Versatile Bellemare a low-risk addition for Flyers

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Versatile Bellemare a low-risk addition for Flyers

Virtually no one in the Flyers organization was happy with Steve Downie on Sean Couturier’s line this past season.

Once the Flyers all but gave away their best penalty-killing forward in Max Talbot for Downie, they needed someone to complement Couturier and Matt Read on their third line.

They went the entire season without getting what they wanted from Downie.

Which brings us to Wednesday’s intriguing signing of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to an NHL contract (see story).

In other words, it's low risk, positive upside and minimal cost. That’s what the Flyers get out of it.

“Yes,” general manager Ron Hextall texted to CSNPhilly.com.

The Flyers have precious, little salary cap room (about $6.5 million) this summer to upgrade their roster, while still re-signing some of their own players.

Bellemare may represent a European shot in the dark, but hey, Elke Sommer was a pretty good bet in 1964, so who knows?

“He’s a versatile player,” Hextall said. “Can kill penalties and adds depth to our forward group.”

The 29-year-old native of Paris -- yeah, Paris but he’s not an artist -- spent five seasons with Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League and already has become a cult figure answer to a future trivia question: Who scored the game-winning goal for France against Team Canada in the 2014 IIHF World Championship preliminary round?

That would be Bellemare, as France won 3-2 in the shootout. Bellemare was a point-a-game player in the World Championships through eight games.

The 6-foot, 196-pound forward amassed 64 goals and 61 assists for 125 points in 238 games over five seasons with Skelleftea.

Bottom line: The Flyers took a chance on Michael Raffl this season. He he turned into a pleasant surprise, winning the Pelle Lindbergh Trophy, as voted by his teammates for the most improved player.

In his first season of North American play (on any level), Raffl scored nine goals and had 22 points in 68 games.

Bellemare appears to be cut in the same mold, and will handle some of the same responsibilities as Raffl.

Eliteprospects.com said of Bellemarer: An offensive winger who plays in high speed. Has good stickhandling ability and a good shot. Finds open space well and always works hard. A good penalty killer. Can also play center effectively, thanks to a strong two-way game.

Though details of his contract remain unknown, it’s likely Bellemare signed a one-year contract worth about $700,000.

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jonathan Toews had three goals and two assists and the Chicago Blackhawks beat rival Minnesota 5-3 on Tuesday night for their second win over the Western Conference-leading Wild in less than two weeks.

Toews notched his fourth career hat trick on an empty-netter with 1:02 left to stave off a spirited rally by the Wild, who began a franchise-record eight-game homestand on Feb. 8 with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks. Toews had a goal and two assists in that one and has 37 points in 35 career games against Minnesota.

Chicago's captain has been chewing up almost everyone else, too, with 20 points in his last 12 games. Toews' wing men Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik had the other goals, giving the Blackhawks 34 goals in their last eight games. Their first line totaled nine points.

Mikael Granlund's second power-play goal for the Wild brought them within 4-3, before Ryan Suter hit the crossbar with a shot that nearly tied it (see full recap).

Islanders open 9-game road trip with win
DETROIT -- Calvin de Haan was credited with a go-ahead goal that caromed off an opponent late in the second period and the New York Islanders went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 Tuesday night.

De Haan's shot from above the left circle was stopped by Petr Mrazek, but the rebound went off Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet and the back of the goaltender's left leg and into the net. John Tavares scored early in the third period to give the Islanders a two-goal lead and they coasted to the victory.

Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots for New York.

Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit and Mrazek finished with 19 saves.

The Islanders, in contention for a wild-card spot, began a stretch of nine straight road games by winning for the third time in four games and improved to 8-13-4 away from home (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins take care of Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sidney Crosby scored the go-ahead goal on a deflection in the second period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Evgeni Malkin and Scott Wilson also scored to help the reigning Stanley Cup champions bounce back from their only loss since the All-Star break. Pittsburgh moved three points behind East-leading Washington and is 7-1-3 since the break.

Jeff Skinner scored for the last-place Hurricanes, who have their second five-game losing streak in the past five weeks. They have been outscored 19-4 during the current slide.

Matt Murray made 29 saves for the Penguins while Cam Ward stopped 19 shots for Carolina (see full recap).

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Capitals

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Capitals

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jordan Weal participated in the Flyers' full practice Tuesday at Skate Zone but will remain out of the lineup against Washington on Wednesday with an apparent concussion.

He was nailed in Edmonton by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba. The hit in the corner came at 13:57 of the opening period.

Video replays show Gryba sandwiched Weal hard on the boards with Weal striking his head and right shoulder, then falling to the ice. Actually, Gryba hit him earlier in the period as well, but it was the second hit that seemed to go the most damage. 

Weal said both he and trainer Jim McCrossin agreed it was better to not return to the game after the second hit.

“He kind of drove me in pretty good there,” Weal said. “It’s a hockey play, though. Not much you can do.” 

The Flyers are being cautious with the head injury.

Coach Dave Hakstol was vague as to when Weal would re-enter the lineup. Weal had just been called up last week to replace Travis Konecny, who was placed on IR.

“I feel good,” said Weal, who took extra practice on Tuesday. “It definitely has been progressing every day. ... I’m day-to-day and as soon as I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go.

“It’s one of those injuries you just have to take your time with. I think when I feel I’m ready to play, I’ll be in.

“It’s frustrating. But it’s part of the game. With these injuries, it’s tougher than if it was, say your finger or your shin or something where you could put ice on it and get it better. You just have to treat it right and get back as quick as I can.”

Gudas’ departure
Defenseman Radko Gudas left early during what was a brief but long-delayed 45-minute practice on Tuesday.

What was noteworthy about Gudas’ departure, however, was that he picked up his gear and headed back to the dressing room while both trainers remained on the bench.

So he wasn’t injured.

Immediate speculation was that he might have been traded. An hour later, general manager Ron Hextall announced Gudas had had a dentist appointment to fix a broken tooth, incurred during the recent road trip.

Needless to say, Gudas’ leaving blew up Twitter with trade rumors.

Lower, lower body
Jake Voracek took a shot below the belt and couldn't stand for a few minutes near the end of practice. He remained in obvious pain in the dressing room and did not talk … as if he could.