be physical on the forecheck. What they do differently is they really check. There’s not a lot of room out there. You got to stay patient and wait for your chances, but you got to earn them.”

Flyers goalie Steve Mason won his Calder Trophy under Hitchcock when he coached in Columbus.

“He’s a great coach, knows the game inside-out, one of the most knowledgeable [men] I ever played for,” Mason recalled. “We had a tough go in my second year in Columbus and unfortunately he’s the one who took the fall for it.

“They can throw any line at you and you have to worry who is on the ice. They don’t have that one player who will put up points every single night. They have a committee of players that compete every single game.”

Alex Steen leads the Blues with 30 goals while T.J. Oshie has 54 points. Many consider centerman David Backes (23 goals, 49 points), however, the Blues’ best all-around player.

“It’s going to be very gritty, tough defense, very physical,” said Jakub Voracek, who also played for Hitchcock in Columbus. “He was my first coach in the NHL and I had a good experience with him.”

Voracek said that Hitchcock’s influence was all over Team Canada at the Sochi Winter Olympics in how Canada won the gold medal -- defense. Hitchcock was an assistant coach.

“They won because they play defense,” Voracek said. “That’s how you win those championships. Have a very solid defense and play physical ... We got to be patient.”

Best of NHL: Canadiens avoid winless California trip with SO win over Kings

Best of NHL: Canadiens avoid winless California trip with SO win over Kings

LOS ANGELES -- Paul Byron scored the clinching goal in the fourth round of the shootout, and the Montreal Canadiens avoided a winless swing through California with a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

Max Pacioretty had two goals and an assist for the Canadiens, who won for just the second time in seven road games. Montreal had only one win in its previous 11 games in California before scoring three times in the four-round shootout.

Alexander Radulov and Andrew Shaw also scored and Carey Price made 27 saves for the Atlantic Division-leading Canadiens.

Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist apiece for the Kings, who lost for only the second time in eight games. Peter Budaj stopped 26 shots (see full recap).

DeKeyser gives Red Wings OT win over Isles
NEW YORK -- Danny DeKeyser scored 1:02 into overtime to give Detroit a victory over New York.

Mike Green scored twice and Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and assist for Detroit, which improved to 4-1-2 in its last seven games. Peter Mrazek stopped 32 shots to improve to 3-0-2 in his past five starts.

Anders Lee, Johnny Boychuk and Josh Bailey scored for New York, which had won a season-high three straight. Jaroslav Halak finished with 30 saves.

Detroit's Frans Nielsen had an assist while facing his former team for the first time since leaving the Islanders for a six-year, $31.5 million deal with the Red Wings last summer. The 32-year-old Danish center was selected by the Islanders in the third round of the 2002 draft and had 119 goals and 230 assists over 10 seasons in New York (see full recap).

Late goal lifts Jets over Blackhawks
CHICAGO -- Andrew Copp scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:45 left, Bryan Little got his third goal in three games and Winnipeg edged Chicago.

Copp beat Scott Darling on the stick side with a shot from the right circle that slipped just inside the left post.

Chicago's Artemi Panarin scored with 6:54 remaining to tie it at 1, moments after Copp hit the post, to spoil Connor Hellebuyck's bid for a second shutout against Chicago in less than a month. Panarin completed a give-and-go with Patrick Kane, beating Hellebuyck to the glove side.

Hellebuyck finished with 25 saves and outdueled Darling, who started his second straight game for the Blackhawks in place of No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford. Darling made 30 saves, including three on breakaways.

Little's power-play goal with 43.4 seconds left in the second period was his fourth point in four games since missing 23 with a lower-body injury (see full recap)

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dave Hakstol likes Wayne Simmonds’ net-front play more than that of any player in the league.

The Flyers' power forward showed on Sunday why his coach thinks that way.

Simmonds’ two power-play goals in front of the crease helped extend the Flyers’ win streak to five, their longest of the season, in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night (see Instant Replay).

“If there’s a better guy in the league at net front, whether it’s on power play or 5 on 5, I don’t know who that is,” said Hakstol said after Sunday's victory. “He did a great job there tonight.”

Simmonds’ first goal came when he deflected Jake Voracek’s shot past Juuse Saros, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 18:12 of the first period.

“They had great movement around the top of the box and Jake told me to go back door if he was going to get it for a one-timer,” Simmonds said. “So I stuck my stick out back door and he hit it, and it went in the net.”

Then Simmonds batted a puck through Saros' legs for a 2-1 advantage at 6:47 of the second period for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.

“It was kind of a little bit of a cluster and the puck comes to me, and I’m alone in front of the net so I just put it five-hole and it worked,” Simmonds said.

The right wing’s father was watching in the sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena during the Flyers' annual father-son trip.

“It was nice, obviously,” Simmonds said. “I just went outside and saw him. He didn’t really say much to me, but I know he’s glowing on the inside.”

Simmonds has now scored 10 career goals in 20 games against Nashville.

“What I really like about Simmer is he’s at net-front, he’s scoring goals, he’s on the power play, but he’s a great, hard-nosed, 200-foot player,” Hakstol said.

Simmonds’ goals gave the Flyers an early spark on Sunday.

“It was huge,” said Flyers left wing Michael Raffl, who scored the winning goal at 16:37 of the second period when made a power move on a rush and tucked the puck past Saros. “That gives us all the momentum.”

The Flyers improved to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.

“We’re just trying to take care of pucks and maintain the pressure that we have,” Simmonds said. “The next shift up every game is the most important shift and that’s how we’re trying to play it here.”

Predators coach Peter Laviolette, a former Flyers coach, wasn’t surprised by his former team’s power-play success. The Flyers entered the game tied for the third best power play in the league cashed in twice on seven chances on Sunday.

“We knew going in that their power play was really good,” Laviolette said. “Their players have a lot of time together and cohesiveness and they’re pretty set in what they do. They bring pucks to the net and when they do that, things can happen. That was a difference in the game tonight.”

Winning goalie Steve Mason has started 10 of the last 11 games. He made 30 saves Sunday to improve his record to 8-8-3.

“This is the situation I want to be in, so it’s a workload that all summer you prepare for even when I was not getting the work load I wanted,” Mason said. “You prepare for it and now that it’s here I’m making the most of it.”