Laviolette excited to return to Team USA, Flyers

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Laviolette excited to return to Team USA, Flyers

The best thing that could have happened for Peter Laviolette was a little distraction from the boredom of a four-month long offseason.
 
Perhaps something like a Team USA orientation camp just prior to the start of Flyers rookie camp, which opens today at Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J.
 
“The Olympic team is added work, but certainly welcomed by me,” Laviolette said. “I’m excited about it and the opportunity to go there and represent the United States. I think that is a great opportunity to do something good for our country and the sport of hockey. I’m really excited about that.”
 
That camp got Laviolette’s juices flowing again. Got him in the right frame of mind for this brief camp that leads directly into the Flyers’ full training camp next week (Sept. 12).
 
He'll go from Team USA to the Flyers without missing a beat.
 
“I did this before in 2006 from a head coaching role, and I understand the balance that needs to take place and didn’t seem to really affect anything we did with Carolina that year,” Laviolette said. “It starts to get you back into that [hockey mode]. There was stuff done before that with the Flyers, but I do think it puts you back into the rink with meetings and players there and we had to run systems meetings. It jump-starts you and gets you going for the season.”
 
It’s not very often the Flyers don’t make the playoffs. For Laviolette, summer began in early May and he couldn’t wait for it to end.
 
“It’s tough when you don’t get to do what you wanted and have to watch the playoffs,” he said.
 
“It doesn’t have the same meaning on the outside as when you are inside and competing. I think I found late spring and early summer to be hard to handle. It wasn’t the plan, the goal or where we wanted to be.
 
“After you get by that, for me, it was exciting knowing guys are coming back healthy from where we were last year. The man games we lost, it’s exciting guys are coming back full health for the most part.”
 
There are 25 rookies in this camp and one amateur tryout (defenseman Mark Nemec from Maine).
 
Assuming a full healthy Flyers roster -- including Claude Giroux -- there really aren’t any obvious holes to be filled where a rookie prospect could be plugged into the mix, but there will be at least one forward spot filled by some lucky player -- maybe Scott Laughton.
 
The question is, can Laughton stick around this time? Last year, he made it through five games before going back to Oshawa.
 
Laughton, Nick Cousins and Petr Straka are all hoping to do something now to get onto the Flyers' roster.
 
Who has the best shot?
 
“I would say Scott,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “We’ve got to give him an opportunity to see what he does. Give him some games, just based on what he did last year. The rest is up to the players and how they look.
 
“Some really stand out in the practices. We’ve got the rookie game with the Capitals, and we’ll continue to take looks at them.”
 
If Laughton and Tye McGinn, who is not in this camp, are both on the roster, that’s 14 forwards right there on the 23-man roster.
 
Defensively, Mark Alt might be the only blueliner capable of making things tough for someone but again, the coaching staff is hoping the blue line gets pushed. Alt could do that.
 
In Laviolette’s mind, some prospect just might surprise.
 
“For me to tell you there is no room on our team for them, I won’t do it,” Laviolette said. “I’m not gonna say that at all. Wouldn’t it be great if Player X came in and made it hard for us to do anything else?
 
“I know that would be a great thing. I don’t think that is the case -- there is no room. If someone can find themselves a spot, that is what training camp and exhibition games are all about.”
 
Defense is already overstocked -- a rarity for the Flyers -- with seven likely set to the roster: Kimmo Timonen, Mark Streit, Erik Gustafsson, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Nick Grossmann and Andrej Meszaros.
 
What happens to Bruno Gervais and Oliver Lauridsen? That’s the current log jam that makes Alt’s job in this rookie camp that much harder.
 
“It will play out,” Holmgren said. “It’s not a bad thing to have that many players and that much depth. As we saw last year, we ran into some issues through injuries. You never know.”

Flyers' trip to Ottawa brings back 'fond memories' for Travis Konecny

Flyers' trip to Ottawa brings back 'fond memories' for Travis Konecny

OTTAWA, Ontario — Exactly one year ago, Dec. 1, 2015, Travis Konecny was a member of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s.

He had just learned that he had been invited to the Team Canada selection camp for the World Junior Hockey Championship and he was at the Canadian Tire Centre spending time with future Flyers teammates during the morning skate as they prepared for a game that night against the Ottawa Senators.

Fast forward one year to today, Dec. 1, 2016, and Konecny is back at the CTC, this time to face the Senators alongside his current Flyers teammates as a key part of the team’s offense.

