Lecavalier, Hartnell help Flyers snap 2-game skid

ap-flyers-team.jpg

Lecavalier, Hartnell help Flyers snap 2-game skid

BOX SCORE

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.

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

CHICAGO — Ron Hextall had no idea which way New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was leaning.

Would Shero take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier with his No. 1 pick?

"I asked Ray 10 minutes before he picked and he wouldn't tell me," Hextall said. "I give him credit. That is what he should have done … I didn't have an expectation one way or the other."

Shero wanted a dynamic player to put bodies in the stands at Prudential Center. He chose Hischier.

That made it easy for Hextall at No. 2 to select Patrick (see story).

If rumors were true that Shero was scared off by Patrick's several injuries this past season at Brandon, well, the Flyers weren't.

"What I believe, we gather a lot of information," Hextall said. "There's some stuff out there you want to prove wrong and we did. We're comfortable with the injury part of it. He is a really good young man."

Patrick is a two-way player and a natural center. The Flyers have seven centers right now (see story), including Patrick, who is expected to play now. 

Hextall said he doesn't envision switching Patrick to the wing.

"I would rather have too many centers rather than five wingers on each side and no one to go in the middle," Hextall said.

Interesting that German Rubtsov, last year's top pick for the Flyers, has already been converted to a left winger since coming to North America to play junior.

Will Patrick be a No. 1 center as scouts project?

"Nolan has to answer that," Hextall said. "We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set. You get drafted today? The work starts now and Nolan has to put the work in.

"This is another level … this is the National Hockey League. In September, he comes to camp. He needs a big summer."

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

CHICAGO – The Flyers already have a familiar problem coming out of this NHL draft and heading training camp next fall: they’re too deep at center.
 
Friday night, they added three centers and traded another.
 
Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis for the Blues’ 27th pick in the first round, plus a conditional 2018 first-round pick and veteran utility center Jori Lehtera (see story).
 
General manager Ron Hextall wanted to trade back into the first round late and he did so by tabbing Morgan Frost at No. 27 with that Blues’ pick.
 
NHL Central Scouting had Frost ranked 31st among North American skaters. He is a 6-0, 170-pound forward from Aurora, Ontario.
 
He has raw speed and skill, but scouts say other parts of his game will need time to fill out. Frost had 20 goals and 62 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL this past season.
 
Friday’s other first-round pick, Nolan Patrick, is a natural centerman. Patrick is expected to play in the NHL this season. So right now, the Flyers’ centers are Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione, plus Patrick and now Lehtera.
 
Lehtera had 30 goals and 100 points in 218 games with the Blues. He was both a first- and second-line center for the Blues this past season despite weak numbers — seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.
 
He is a decent playmaker and two-way player, who has centered Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
 
“He is utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle,” Hextall said. “We like the player. Gives coach more options.”
 
Best option: Lehtera can move to left wing if needed.
 
“Someone has to play the wing,” Hextall said. “He can play the wing. Our scouts have seen him play the wing, but he plays center most games. I am assuming he prefers center like most of them. Someone has to play wing.”
 
Schenn had improved every year he was with the Flyers, but too much of his scoring is on the power play and not five-on-five. He had 109 goals and 246 points in 424 career games for the Flyers.
 
This deal seems strange unless you consider the Flyers got another first-round pick (Frost) and a top-10 protected, conditional first-rounder next year. The Blues have the option to defer the 2018 first-rounder to 2019 but if they do so, the Flyers will also receive the Blues' 2020 third-round pick.
 
“It was a combination,” Hextall said of the advantages’ from the Flyers side. “It was one of those [trades] that came out of nowhere. Not like we were shopping Brayden.
 
“This deal came along and we really like the draft next year. We like the late pick this year and Jori. It made sense and we got a couple more young players.”
 
Young players like Frost, whom the Flyers are excited about.
 
“Our whole staff really liked the guy,” Hextall said. “He’s an extremely intelligent player, his No. 1 asset. Really smart. Reads the ice well. He has a very deft touch moving the puck.
 
“Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing. We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
Frost’s father Andy was the longtime former Toronto Maple Leafs PA announcer.
 
“I talked to them a couple times,” Frost said. “I’d say I had a bit of a gut feeling. I wasn’t too sure, but they took me and I’m super happy about it.
 
“I think first and foremost I’m a playmaker. I think I’m a high-skilled player that likes to use his vision and hockey sense to create plays. I’m working on becoming more of a two-way forward. That’s more of the player I want to become.”