Flyers Notes: Briere moves to new line with Couturier, Gagne

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Flyers Notes: Briere moves to new line with Couturier, Gagne

Danny Briere has not scored a goal in 10 games. Sean Couturier has not scored in 21 games.
 
On Tuesday, as the Flyers prepare to meet the Devils Wednesday in Newark, N.J., coach Peter Laviolette switched two lines around, placing Briere on the wing with Couturier and Simon Gagne.

Call it "French Connection II."
 
“When you’re not winning games, there’s going to be changes,” Briere said. “It’s always been the same. It’s not going to change. Hopefully, the other two French guys can start something. I’ve played with Simon quite a bit before. At least it’s someone I know. Get some young legs with us. Should be fun.”
 
Briere last played with Gagne on April 9, 2010, in New York against the Rangers when he scored a pivotal goal that kept the Flyers' playoffs hopes alive going into the season-finale shootout win against those same Rangers two days later.
 
This will be the 11th different line for Briere this season.
 
It will be Couturier’s 12th line.
 
“We can speak French and get some strategy going without the other team knowing it,” Couturier kidded.
 
The goalie
Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has started 25 of 27 games this season.

Asked again whether he has played too many games, he gave a roundabout answer.
 
“It’s always nice to play the game,” he said. “That is what you practice for. Sometimes you get tired but you don’t have a choice. It’s out of my hands.”
 
Asked whether he talks to  Laviolette about the amount of games he plays, he said he was “strictly forbidden” to discuss conversations with the coach in public.
 
The other goalie
Devils goalie Marty Brodeur skated Tuesday on his own for the first time since being placed on injured reserve in late February.
 
Brodeur won’t play against the Flyers.
 
“Marty did skate this morning,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told the Newark Star Ledger. “There is no timetable until he's 100 percent. It's part of his rehab to get strength. He's been off the ice quite a while now. It's still going to be a little bit. As far as a time, I couldn't even tell you.”
 
That means the Flyers get to see Johan Hedberg, who is 9-10-1 lifetime against the Flyers in 22 games with one shutout. Which is better than seeing Brodeur, who is 47-30-9 in 87 games with 10 shutouts.
 
“They’re both good goalies,” Scott Hartnell said. “When Hedberg has been in, he’s been pretty consistent for them in the past, as well. They’re both similar. They play the puck well. We’ve got to be careful where we dump pucks to create our forecheck.”
 
Loose pucks
The Flyers traded prospect Matt Ford to the Columbus Blue Jackets for future considerations. ... Defenseman Kimmo Timonen did not skate on Tuesday. General manager Paul Holmgren said he had a maintenance day. ... The other line change going into Wednesday’s game against the Devils is Matt Read moving to Brayden Schenn’s line with Wayne Simmonds. ... Laviolette said it was very beneficial for young defenseman Erik Gustafsson to sit in the press box Sunday against Buffalo to observe the game from a distance and realize he can hold onto the puck long and do so much more with the puck if he’s more patient with it. However, late Tuesday night Gustafsson was sent to the Phantoms. ... The Flyers were slated to leave for Newark at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

DETROIT -- Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point (see full recap).

Islanders notch shootout win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves (see full recap).

Cracknell nets first hat trick in Stars' win
DALLAS -- Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose (see full recap).

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously, Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.