Voracek has moved on from time with Columbus

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Voracek has moved on from time with Columbus

When Jakub Voracek  recalls his days in Columbus, he doesn’t think about Scott Arniels’s comments in the spring of 2011 about him being an “out of shape” player.

He’s moved on.

Indeed, Voracek recalls the good times he had with Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard - his buddies.

“We had a great group of guys in Columbus,” Voracek said. “But I think they made the playoffs just once in 10 years and they needed a scorer to play with Nash and traded me for Jeff Carter. It was for me, personally, a good decision.”

Voracek was shipped to the Flyers the afternoon before the 2011 NHL draft in Minnesota along with two draft picks who became Sean Couturier and Nick Cousins.

On Saturday, Voracek and goalie Steve Mason return to Columbus for the first time as Flyers. Mason was traded here straight-up for Michael Leighton last April. It’s a homecoming in Ohio.

“I’m not going to lie,” Voracek said. “As soon as the schedule came out, I wanted to see when we went to Columbus. I got traded 2½  years ago and haven’t played there since. It’s going to be exciting for me and Mase. Ask me tomorrow after the morning skate how I feel. Maybe it’s just deja vu. I had three great years there. We had a good group of guys there. When I got traded, I moved on. I’m the kind of guy that everything happens for a reason. I’m here with a bunch of great guys and really enjoying it now.”

Mason beat his former teammates in that wild 5-4 Flyers’ comeback Thursday night in Philly. He will likely not be in goal tomorrow in Columbus as it appears Ray Emery will get the nod.

“I was definitely aware of where they were [on the schedule],” Mason said. “As the season has gone on, it’s not something that I’ve really looked ahead to. But now that it’s come out, it’s an exciting time.”

Neither player said they feel a need to prove themselves to Columbus.

“No, I have nothing to prove to that organization,” Mason said. “They gave me this chance to come here and start from scratch ... have that fresh opportunity. There’s no hard feelings whatsoever.”

Carter would eventually end up in Los Angeles and win a Stanley Cup with Mike Richards and the Kings, putting that much more of an exclamation point on the Voracek deal.

“I don’t look at it that way at all,” Voracek said. “I look at it as I got traded for a very good players and there were expectations for me. I think I am filling out those expectations so far. It’s my third year here. It’s very hard to win the Stanley Cup in this league. The NHL is the best league in the world. You got 30 teams try to win the Cup every year. You have to work hard every day. Go game by game. I’m sure this room has quality players and character to win the Cup.”

Mason’s lone regret was not being able to say goodbye to teammates in Columbus. Even his roommate.

“I was traded after practice one day and the same day we were supposed to be taking off to St. Louis or Nashville,” Mason recalled. “I was back at my place, living in the same building as a couple of the other guys. The other guys in the building were traded also. They were the only ones I got a chance to say goodbye to. I roomed with R.J. Umberger for five years, never got a chance to say goodbye.”

Mason saw Umberger this week in Philly, had dinner with him, and caught up on things he was unable to say last spring.

Both Mason, who won a Calder Trophy in Columbus and thought things would come easily thereafter, and Voracek have advanced themselves as Flyers, professionally and personally.

Mason has found his game again and seems very relaxed despite some recent hiccups in net. Voracek has made great strides in changing his “pass the puck” mentality, focusing on a a shooting mentality that now makes him the elite threat the Flyers projected.

“When I was there, I was still a kid, 19 or 20,” Voracek said. “I wouldn’t say I was a bad boy off the ice, but I was a young kid playing in the NHL and I think I had some successful years there. Put it this way – it didn’t hurt me to get traded. It’s so different now. They changed the organization from the GM to the defensemen to the goalies to the forwards that it’s like four or five players that I played with are part of the team.

“I don’t feel any [animosity] towards the people there or management or team right now. It’s an NHL game, just try to help the team win.”

