Flyers ready for physical battle against Kings

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Flyers ready for physical battle against Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- They were still talking about how well they played in Anaheim and came away with nothing Thursday when they deserved a point.

That's how this three-game, six-day West Coast romp began and now the Flyers are facing an L.A. Kings squad that is in worse shape, having won just three of its last 10 games.

“Like I told my players, yeah we played good enough, but in the end it wasn’t enough,” Craig Berube said after Friday's practice that was largely devoted to the power play in which puck passing and protection was atop the focus.

That's because the Ducks scored a late shorthanded goal that turned out to be decisive in Thursday's 5-3 win.

“We have to keep that in perspective against L.A. -- it’s about winning,” Berube said. “They are a physical, dangerous team that plays hard.”

On the same sheet of ice two hours earlier, Kings coach Darryl Sutter ran his four lines over and over in shooting drills. They’re having trouble scoring goals.

Sutter has been juggling his lines. On Friday, he had Mike Richards centering Justin Williams and Matt Fratin. Jeff Carter was on Anze Kopitar’s line with Tyler Toffoli.

Berube has no changes planned for the Kings, but said he was impressed enough with how Michael Raffl played between Zac Rinaldo and Adam Hall to keep the Austrian there. Berube wants more speed down the middle on the fourth line.

Saturday's rare afternoon match at Staples Center will be the first time Wayne Simmonds has played in the building since joining the Flyers.

Friday was also his first visit to his old practice facility.

“Everything still looks the same,” Simmonds said. “I talked to the trainers this morning. It’s nice to talk to guys I have not seen in a while. They kind of renovated the place. This place is amazing.”

Simmonds said he thought the loss to Anaheim was the “hardest” physical battle the Flyers put up this season.

“It was a physical game -- those are type of games I love to play,” he said. “Unfortunately, we came out of it with nothing. We got to draw from the negatives and take it on [Saturday]. The Kings are a big, physical team, kind of the same mold as Anaheim.

“Big bodies. I’ve been watching them lately. They haven’t scored any goals, but that can change on any given night and we’ve got to focus on ourselves.”

There were 46 hits in the Flyers-Ducks game. Yeah, it was physical.

“It’s going to happen where you have great games and don’t get points and the opposite is you play brutal and get a bounce or a break or the goalie stands on his head,” Scott Hartnell said.

“It’s frustrating. We had a lot of chances, a lot of zone time. We were physical -- one of our best games of the year and to come out it with nothing leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Tomorrow, you will have two hungry teams going at it and both desperately need a win.”

Kopitar has points in eight of his last 12 games. Carter has goals in four of his last nine games. Richards has five points in his last eight games.

Incredibly, goalie Jonathan Quick went into Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh with a 1.66 goals-against average and .934 save percentage over his previous 12 games.

Yet, Quick was yanked in the first period against the Penguins after giving up three goals on the first seven shots.

“They’re not doing well either and it’s a dangerous game,” Berube said. “We’ve got to be prepared to compete like we did [against Anaheim]. It comes down to clean hockey.”

By that, Berube means mistake-free -- not penalties. The Flyers had a couple of breakdowns -- a goal allowed with 35.1 seconds left in the first period and a shorthanded goal in the third period. That cost them the game. Those plays, he said, were not “clean.”

Especially, the shorthanded goal.

“From a faceoff in the offensive zone, it shouldn’t happen and it did,” Berube said. “If we had done that (played clean), we would have won the game. Has nothing to do with work ethic or competiveness. Just make it clean.”

Ron Hextall: Vegas 'obviously did their homework' on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Ron Hextall: Vegas 'obviously did their homework' on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall on Wednesday night reacted to losing alternate captain Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL expansion draft (see story).

"There were a number of guys I felt like there was a chance we would lose," Hextall said. "And Belly was on that list.

"Vegas obviously did their homework and have themselves a good player. Pierre-Edouard is a character member of our organization and he'll be missed."

Bellemare is the Flyers' second alternate captain to depart the club in the same calendar year. Mark Streit, whose "A" Bellemare inherited, was traded to Pittsburgh via Tampa at the NHL trade deadline.

