Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers Notes: Bryzgalov won't share preparation secret

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Flyers Notes: Bryzgalov won't share preparation secret

Ilya Bryzgalov has been the Flyers’ best, most consistent player through each of the nine games he’s played in 2013.

But if that’s got anything to do with the way he’s getting himself mentally prepared, we won’t be hearing about it.

“I can’t tell you,” Bryzgalov said after Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning (see story). “Because you wouldn’t believe me.”

Nonetheless, Bryzgalov was stellar yet again against the Lightning, stopping 21 of the 22 shots he faced, and keeping the Bolts silenced through almost 50 minutes of play. Bryzgalov was calm and focused through the entire game, coming up with key saves a few times against center Steven Stamkos, who has averaged a point a game against the Flyers in his career.

During a brief injury scare in the third period -- a collision with Lightning center Cory Conacher -- it was as if the air were sucked out of the Wells Fargo Center. Losing Bryzgalov would be a huge blow to an already injury-riddled team.

“It was my ankle,” Bryzgalov said. “It was hit and twisted. I felt sharp pains for a short amount of time and I had to stretch my ankle in my skates, but it was fine.”

It’s been a rocky start to the season for Bryzgalov, but not because of the way he’s played. He’s been the Cliff Lee of the Flyers, giving his team the chance to win but not getting any offensive support.

But if the Flyers can find a way to jump-start their goal scoring, Bryzgalov’s success will make them a much greater threat than they’ve been through 10 games this season.

“Bryz was solid again [Tuesday night],” Danny Briere said. “He looks comfortable, he looks in control. Nothing fazes him at this point. It’s good to see. I said this morning, if he keeps playing the same way, we’re going to be a dangerous team. And a game like tonight, a lot of offensive power on their side, and he more than did the job against them.”

‘I regret nothing’
Zac Rinaldo’s fight against Lightning winger B.J. Crombeen sent the game’s sellout crowd to its feet. The fans only got louder once they realized a perfectly landed punch had knocked Crombeen out cold.

Crombeen was kept out of the rest of the game as a precaution, but afterward hinted that maybe Rinaldo had continued to hit him well after he should have stopped, after he’d gone down to the ice.

According to Rinaldo, however, that’s not the case.

“I hit him 'til he was down,” Rinaldo said. “I’m not going to hit nobody, no matter who they are, or what they’ve done, I’ll never hit someone when they’re down. I’ll hit him 'til he’s down, I made sure he was down, and that was it.”

Wearing a hoodie pulled close over his eyes -- almost like a boxer might -- Rinaldo added he even checked in with referee Kelly Sutherland to make sure he stopped himself from needlessly pounding his opponent.

Sutherland said he had, according to Rinaldo. That’s a good thing, considering his mind was blank at the time.

“So many things are going through your mind when you’re fighting,” Rinaldo said. “It’s a fight! You ever been to a fight? It’s crazy. You don’t know what you’re thinking.”

Loose pucks
Claude Giroux was 18 for 25 (72 percent) on faceoffs Tuesday night. ... Rookie Tye McGinn led the team in shots with four.

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."