Loose pucks
Michael Raffl missed practice with a scheduled maintenance day off. Today was also the last day he could visit with his father who returned to Europe. ... Coach Craig Berube on Claude Giroux's game-winning goal: "Certain guys can do that. I'm not one of them." ... Hal Gill has been a healthy scratch 20 consecutive games. He walked into the dressing room singing Christmas songs. … Vinny Lecavalier skated and said he felt very good. He remains optimistic of returning to the lineup for the post-Christmas trip to Western Canada.

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).

Tanner Laczynski's development not being lost in sweet freshman year at Ohio State

Tanner Laczynski's development not being lost in sweet freshman year at Ohio State

TORONTO — First semester of college can often be a challenge for many students, but for Tanner Laczynski, the experience was a sweet one — literally. 

Part of Laczynski’s course load at Ohio State was “Chocolate Science.” According to the course website, students receive an “introduction to science and business of chocolate. Students develop and market a chocolate product as part of a virtual company. Students taste commercial products.” 

Laczynski, who plans to declare his major in business in his second semester, got a lesson in chocolates from around the world during the course. 

“Chocolate Science wasn't bad,” Laczynski said with a laugh a few weeks ago. “All I did was eat chocolate and write a paper about it. There's lots of different chocolate, and they all taste good.” 

Growing up 43 miles outside of Chicago in Shorewood, Illinois, Laczynski wasn’t a big football fan, saying there wasn’t much to cheer for with respect to the Bears, but since relocating to the Buckeye State, he’s taken up interest in the local team. 

“That's a big part of it,” Laczynski said of attending OSU. “I've been to two games, they haven't been the strongest opponents so kind of blowouts.” 

Laczynski was in the middle of a nap when the Flyers used their sixth-round pick to select him on the second day of the 2016 NHL draft. He was admittedly startled to be woken up by his parents, Ken and Dawn, along with sister Payton and brother Hayden.

“I'd just gotten back home from coaching some kids, it was early in the morning, came back, took a nap and my parents were all excited,” Laczynski said. “I was still tired from my nap, but woke up pretty quick. 

“They just kind of attacked me so I was kind of like, 'What's going on?' at first. That was unbelievable and it's a moment I won't forget."

After a quick phone call from his agent, Flyers amateur scout Nick Pryor and John Riley, in charge of player development in Philly, were on the phone to welcome Laczynski to the club. 

This season, the 19-year-old had six goals and 16 assists in 15 games prior to leaving to join Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships.  

The under-20 tournament is the third time Laczynski has represented the U.S. internationally. He also wore Team USA colors for the under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and the under-19 World Junior A Challenge.

Through the first six games at the world juniors, Laczynski tallied one goal and an assist. He missed the semifinals against Russia because of an illness but was in the lineup as the Americans defeated the Canadians 5-4 in a shootout to win gold.

Despite being just three months into his first year at OSU, the Flyers remain in constant communication with their prospect. 

“I talk to John Riley quite a bit, he's always in contact with me sending me game film and sending me clips of NHL highlights and stuff like that,” Laczynski said. “We keep in touch, it's a relationship and it's nice to keep in touch with him.”

During his freshman season, skating has been an area of focus for the 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward.

“I think my big thing is my first couple steps, just my quickness, stopping, getting back on it. I think that's my biggest thing,” he said. “Once I get that down, I feel like I have the speed, but just build an extra step, just improve on that, I think that'll be a tremendous help to my game.” 

Laczynski, who spent three seasons in the USHL prior to committing to the Buckeyes, said he tries to model his game after one-time Flyer Jaromir Jagr. 

“He's kind of the guy that I watched a lot just because of his puck protection and everything,” Laczynski said. “I try to kind of use my body to protect the puck down low and create some chances in the offensive zone. 

“He's got a really good stick — I try to watch that and have an active stick in the defensive zone and offensive zone, as well.” 

In his conversations with Riley and Pryor, the expectations for Laczynski are clear.

“Their goal for me is just to consistently play nine out of 10 nights instead of that seven out of 10 nights and get my game elevated a little bit more, play more consistently,” Laczynski said.

“I think that's the biggest thing.”