Flyers Notes: Gustafsson takes shot off shin

022713-erikgustafsson-slideshow-ap.jpg

Flyers Notes: Gustafsson takes shot off shin

Erik Gustafsson’s hard-luck season continued Wednesday night against the Washington Capitals.
 
The 24-year-old defenseman blocked a shot from Caps winger Eric Fehr at the 7:00 mark of the second period and didn't return.

“He hit me on the [left] shin pad. It’s OK, just a lower-body injury,” Gustafsson said.
 
Asked if he can play Saturday against Ottawa, he replied, “We’ll see. It got treated and we’ll see how fast it goes. I’ll be back sooner than later.”
 
As for pain, he said, “It’s not great, but it could definitely be worse.”
 
He knows worse. Gustafsson previously blocked a shot while playing with the Adirondack Phantoms on Dec. 15, 2012 and missed six weeks with a fracture in his lower right leg.
 
He was finally healthy enough to be called up by the Flyers on Feb. 16.

In seven games now, Gustafsson is averaging 18:47 of ice time and has two assists.
 
“It’s part of the game, stuff happens,” he said.
 
Head hunting
Danny Briere was very unhappy after the game because there was no call on Alex Ovechkin’s attempted elbow to his head midway into the final period.
 
It didn’t land entirely.
 
“Ovechkin, that was a dangerous hit to my head,” Briere said. “I braced to take the hit and he came flying at me.”
 
The Flyers will want that hit reviewed by the league office, especially in light of Harry Zolnierczyk's possible suspension for his five-minute kneeing penalty to Mathieu Perreault that drew a game misconduct in the final 25 seconds.
 
Caps coach Adam Oates said he did not think Harry Z’s hit was dirty.
 
“I think it’s a product of our whole game,” Oates said. “There is 30 seconds left, the game's over and Matty thought he could stick handle through the team.
 
“It’s not what we do, all of us tonight, and guys are sitting there waiting for you and you get hit.”
 
Laviolette agreed.
 
“I think it was a clean, hockey hit,” he said.
 
Stick throwing 'for fun'
It’s becoming something of a habit. Ilya Bryzgalov threw his stick again during the morning skate on Wednesday.
 
He did the same thing three times in a two-day period last week. After the Flyers beat the Capitals, Bryzgalov was asked why.
 
“For fun,” Bryzgalov said simply.
 
Has there been a little frustration?
 
“No, it was for fun,” Bryzgalov said. “I just wanted to.”
 
Do you generally throw the stick for fun?
 
“Oh, once in a while,” Bryzgalov continued. “Sometimes you want something, right? Sometimes you wake up in the morning and you want something badly.”
 
We should point out Laviolette was not amused on Wednesday and let Bryz know that when he skated to the bench after the morning skate.
 
When Bryzgalov finished talking to the media, Scott Hartnell took his place in the locker room. When the subject of the goalie and his stick came up, Hartnell smirked.
 
“He can throw a stick all he wants if he plays like that,” Hartnell said. 
 
Shelley update
Forward Jody Shelley underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to repair a damaged left hip.
 
“His surgery went well,” general manager Paul Holmgren said, adding Shelley is out indefinitely.
 
Shelley is currently on long-term injury, which allowed the Flyers to trade for Simon Gagne on Tuesday.
 
Loose pucks
Among the scouts at the game, three were from Edmonton, including Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe, the Oilers' hockey operations president. ... Mike Knuble was a healthy scratch for the game. ... Nick Grossmann blocked a shot late in the first period but was back on the ice for the end of it. Grossmann recorded seven blocked shots to increase his league-leading season total to 61. ... Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett attended the game. ... The Flyers'  power play was 1 for 6 against Toronto. It rebounded nicely against Washington, going 2 for 3. ... Luke Schenn led the Flyers in ice time (24:36), hits (six), and shots (five). ... Claude Giroux extended his points streak to six games with a goal and an assist. He has four goals and eight assists for 12 points during the streak. He recorded his third consecutive multi-point game and has multiple points in five of the Flyers’ last six games overall. ... Gagne’s goal was his 260th career Flyers goal (regular season).

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

All week on Philly Sports Talk on CSN, we examine how our teams got to this point and where they are in the rebuilding process. 
 
Today, we finish up by taking a look at the Flyers.

 
How did we get here?
The Flyers' rebuild had begun when Ron Hextall returned to his old stomping grounds in the summer of 2013 as the team's new assistant general manager.
 
He took over GM duties after one season and the philosophical change was in place. Paul Holmgren was made president and Hextall's imprint, which had already started, was ready to become bigger.
 
What Hextall inherited was a cap-stricken team fresh off a first-round playoff loss, an organization that had tried to spend its way to immediate results instead of putting greater focus on the long game.
 
Some of the past decisions are well-documented: signing enigmatic goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal in 2011 after trading for him. With a buyout, the Flyers are still paying Bryzgalov through 2027. Signing veteran center Vinny Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million contract in 2013. And signing imposing defenseman Chris Pronger to a seven-year, $34.55 million extension — nobody could foresee the unfortunate concussion issues that suddenly derailed Pronger's career, but it was nonetheless a hurdle for the Flyers moving forward.
 
Hextall has adeptly maneuvered through much of those rocky waters.
 
Now, the Flyers are a more cost-efficient (partly because they have to be in this salary cap world), draft-oriented organization planning for the future while not ignoring the present. This rebuild hasn't been a total demolition, but more of a retooling — a smart but tricky process, especially down the line.
 
Are the Flyers on the right path back to prosperity?
The youth is coming.
 
Hextall, oftentimes close to the vest, made that abundantly clear at his end-of-the-season press conference.
 
"Our young players, they've done enough," Hextall said in early April. "Our young players are going to get a long look. We don't plan on going out and signing veterans on the back end. Our kids, it's time to give them a shot, and we're going to do that."
 
But the really hard part is just beginning — results. Can the prospects catch up and meet the current core? The pressure for it to start has never been higher.
 
Help does appear to be on the way, though, for a team that regressed this season and missed the playoffs for the third time in the past five years.
 
Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom and Carter Hart give the Flyers future options in net.
 
Two promising prospects are expected to join Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere and company on the blue line.
 
Oskar Lindblom, a dynamic 20-year-old winger, could crack the Flyers' group of forwards, which should have Jordan Weal and Valtteri Filppula for a full season.
 
Also, don't forget forward Mike Vecchione, a Hobey Baker finalist who signed with the Flyers out of Union College in late March.
 
Oh, and the No. 2 pick of the draft — likely a talented center — is in the Flyers' grasp.
 
The 2017-18 season will be a telling time for the Flyers. Patience has been required, but when will it be rewarded?
 
The clock is ticking.