Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers Notes: Rinaldo gets first goal of season

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Flyers Notes: Rinaldo gets first goal of season

One is the loneliest number.

So says Three Dog Night, if anyone knows who that group was.

Anyway, one was a lonely number for Zac Rinaldo this season. As in one lone assist in 43 games this season … until Thursday night.

Rinaldo finally mated his assist with a goal during the Flyers' 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Wells Fargo Center (see game recap).

“It feels great to get that monkey off my back,” Rinaldo said. “It’s about time, too.”

The goal came on a nice backhand rebound of his own shot.

“I walked over the blue line and shot it,” Rinaldo said. “I was praying to God that puck came back to me. It came back to me and I threw it on net and it went in for me.”

It hit a stick as it snuck inside the left post on goalie Peter Budaj. A wobbly puck, too

“It did, it did, a good bounce,” Rinaldo said. “I’m not going to complain about it.”

Rinaldo played just 4:53 in the game with four shots. He actually finished with the most shots on the Flyers in this game despite playing the fewest minutes.

Almost half those minutes -– 2:15 -- were played on the penalty kill, which doesn’t afford all that much offense.

Rinaldo has played in a number of different roles on top, middle and bottom lines and the PK lately.

“He’s played good hockey,” coach Craig Berube said. “We’re using him killing penalties at times. His physical skating I think really rubs off on our team. He can really skate. He’s been physical and not taking penalties, which is important.”

He got the club riled up by fighting Brandon Prust after the Flyers made it 3-0 in the second period. As he went to the penalty box, Rinaldo raised his arms high, imploring the fans to make noise and get into the game.

“We’re feeding off each other,” Rinaldo said. “I’m doing a good job getting the crowd into it. And I’m going to keep them into it and they got to keep me in the game, too.”

Several of his teammates spoke about how great it’s been during this 10-game home win streak to have fans cheering and not booing them like they were in October and November.

Asked about the impact of fans booing earlier and how it’s been turned around, Rinaldo was stunned.

“What’s that? he asked.

The booing.

“I thought you said the booze affected us,” Rinaldo replied, as laughter erupted. “No, no, no, the booing obviously sucked. If we’re not working hard, they’re going to tell us.

“Guys respect that. Some guys take it differently. But the fans are behind us. We worked for the fans to get back on our side and we have them on our side now and we’re not going to stop.”

White flag?
There was less than two minutes left to play. The Canadiens were deep in the Flyers’ zone and trailing by a pair of goals.

So why didn’t Canadiens coach Michel Therrien pull Budaj out of net?

The answer won’t please Habs fans.

“In the third period we got four shots on net,” said a clearly displeased Therrien. “And when you have momentum, when you’re creating a lot of chances, there’s a reason why you could take your goalie out, especially when you’re down by two goals.

“But when you have four shots on net and you’re down by two goals, there’s no reason.”

Nice at home
The Flyers have won 10 straight at home. That is their longest home winning streak since an 11-game streak from Oct. 27–Dec. 5, 2003. All 10 wins have been in regulation, and they haven’t done that since a 14-game regulation home winning streak from Feb. 10-April 4, 1985, when they actually won the last 14 home games of the regular season before making a run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Penalty kill
The Flyers were 4 for 4 on the penalty kill, giving them their sixth consecutive perfect game in that category. They are 19 for 19 in that stretch.

Back-to-backs
The Flyers have swept both games in four of their last five back-to-backs. They are 9-1 overall this season in that situation. They’ll play another back-to-back this weekend, facing Tampa Bay on Saturday before meeting the Rangers on Sunday in New York.

Sarah Baicker contributed to this report.

NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

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NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have lost top center Travis Zajac for four to six months with a pectoral injury.

Devils executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero announced that Zajac had surgery to repair the pectoral muscle on Thursday.

Shero said the Zajac was hurt last week during offseason training.

Dr. Jonathan L. Glashow performed the surgery and estimated that Zajac's recovery time could last until February. The season starts in October.

The 32-year-old Zajac had 14 goals and 31 assists last season. He has 155 career goals and 280 assists. He has played for the Devils since the 2006-07 season.

The 20th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Zajac signed an eight-year, $46 million contract in 2013.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons to 2-year deal

Sabres: Team signs forward Girgensons to 2-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have signed forward Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year contract.

The team announced the deal Thursday that carries an average value of $1.6 million.

Girgensons, from Latvia, is the last of the Sabres' restricted free agents to sign with the team. Buffalo's first-round pick in 2012 has 37 goals and 49 assists in 277 career games over four seasons.

He skated in a career-best 75 games last season after signing a one-year extension last September.

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).