After leaving imprint on Flyers, Mark Streit soaks in 'special' return as rival

After leaving imprint on Flyers, Mark Streit soaks in 'special' return as rival

Mark Streit had taken this walk so many times before.

For three and a half seasons, Streit walked down this hallway in the bowels of the Wells Fargo Center and hung a quick right into the Flyers' locker room before a morning skate or a game.

But Wednesday morning was different.

Instead of hanging that quick right into the Flyers' locker room, Streit kept walking down this hallway, almost until he reached the end. He then made a left and then a sharp right into the Villanova basketball locker room, aka the NHL visiting locker room, to put on his still-fresh black and gold gear for morning skate.

No longer the elder statesman on the Flyers' blue line after a pair of trade deadline day deals two weeks ago, Streit returned to South Philly on Wednesday for the first time as a member of the heated intrastate rival Penguins.

"It's a special feeling. I'm excited for tonight," Streit said Wednesday morning after the Pens finished up their morning skate hours before a 4-0 loss to the Flyers (see game story).

"I had a great time here. I mentioned that a few times. It was a great experience playing for the Flyers. A lot of young guys came up and they're doing well. It's a good feeling when you can help somebody in their career."

Signed as a free agent to a four-year deal in the summer of 2013, Streit gave the Flyers' blue line some offensive punch with 30 goals and 110 assists for 140 points in 274 regular-season games, all while being a steady, reliable presence. He even wore the "A" as a Flyers alternate captain for three seasons.

In his time in Philadelphia, Streit played the mentor role to a plethora of Flyers' young defensemen, taking them under his wing and showing them how to be a pro in the NHL.

"I think from the first time you meet Mark, and even [Nick Schultz], they're professionals every day," Brandon Manning said. "I think a couple years ago when I had call-ups and the team wasn't making the playoffs, you see that professionalism day in and day out with a guy like that.

"He's definitely one of those guys you want to have around. It's tough to lose him. But he was great for a lot of us and he kind of shows the way you should treat people and how people deserve to be treated. And he's someone who respects the game."

Streit's final protégé with the Flyers was rookie Ivan Provorov, who is averaging a few ticks under 22 minutes a night and played a career-high 27:17 against the Penguins on Wednesday.

"Playing with him a little bit through the preseason and this year definitely helped me," the 20-year-old said. "Just seeing how he takes care of his body and how he is in the locker room and on and off the ice. He's just one of those guys you can take up as an example."

On March 1, Streit, an impending unrestricted free agent, was dealt to Tampa in a deal that netted the Flyers second-line center Valtteri Filppula and a fourth-round pick and seventh-round pick in the upcoming NHL entry draft. About an hour later and just minutes before the 3 p.m. trade deadline, the Lightning sent Streit to Pittsburgh for a 2018 fourth-round pick.

"I never really got in touch with Tampa. I just talked to my agent and he basically told me to hang tight and that something else might happen," Streit explained. "And that's what I did. It was a crazy day. I never experienced that. It was a long day.

"I knew something else was going to happen. But I didn't exactly know where it was going to be. I kind of had to wait. And then an hour later, it was Pittsburgh. So it was a crazy afternoon, for sure.

"But I have a great opportunity with a great team. So I'm excited and I'm going to embrace it, as well. The transition was smooth. All the guys were really nice and it's been fun so far."

Streit has stepped into an important role with Pittsburgh and has made an impact with a goal and three assists in seven games. And the Pens needed him as their defensive corps has been shredded with injuries to Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley.

Streit himself had an injury scare during the Penguins' previous game, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Flames in Calgary on Monday night. He blocked a shot and left the game after playing only 5:09. He was sent to the hospital for tests for what the Pens called a "lower-body injury," but was later released and flew home to Pittsburgh with the team.

A game-time decision against the Flyers, Streit zoomed through warmups and felt well enough to play against his former club for the first time.

Streit saw 20:22 of ice time and recorded one shot, a clean look just below the faceoff dot that Steve Mason snuffed out with his right pad, one of 23 saves the Flyers' netminder made on the night.

"It was different and kind of special," Streit said after the game of his return to Philadelphia. "It's not easy when you play your former team and you've been here three and a half years."

At the under-10-minute TV timeout in the first period, a video montage of Streit's best moments as Flyer played on the Wells Fargo Center jumbotron as the fans in the stands, mostly clad in orange, applauded.

When the video was over, those same orange-clad fans cheered and Streit's teammates, both his current ones with the Penguins and his former ones with the Flyers, tapped their sticks against the boards in salute as Streit was shown on the big screen.

"I didn't expect it and I thought it was really nice and it showed a lot of class," Streit said of the video tribute. "It's a big honor. I was surprised and it was really nice of them."

In a rivalry like Flyers-Penguins, trash talking floods the ice at almost every turn. It's natural when these two teams meet. Something would be wrong if it weren't like that.

Streit admitted he was on the receiving end of some friendly chatter from his former mates during Wednesday's game.

"It's tough when you know all those guys pretty well," Streit said with a chuckle. "It's tough not to talk because all the other guys are talking to you. I just try to stay in the game as much a possible. Obviously, the other guys are talking the whole night. … I'm not a really good trash talker out there."

Everybody chirps during these Flyers-Penguins games, even the younger defensemen whom Streit mentored with the Flyers.

Streit was flattered by the compliments those younger defensemen sent his way and is proud to have made an impact on their careers.

