Philadelphia Flyers

Lecavalier, Hartnell help Flyers snap 2-game skid

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Lecavalier, Hartnell help Flyers snap 2-game skid

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Scott Hartnell's gritty and productive effort paved the way for Vincent Lecavalier to break out of his slump, ending the Flyers' two-game losing spell with a 4-3 comeback win in Buffalo on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay).

Hours after calling his team's recent play "soft," Hartnell posted a goal and two assists, playing through a blocked shot that had him limping off the ice during the second period. He received X-rays on his left ankle after the game.

"Sometimes you've gotta get hurt or whatever, but we showed a lot of character, especially late there, coming back," Hartnell said.

The Flyers trailed 1-0 and 2-1, but scored three third-period goals to bury a bottom-dwelling Buffalo Sabres team that came into the game 6-0-2 in their last eight home games.

"Never give up," Hartnell said. "That's probably the biggest thing. You gotta believe. You've gotta play the system. You've gotta skate like we did in that third period and you win battles and you work hard, you're gonna get chances."

That's the ethos Lecavalier was forced to focus on during a recent slump that ended, hopefully, with Tuesday night's game-winner with 14.8 seconds left.

"It felt good," Lecavalier said. "They've been hard to come by since I got back from my injury. Sometimes a goal like that will kinda, I don't want to say jumpstart, but get more confidence and keep going."

Lecavalier had recorded just three assists in 11 games since coming back from a non-displaced fracture in his back that caused him to miss just under a month of hockey.

"The last four games I've been feeling really good, my legs," he said. "It's good for the confidence any time you get out of the slump and hopefully that'll get me going and create more with my linemates. Hopefully that starts a streak."

Both players and head coach Craig Berube hailed the team's comeback spirit, as they admitted frustration with a first period that saw them go down 1-0 on a Cody Hodgson tally.

The team equalized in the second on Jakub Voracek's power-play goal, one of two Flyers goals on six power-play opportunities, but Buffalo again took a lead 6:37 into the third when Matt D'Agostini flipped a shot past Steve Mason.

"Our team doesn't quit," Berube said. "I know over the weekend with Tampa and the Rangers we had good third periods. They tried, it didn't happen, but the effort's always there. As long as the effort is there and the competitiveness is there, they'll give it their best to try and come back."

Mason wasn't in peak form, but the game was one of the inactive types that drive goalies nuts. He did enough to get the win despite facing just 19 shots to his team's 33 efforts on goal.

"Tough game from my standpoint to play," Mason said. "Not very busy, a lot of standing around and those are the games that when they're over with and you come away with the two points, you're happy about that."

The Flyers fought back with a Brayden Schenn goal with 13:28 gone and earned their first lead on Hartnell's hard power-play shot with 15:53 to go in regulation.

Tyler Ennis beat Mason from an odd angle on a goal that the goaltender would like back just 54 seconds later, but it was Matt Read's work down low in his first game back from a concussion that sealed the deal.

Lecavalier's initial shot was saved by Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth, and Sean Couturier jammed a loose puck off the side of the net. Read dug the puck out from between Couturier's skates and fed Lecavalier, who didn't need a third try.

"I've gotta say it was a long two weeks watching the boys battle out there and I couldn't be a part of it," Read said. "I felt good. (Berube) talked about just getting the first shift, getting the hit, finding your legs and having fun out there. It was a seesaw battle out there, but it's good to get the first two points."

The Flyers will be back in action on Thursday when they play the Nashville Predators at the Wells Fargo Center. They won the opening game of the season series with Nashville, 3-2, in a shootout on Nov. 30 in Tennessee.

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).

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

Ron Hextall never told fans to "trust the process," but apparently any faith in the Flyers' GM has been vindicated.

At least that's the case if you believe ESPN NHL writer Corey Pronman's latest farm system rankings (it's an Insider story, so apologies in advance). Pronman has the Flyers' farm ranked as No. 1 in the NHL. 

"The Flyers don't have as much game-breaking talent as our No. 2 team (Coyotes) does at the top of their system," Pronman writes, "but 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick is right up there; after Patrick, the Flyers have the cupboards lined with talent at every position."

Pronman credits the Flyers with nailing his first-round picks (Patrick, Ivan Provorov), grabbing middle-round prospects that have blossomed (Shayne Gostisbehere, Oskar Lindblom) and specifically mentions Phil Myers, an undrafted defenseman that has become "one of the very best defense prospects in hockey."

For so long, the Flyers' organization was perpetually in "win-now mode," but the late Ed Snider hired Hextall away from the Kings and eventually made him GM, knowing that Hexy was taking a broader view of the organization. Instead of trading away young talent and draft picks for aging veterans, Hextall restocked a dreadful farm system to get the team where it is today.

"Not too long ago, the Flyers' farm system was a laughingstock, with C-grade college free agents making it into their top five," Pronman said. "Today, they are in the best position of any NHL team in terms of adding young premium players to their roster."