Gustafsson to remain in lineup against Canucks

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Gustafsson to remain in lineup against Canucks

Erik Gustafsson seemingly played well enough last season to earn the right to start this season.

Yet, there are no guarantees in the NHL.

And when training camp and preseason rolled around this fall, the young Swede was a turnover machine. Subsequently, Andrej Meszaros, who was barely better, was given the No. 6 position on the Flyers' blueline.

On Saturday night in Detroit, Gustafsson subbed for Meszaros and scored a goal during the Flyers' 5-2 loss to the Red Wings.

Gustafsson will remain in the lineup Tuesday when the Flyers host the Vancouver Canucks.

“Obviously, you want to play all the games, but I don’t think I played as well as I should have in camp,” the 24-year-old defenseman said.

“It was a tough start -- I thought I would get a chance a little bit earlier, but I got in the game against Detroit and I thought I played pretty well.

“So I just have to keep looking forward and working hard. I know I have a lot of improvements to make in my game.”

Gustafsson brings speed and finesse. When his game is on, he moves the puck well up the ice. His issues in the preseason were turnovers -- both on the breakout and in the slot. That’s why he lost a starting job.

Interestingly, during his season debut, he was paired with Kimmo Timonen, giving the Flyers a double-sided, puck-moving attack of two smaller players.

“Sometimes it’s an advantage to have two small puck-moving guys, sometimes it’s not,” Gustafsson said. “You have to try to make quick passes, get out of your end as quickly as possible.”

Coach Craig Berube liked what he saw from Gustafsson against Detroit.

“I thought he played well,” Berube said. “He adds speed back there, puck moving and he’s a competitive guy and kind of all-around player. He really is. I like the speed and puck movement that he brings.”

As for Meszaros, he added, “He’s a good player, but I just didn’t see enough from him and I wanted to get Gus in there. It’s a long year. Mes is working. He worked hard [Monday], skated hard.”

Gustafsson thinks he can get comfortable in Berube’s system.

“I liked Peter’s [Laviolette] system, too,” he said. “It’s a good offensive system. But I think this system suits me as a player better. I really like what Chief is doing –- high, hard forecheck, a lot of skating.

“He wants to turn around the play real quick, which suits me as a player. Also, gives the D a little more chance to join the rush, which I like as well.”

Loose pucks
Flyers still lead the league in total penalties (45). ... They are second in penalty minutes (118); Florida is first with 127. ... The Flyers are averaging 19.7 PIM per game. ... The same lines and defensive pairings from Saturday night in Detroit were used Monday in practice. ... The Flyers will play host to Vancouver on Tuesday. The Sedin Twins (Henrik and Daniel) have 14 points between themselves in six games. ... Mike Santorelli leads the Canucks with four goals. ... The Flyers play two home games this week and then will have six days off.

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It has been an extraordinary 11 months for P.K. Subban.

The defenseman moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference. Left his native Canada to live in the American South. Blended in with new teammates, created a new home and learned a new system of money, too.

Oh, and along the way the former star for the Montreal Canadiens played a key role in Nashville's stirring run to the Stanley Cup Final.

The best way to sum up Subban's approach? C'est la vie.

"I just tried to have the right attitude when change comes my way," Subban said. "I think when you have an open mind, an open mind is like a gold mine. You just have an open mind, you can only go up from there regardless of what comes your way and just always try to approach things in a positive way."

The Canadiens and Predators shocked the NHL last June 29 when Nashville swapped captain Shea Weber for Subban in a rare one-for-one trade of All-Star defensemen. Adding Subban's offensive skills immediately made the Predators a popular pick to be right where they are now as the Western Conference champions.

The stylish Subban has as much flair on the ice with his goal celebrations as off with his hats and stylish suits. The Predators and their fans have embraced all of it.

"When it happened, I came in here with the right attitude and just wanted to be a part of this team and do whatever I can do to help a team win," Subban said (see full story).

Penguins: Team rides maturity, resilience back to Cup Final
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz stood shoulder to shoulder at center ice as midnight approached, crowd on its feet, Prince of Wales Trophy in hand. Another shot at the Stanley Cup in the offing.

On the surface, it could have been a scene ripped from 2008 when the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin teammates earned their first crack at a championship together, the one that was supposed to be the launching pad for a dynasty.

A closer look at the weary, grateful smiles told a different story.

This team has learned over the last decade that nothing can be taken for granted. Not their individual greatness or postseason success, even for one of the NHL's marquee franchises. Not the cohesion it takes to survive the crucible of the most draining championship chase in professional team sports or the mental toughness (along with a dash of luck) needed to stay on top once you get there.

So Crosby paused in the giddy aftermath of Pittsburgh's 3-2 victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the helter-skelter Eastern Conference finals to do something the two-time Hart Trophy winner almost never does. He took stock of the moment, aware of how fleeting they can be.

"Every series you look at, the margin for error is so slim," Crosby said. "We've just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up. We trust in that and we believe in that and whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence. We've done it different ways, which is probably our biggest strength" (see full story).

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.