Quite a step forward in just one calendar year for a kid not named Crosby or McDavid.

“It’s crazy how fast it happened and I’m definitely humbled I was given the opportunity. They believed enough in me to make the jump this year and it definitely hits me every day that I get the opportunity to play in the NHL,” said Konecny, who has scored four times and added nine assists through the first 25 games of his NHL career. He has also added a team-leading 33 penalty minutes and that goes a long way in explaining the type of game he plays.

“I don’t know what happened. I’ve never been like that before," Konecny said before the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win Thursday (see game story). "When you’re playing in the NHL, some guys will run over you all game if they can so I think part of these penalties I’m taking is me just having to step up and I’m just setting an example of sticking up for my teammates."

It wasn’t until his second game in the league that he took his first penalty, but he was on the score sheet before that having collected two assists in his debut Oct. 14 in a 4-2 win over the Kings in Los Angeles.

His first goal came Oct. 25 in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. The key for his success in making the jump from junior to the NHL is simple.

“Just keeping things simple," he said. "Learning in the NHL is about reading off mistakes. You can’t always make a play, you have to be smart and make sure you’re doing what’s right for the team and I think just keeping my game simple is what got me here." 

There is one main difference between the two levels, Konecny added.

“The speed, and I don’t necessarily mean just skating," he said. "Thinking wise and how fast plays happen. Guys like [Senators defenseman Erik] Karlsson, he’s thinking so fast and he knows his play two or three steps before the next guy does, so you just have to try and outthink guys and to me that’s been the biggest jump.”

Konecny is not foreign to the Senators’ home ice surface. He spent part of his time in junior playing there while the 67’s home arena was being renovated.

He had to leave several passes for friends and family for the game Tuesday night, his first as a pro in the city that was dazzled by his play in junior for 2½ seasons.

“It was a lot of fun and it brought back a lot of memories," Konecny said after going scoreless in 14:13 of ice time. "We didn’t play in front of as many fans as we did tonight but definitely a lot of games played here and a lot of fond memories.

“Even flying in [Wednesday] was something special and driving around the city looking at the roots where I was for three years.”

Best of NHL: Hossa gives Blackhawks OT win over Devils

Best of NHL: Hossa gives Blackhawks OT win over Devils

CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa scored his team-leading 12th goal through a screen at 1:31 of overtime to lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.

Hossa's shot through traffic from high in the slot beat Cory Schneider on the glove side, moments after New Jersey's Mike Cammalleri hit the post on a prime chance against Chicago's Corey Crawford.

New Jersey's Travis Zajac scored his third goal of the game at 8:49 of the third to tie it 3-all after scores by Chicago's Artem Anisimov and Niklas Hjalmarsson late in the second period had put the Blackhawks ahead.

Marcus Kruger also connected for Western Conference-leading Chicago to end a 22-game drought as the Blackhawks won their second straight and played beyond regulation for third consecutive time. They are 3-0-1 in their last four.

The Devils have dropped four straight (0-2-2) (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins run away from Stars
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby broke the game's final tie and assisted on another score in the third period as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Dallas Stars 6-2 on Thursday night.

Crosby scored his league-leading 16th goal in the second period and assisted on Conor Sheary's sixth as Pittsburgh scored three goals in the final 4 minutes. Eric Fehr's third of the season was the 100th of his career and Patric Hornqvist's seventh came on the power play. Nick Bonino and Ian Cole both scored their third for Pittsburgh, which avoided consecutive regulation losses for the first time this season.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves for Pittsburgh. Fleury, who won for the first time in five starts, has six wins in his last nine home games.

Tyler Seguin scored his eighth and Devin Shore his second for the Stars, who continue to struggle on the road. Dallas has lost its previous five away from home and has three wins in 14 road games this season. The Stars have lost three straight and seven of their last 10.

Antti Niemi , playing in his 400th career game, stopped 34 shots (see full recap).

Eichel helps Sabres knock off Rangers
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals in the third period, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Thursday night for their second straight victory.

Buffalo's winning streak coincides with the return of Eichel, who missed the first 21 games with a high ankle sprain. The 20-year-old center had a goal and an assist in Buffalo's 5-4 win in Ottawa on Tuesday and has recorded a point in seven straight games dating to last season.

In his first home game of the season, Eichel scored on a power play with 7:15 remaining and netted the winning goal 1:43 later. Buffalo is now 10-3-1 when Eichel has more than one point (see full recap).