Laughton still battling for crowded center spot

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Laughton still battling for crowded center spot

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- When the most recent waive of cuts arrived, Scott Laughton was nervous.

All along, the 19-year-old center has been on the short list of young players expected to have a real shot at making the Flyers’ roster out of camp. But he wasn’t pleased at all with how he played in his first two preseason games last week.

When he learned cuts would be coming, Laughton was concerned his name would be among the more than two dozen players to leave the team before this weekend’s trip to Lake Placid.

“I think it’s always in the back of your mind,” he said. “I think you’re always thinking about it. Definitely in London I didn’t play the way I wanted to, and kind of got better in Toronto, but still not to where it needs to be.

“But I’m excited for the opportunity here and just want to get in some games and show what I can do.”

Coach Peter Laviolette didn’t have quite the same read on Laughton’s play against the Maple Leafs, saying the young center played “well” but agreeing that he does need to progress a bit more before he’s truly NHL ready.

“I think that there’s still another gear that he can find in his game,” Laviolette said. “When he came in last year, he was flying. He had played in lots of games when our team was just getting off the mark from a lockout. So it’s a bit of a different scenario for him -- he comes in on equal ground with everybody else.”

At Friday’s practice, Laughton skated on a line with Zac Rinaldo and Jay Rosehill. He is still far from a lock to make the team -- and, in fact, would likely have to unseat Adam Hall in order to claim a spot at center. He won’t earn ice time over, say, Claude Giroux or Vinny Lecavalier or Sean Couturier.

He has three more chances during preseason to show his stuff, though, and his goal is to prove to the Flyers that he can pick up where he left off with the team last year, when he played five games at the beginning of the season and fit in seamlessly. This year, he can play nine games before the Flyers must decide whether to keep him around or send him back to the OHL.

Through it all, he said, he won’t be thinking about how or where he fits into the roster, or what’s being said about him. Instead, he’s choosing to remain concentrated only on what he can control.

“I focus on me,” Laughton said, “doing what I can every day. I think if I can play the way I can, I think I’ll be here for the year.”

It’s no secret that the Flyers have somewhat of a logjam at center. The only obvious vacancy on the team is at left wing, for which Laughton’s name was circulated earlier this summer. It’s not outrageous, the thinking went, for a center to move over to the wing. Laughton said he was “open to the challenge.”

Instead, however, the battle for the opening at wing appears to be down to two new faces: Michael Raffl and Chris VandeVelde. The Flyers are giving Laughton every opportunity to succeed at the position he's played his entire life.

“Right now we’re leaving him at center,” Laviolette said. “We want to see how he does at that position instead of putting him somewhere where he’s not comfortable and then sticking him in one of these exhibition games coming up. [General manager] Paul [Holmgren] and I have not talked about that. It may have kicked around a table real quick, but there hasn’t been discussion as to make that move at this point.

“He’s a centerman, that’s where we picked him and drafted him. He’s at a camp right now with an opportunity to make the Flyers. We want to put him in the best position we can to show what he can do.”

Laviolette said he’s looking forward to seeing how Laughton plays in next week's exhibition games against the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals, when the lineups will be mostly full of NHL players and not a heavier mix of veterans and minor-leaguers.

Until then, he agrees with Laughton's plans for the week ahead: staying focused.

“I think the best thing for him is to do what he’s doing," Laviolette said. "Keep his eye on the target and keep his nose down and work hard, and try to pick up what we’re saying, which he does.”

NHL Playoffs: Senators, Capitals advance to close out 1st round

NHL Playoffs: Senators, Capitals advance to close out 1st round

TORONTO -- Marcus Johansson stuffed his second goal of the game past Frederik Andersen at 6:31 of overtime, lifting the Washington Capitals t to a series-winning 2-1 victory ove the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 on Sunday night.

Johansson pulled Washington even at 1-1 with less than eight minutes to go in the third period after Auston Matthews broke a scoreless tie with his fourth goal of the series for Toronto. It was the fifth overtime game of the series, and the record-setting 18th in the first round of the playoffs.

Holtby made 37 saves for the Capitals, who will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Andersen was sharp with 34 saves (see full recap).

MacArthur returns, wins series for Sens in OT
BOSTON -- Clarke MacArthur spent almost two full seasons recovering from a concussion, wondering if he would ever be able to return to the Senators.

"There's nothing like living in the NHL and living in these playoffs," he said after scoring a power-play goal 6:30 into overtime to help Ottawa beat Boston 3-2 in Game 6 on Sunday and advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"It (retirement) is something everyone's going to have to deal with one day," said the 32-year-old forward, who was injured in the fourth game of last season and didn't come back until four games left in this one. "But I want to stretch it out as long as I can."

Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris scored five minutes apart in the second to give the Senators a 2-1 lead, and Craig Anderson stopped 28 shots for Ottawa. The Senators, who hadn't won a postseason series for since 2013, will play the New York Rangers in the second round.

Tuukka Rask made 26 saves for the Bruins, who got goals from Drew Stafford and Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins did not get off a shot in the extra period -- the fourth overtime game of the series and the 17th of the NHL playoffs, tying the record for an opening round (see full recap).

Report: Kings to name John Stevens head coach

Report: Kings to name John Stevens head coach

A person with direct knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that the Los Angeles Kings will name associate head coach John Stevens their next head coach.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday because an announcement had not been made.

Stevens replaces Darryl Sutter after serving as a Kings assistant and then associate coach for the past eight seasons, which included two Stanley Cups. He was interim head coach for four games in 2011-12 after Terry Murray was fired and before Sutter was hired.

The 50-year-old was long considered Sutter's eventual replacement, though the firing of general manager Dean Lombardi and Sutter earlier this month put everything into question. When assistant Davis Payne was fired, the door was open to promoting Stevens.

Stevens' Flyers ties run deep.

He was drafted by the Flyers with the 47th pick in the 1984 draft and played nine NHL games with them from 1986-88. He came back to the organization in 1996 to play for the AHL's Phantoms for three seasons, including captaining the 1998 Calder Cup title team, before retiring in 1999.

Stevens moved behind the Phantoms bench in 1999 as an assistant before he took the reins as their head coach in 2000. Stevens was the coach of the star-studded 2004-2005 Phantoms led by Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Patrick Sharp that won the Calder Cup.

Stevens then caught his first NHL head coaching break in 2006 when Ken Hitchcock was fired and the Flyers promoted Stevens from Lehigh Valley to become head coach of the big club. He went 120-109-34 in three-plus seasons as the Flyers head coach, a tenure that included a run to the 2008 Eastern Conference Final a year after the Flyers were the worst team in the league. Stevens was fired by the Flyers in December 2009 after a poor start and replaced by Peter Laviolette, who helped lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final that year.

ESPN first reported the Stevens' hiring by Los Angeles.

- CSNPhilly.com contributed to this story.