Youthful at 35, Mark Streit likes Flyers' grit

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Youthful at 35, Mark Streit likes Flyers' grit

At the tender age of 35, Mark Streit won’t dodge the fact that he’s not a rookie coming out of the NHL draft.
 
At the same time, how many other 35-year-old puck-moving defensemen do you know of who have played only seven seasons in the United States?
 
Most of the Swiss defenseman’s time has been spent in Europe, which means his body, in NHL years, is probably like 29.
 
Outside of missing the 2010-11 season with a labrum tear in his shoulder, Streit’s body hasn’t been exposed to the every night, physical punishment that is seen with every scar of those who play in the NHL.
 
That means, in theory, Streit has some solid years left on the blue line for the Flyers, who traded for him this summer from the Islanders before signing him to a four-year, $21 million contract.
 
“There is a big difference when you are 35 and have played 15 years [versus] playing eight,” Streit said during a news conference at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, including the one year he missed with the shoulder injury.
 
“The wear and tear is big in the NHL. I feel great, feel healthy," Streit said. "I had one unfortunate season with Islanders when I was hurt the whole year, but other than that, I played almost all games every year. I’m in good shape. I want to play a long time. I can help this team.”
 
Considering the uncertainty of Andrej Meszaros, with all his assorted and bizarre injuries over the last 18 months, the Flyers needed another body who could skate and move the puck.
 
“We added Mark, who is the type of defenseman we need,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “He can play on the power play. He can provide offense five on five.
 
“He gets up in the rush, he joins the rush and, at times, can lead the rush and make plays coming out of our end. [He’s] an offensive defenseman we felt we needed badly.”
 
The Islanders had a competitive showing in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins before losing.
 
“After the season, I felt it was time for me to move on,” Streit said. “I got traded to the Flyers. After the season, I was thinking about teams. I had a few teams on my mind. The Flyers were atop that list. I always loved playing against them.
 
“A great mix of younger and older players. A lot of skill and grit. It was tough to play against those guys. It’s a great hockey town. A great tradition.
 
“As soon as I [got] traded, I was hoping to get something done here. I’m excited. I’m thankful they gave me the opportunity. I’m thrilled.”
 
Combined with adding Ray Emery in goal, the Flyers have changed their look on the defensive end in terms of the breakout.
 
Along with Steve Mason, they now have two goalies who will play the puck to the defense instead of making the defense go the distance behind the net.
 
“I’m a puck-moving defenseman,” Streit said. “It goes hand-in-hand. You want to feed the forwards with good passes. You want to follow up the play and join the rush. There is so much skill here up front, such big potential. For me as a defenseman, it [is] fun to play here.
 
“The mix between skill and grit is how you win. You will not win with just skill or just grit. You need to have a healthy mix, which is why I am excited to be a Flyer.”
 
The Flyers defense should have more energy this season not battling against other teams' forecheck if their goalies do their job in assisting on dump-ins, etc.
 
This is something that Kimmo Timonen railed about for the past couple of years, especially when Ilya Bryzgalov was in goal.
 
“If you got a goalie back there who can play the puck and handle it and make plays, it makes it so much easier,” Streit said.  
 
“Offense starts with a good first pass. If the puck gets dumped in and goes past the net every time, you have to get past the forecheck.
 
“If he can stop the play, move it to the defense or off the glass, it’s the difference between being in your own end 20 to 30 seconds and losing a lot of energy and being out of the zone right away and creating offense.
 
“In today’s game it makes a huge difference. When your goalies handle the puck it makes it way easier.”
 
How much easier and how much of a difference it makes, we’ll see come October.

Gustafsson signed
Erik Gustafsson, who got his qualifying offer recently from the Flyers, signed a one-year deal worth $1 million.

Lauridsen too
The Flyers also agreed to terms with restricted free agent defenseman Oliver Lauridsen on a two-year deal Wednesday.

Lauridsen appeared in 15 games with the Flyers in 2013, registering two goals and one assist.

Best of NHL: Red Wings' 25-year playoff streak snapped in loss

Best of NHL: Red Wings' 25-year playoff streak snapped in loss

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Lee Stempniak and Joakim Nordstrom scored about five minutes apart in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 Tuesday night in the teams' second meeting in two nights.

Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm also scored for Carolina and Cam Ward stopped 21 shots. The Hurricanes have earned a point in 12 straight games (8-0-4) to move four points out of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.

The Red Wings beat the Hurricanes on Monday in a makeup game rescheduled from Dec. 19 when a Freon leak at PNC Arena made for unplayable ice. Tuesday's contest was regularly scheduled.

The postponement resulted in three games in the three days for the Red Wings. They won the first two but visibly struggled with their energy in the finale to snap a four-game point streak.

Tomas Nosek scored his first NHL goal and Jimmy Howard made 28 saves for Detroit (see full recap).

Rask backstops Bruins to important win over Predators
BOSTON -- Tuukka Rask made 24 saves in his return from a one-game absence and the Boston Bruins beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 on Tuesday night, boosting their playoff chances.

Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Noel Acciari and David Backes scored for the Bruins, who moved three points ahead of idle Tampa Bay for the second Eastern Conference wild card with six games remaining. Boston began the night a point behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Rask was sidelined with a lower-body injury for Boston's 2-1 road win against the New York Islanders on Saturday.

Bergeron's goal was his 18th of the season, and Krejci got his 22nd. Acciari scored his first career goal in 43 NHL games, Backes netted his 17th of the season and Zdeno Chara earned his 600th NHL point with an assist on Boston's first goal (see full recap).