Streit will likely see his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. The Penguins plan to petition to get his name on the Cup even though Streit did not play in the Final against Nashville.

As for Bellemare, the 32-year-old center was left unprotected by the Flyers last weekend. He signed a two-year contract in March that carries a $1.45 million cap hit per.

Bellemare had 17 goals and 34 points in 237 games in three seasons with the Flyers after signing with the team in June 2014.

"He's a terrific team player and an even better human being," Hextall said. "He was great in the community and he'll be a real nice piece for Vegas."

NHL Notes: Marc-Andre Fleury leads expansion draft selections

NHL Notes: Marc-Andre Fleury leads expansion draft selections

LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights finally have some players to put on the desert ice this fall.

Stanley Cup-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, defensemen Marc Methot and Alexei Emelin, 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault and forwards David Perron and James Neal are among the veterans selected by the Golden Knights in the NHL expansion draft Wednesday night.

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley and general manager George McPhee announced their choices during the NHL's annual postseason awards show at T-Mobile Arena, where Vegas will begin play in the fall.

Fleury took the stage in a Golden Knights jersey to wild cheers from his new home fans. The three-time Cup winner lost his starting job with the back-to-back champion Penguins, but he'll get to start over in the desert with two years on his contract.

The picks included defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk and Brayden McNabb, forward Oscar Lindberg.

The Golden Knights also announced additional acquisitions of a handful of veterans and free agents, including Anaheim defenseman Shea Theodore and Florida forward Reilly Smith.

The NHL wrote its draft rules to give the Golden Knights more opportunities to compete early in their existence, and their expansion draft choices certainly appear to form a solid core that could make noise in the Pacific Division.

"They're way past getting off the ground," Nashville general manager David Poile said. "I think this is by far the best expansion team ever" (see full story).

Oilers: 20-year-old McDavid wins Hart Trophy
LAS VEGAS -- Connor McDavid has won his first Hart Trophy. Hardly anybody in hockey believes it will be his last.

The Edmonton captain claimed the award as the NHL's most valuable player Wednesday night at the league's postseason awards show at T-Mobile Arena, the new home of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

The league also revealed the results of the Golden Knights' expansion draft to an arena filled with new fans of the NHL's 31st franchise.

McDavid also won the Ted Lindsay Award, given to the league's most outstanding performer in a vote of his fellow players.

The honors capped a remarkable sophomore season for the 20-year-old center, who won the scoring title and led the Oilers back to the Stanley Cup playoffs after an 11-year absence. The former No. 1 pick beat out fellow finalists Sergei Bobrovsky of Columbus and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

"I'm so proud to be in Edmonton," McDavid said. "I'm so proud to be an Oiler, and so proud to play with the guys."

McDavid is the third-youngest player to win the award. Only Crosby and Wayne Gretzky claimed the Hart as teenagers (see full story).

NHL: Home openers announced; Golden Knights’ 1st game in Dallas
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights will make their regular-season debut on the road in Dallas on Oct. 6 and host the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 10 in the first home game in franchise history.

NHL teams announced their home openers Wednesday with the full, 1,271-game schedule for the 2017-18 season set to be released Thursday.

Vegas will play its first two games on the road, visiting Arizona on Oct. 7 before the second leg of an early back-to-back for coach Gerard Gallant's club.

The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins will raise another banner and begin their quest for a three-peat Oct. 4 against the St. Louis Blues. The Penguins visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 5 in a matchup of the only teams to win the Cup three times in the salary-cap era.

The Western Conference-champion Nashville Predators open the season Oct. 5 at Boston. Nashville celebrates the longest playoff run in franchise history at home Oct. 10 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Philadelphia opens Oct. 4 at the San Jose Sharks, who have the longest active season-opener winning streak at seven. The first night of the season also includes the Calgary Flames at the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Winnipeg Jets, a matchup of the top two picks in the 2016 draft, Auston Matthews against Patrik Laine.

The Detroit Red Wings host Minnesota on Oct. 5 in the first NHL regular-season game at the new Little Caesars Arena.

The back-to-back Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals open their season at Ottawa on Oct. 5 and host the Montreal Canadiens in their home opener Oct. 7