Matthews sets rookie scoring mark in Leafs' win
TORONTO -- Auston Matthews broke Wendel Clark's 31-year-old franchise rookie record with his 35th goal of the season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

The victory kept Toronto (87 points) one point up on the Boston Bruins (86) for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and four up on the Tampa Bay Lightning (83).

Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves to earn the win for the Leafs. Leo Komarov and Zach Hyman also scored for Toronto.

James Reimer allowed two goals on 14 shots for Florida before he was knocked from the game with an injury and replaced by Reto Berra, who made 10 saves. Reilly Smith and Jaromir Jagr scored for the Panthers (see full recap).

Oshie's OT goal for Caps beats Wild after Ovi hat trick
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- T.J. Oshie scored his second goal of the game 1:42 into overtime to bookend Alex Ovechkin's hat trick, Braden Holtby earned his 40th win and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory.

After Eric Staal's goal for the Wild tied the game with 26.6 seconds left in regulation, Oshie took a pass in the left circle from Marcus Johansson and beat struggling Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk with a wrist shot. Johansson had four assists.

Martin Hanzal and Jason Pominville had a goal and an assist apiece, but the Wild lost for the eighth time in nine games and fell to 3-11-1 in March after forward Zach Parise exited early with an injury (see full recap).

Flyers win game over Senators, but fail to gain ground in wild-card race

Flyers win game over Senators, but fail to gain ground in wild-card race

BOX SCORE

It was a special night as 24-year-old Jordan Weal hoisted his team upon his young shoulders, saving the Flyers in regulation and then winning for them in the shootout.
 
Yet in the end, even though the Flyers defeated Ottawa 3-2, they still lost (see Instant Replay).
 
Lost where it counts most -- in the wild-card standings.
 
Boston's 4-1 win over Nashville kept the Flyers six points behind in the wild card, but more significantly, reduced the Flyers' tragic number to six.
 
Six Bruins points or six points lost by the Flyers moving forward will eliminate Dave Hakstol's club from the playoffs.
 
"The last five or six games, we've been playing pretty good," Wayne Simmonds said. "After I looked up and saw Boston win, it sucks."
 
These last four games -- including the loss to Columbus -- have seen the kind of consistency the Flyers have craved and not gotten enough of during the second half of the season.
 
Had they been playing this type of sound, focused hockey in late January through February, they'd own a playoff spot right now.
 
"Even before that, we were losing games we should have been winning," Michael Del Zotto said. "That's the beauty of the game: there's no easy games.
 
"Consistency is the biggest factor. The teams at the top of the standings have been consistent all year long … not stringing three or four losses in a row, which is tough to come back on, especially this year with our division playing so well."
 
These days, one Flyer playing with every-night consistency is Weal, the kid the LA Kings sent to the Flyers as part of the Vinny Lecavalier deal.
 
Ottawa's Kyle Turris broke a 1-1 tie with 7:25 left on a goal that Steve Mason never saw through a thick screen. It was a deflating moment given how hard the Flyers worked defensively.
 
Two minutes later, Sens goalie Craig Anderson tried to clear the puck from behind the net and Weal intercepted, then scored on empty net to tie, 2-2.
 
Ottawa challenged that Simmonds interfered at the net and lost. Simmonds skated to the post and effectively prevented Anderson from getting there in time.
 
"It's my ice. I got there before him. It doesn't matter so long as I'm not in the blue paint," Simmonds said. "He touched me. It's my ice. He ran into the back of me."
 
That set up overtime and a bunch of missed opportunities before Weal beat Anderson once more during the shootout to clinch it. He's 2 for 2 here in shootouts.
 
Weal has six goals in 18 games. He is playing aggressively above his 5-foot-8 or so height. He seems to have earned his keep for next season as a regular and not a call-up, which he's been since early February.
 
Asked if he felt he's cemented his position as a Flyer, Weal replied, "Not at all. No, this is one of the best leagues in the world. Nothing is given to you here. You've got to keep working all the time, year to year. Your position is never guaranteed."
 
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol likes what he has seen, but won't talk about Weal's future.
 
"He's earned everything he's got and continues to do that on a daily basis," Hakstol said. "I wouldn't say he's brought a different vibe or energy. He's brought energy in his own way and has been a good two-way player. He's scored some big goals for us. He's a reliable player, who generates and creates offensively."
 
Weal's play on Valterri Filppula's line with Simmonds has had a trickle-down effect on the lineup, creating better matchups for the Flyers. He's taken pressure off Claude Giroux's line, and particularly, Sean Couturier's unit with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn.
 
"They've been good together," Hakstol said of the Filppula unit. "Simmonds is playing some of his best hockey of the year, in terms of a power forward game.
 
"He's very tough to handle down low and that's adding an element for Fil and Wealer there. They seem to have chemistry here in the very short amount of time they've been together."
 
It's something for Flyer fans to look forward to next season. No one is talking about next season yet, but deep down inside, the players realize some of them need to make lasting impressions with the season running out on them.
 
The consistency in effort the Flyers have shown recently is exactly what they should have shown when it counted most -- right after the All-Star break.
 
"Yeah, you know we're competing hard," young Travis Konecny said. "We're not going to quit until the end of the season. That's the way we are. It's the character of our team. It's the things we've shown all year.
 
"Our games may not show it at times, our scores, but I think each and every night we always compete, we always battle. I think things are starting to happen for us. Pucks are starting to bounce the right ways for us and we're getting on the score sheet and it's helping us a lot."
 
What's not helping is all those teams ahead of them, especially Boston, are posting wins. Every two points Boston gets puts another dagger in the Flyers' side.
 
"Watching what other teams are doing is more stressful," Mason said. "Teams are going to win, teams are going to lose. But we obviously have to win and that's really all that matters."