"It's really nice of them," Streit said. "They're great players and have a great future. I'm happy if I influenced them, even a little bit and even if it's just one thing. They're great players with bright futures ahead of them and they're still young.

"They're doing great and I'm happy to see that."

Streit admitted Wednesday's return was a bit tough for him. But he's relieved it's now over and he can focus on the Penguins' playoff run. As of Thursday morning, the Penguins are just two points behind the Capitals for the top spot in the NHL and have a more-than-legitimate shot to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.

"It was special, but it's done with and I'm looking forward to the next games with the Penguins and hopefully getting back on a winning note," Streit said.

Best of NHL: Streit scores during Penguins debut in win over Lightning

Best of NHL: Streit scores during Penguins debut in win over Lightning

PITTSBURGH -- Mark Streit made an instant impact in his debut with Pittsburgh, beating Peter Budaj early in the third period to lift the Penguins to a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.

Evgeni Malkin scored twice off assists from Phil Kessel and added an assist of his own in his 700th career game as Pittsburgh snapped a two-game losing streak. Justin Schultz had a goal and an assist and Tom Kuhnhackl put in an empty-netter for the Penguins as they swept the season series from the Lightning.

Matt Murray finished with 27 saves as Pittsburgh pulled back into a tie with Columbus for second place in the crowded Metropolitan Davison.

Adam Erne picked up his first NHL goal for Tampa Bay and Nikita Kucherov collected his 28th, but the Lightning lost precious ground in the scramble for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Budaj stopped 30 shots in his first start with the Lightning after coming over in a trade from Los Angeles (see full recap).

Streaking Blackhawks beat Isles in shootout
CHICAGO -- Artemi Panarin scored with 1:14 left in regulation and then had the clinching goal in the shootout, helping the Chicago Blackhawks beat the New York Islanders 2-1 on Friday night for their sixth consecutive victory.

Jonathan Toews also scored in the tiebreaker as Chicago pulled within one point of idle Minnesota for the top spot in the Western Conference. Corey Crawford made 31 saves in his first start since Feb. 23.

After Toews beat Thomas Greiss with a wrist shot, Crawford turned away Joshua Ho-Sang. Patrick Kane was stopped by Greiss and Nikolay Kulemin shot it off the right post before Panarin finished off the victory for the Blackhawks.

Greiss made 30 stops for New York, and Brock Nelson scored his 14th goal in the second. The Islanders had won four of five, including a 5-4 victory at Dallas on Thursday night (see full recap).

Flames top Red Wings in OT for 6th straight win
CALGARY, Alberta -- Mikael Backlund scored in overtime after Detroit's Tomas Tatar tied it with 1.8 seconds left in the third period, and the Calgary Flames beat the Red Wings 3-2 on Friday night for their sixth straight win.

After Michael Frolik and Johnny Gaudreau nearly scored earlier in OT, Backlund blasted a shot past Petr Mrazek 3:56 into the extra session.

Kris Versteeg and Matthew Tkachuk also scored for Calgary, and Brian Elliott made 35 saves. The Flames are six points up on Los Angeles and seven points ahead of St. Louis for the first wild card in the Western Conference.

Darren Helm also scored for Detroit. The Red Wings opened the night 10 points out of a playoff spot and last in the Eastern Conference (see full recap).

Ron Hextall: Valtteri Filppula 'makes plays,' will 'upgrade' Flyers

Ron Hextall: Valtteri Filppula 'makes plays,' will 'upgrade' Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Everyone knew there was a good chance the Flyers would try to move Mark Streit at the trade deadline.

What no one expected, however, was that they would trade him to Tampa Bay for a player who is coming back with a salary nearly identical to the one they're losing, but with a year left on his contract.

That's the shock reaction to Wednesday's trade deadline deal that sent Streit initially to the Lightning in exchange for longtime swing forward Valtteri Filppula, who will earn $5 million next season at age 33.

Streit was then flipped to Pittsburgh (see story).

Beneath the shock, there's more to this deal.

"This kid gives us flexibility because centers are really hard to find," general mnager Ron Hextall said. "Most teams have four or five centermen. This kid gives up depth and options. He is highly competitive and competes on pucks. He makes plays."

Streit, whose contract ends this summer, was making $5.25 million.

Because Filppula, who spent eight years in the Detroit Red Wings organization, had a no-movement clause, he has to be protected this summer in the NHL expansion draft. Hextall said he was going to do that, anyway.

The Flyers also received a fourth-round pick and a conditional seventh-round pick that was locked in once Streit went to Pittsburgh, which Hextall admitted he knew was possible.

Streit had a no-movement clause but these teams were both on his list of 10 clubs to which he could be traded.

Last week, Hextall said he was not looking to be a buyer at the deadline, but a seller. On Wednesday, he said Streit was the only UFA he was able to move.

"On July 1, you don't get a player like this on a one-year deal," Hextall said of Filppula. "The money, you won't get this type of player on a one-year deal, which was attractive to us. We know what we have coming."

One piece Hextall knows the Flyers have coming is Swedish left winger Oskar Lindblom, who should be on the roster next fall.

"We're not going to buy at the expense of giving away assets," Hextall said. "Mark Streit was a terrific human being. A really good character person we valued getting up in age (39 years old) a little bit."

Filppula will add some scoring but help more with playmaking. He's had declining numbers since his career 2013-14 season in Tampa when he posted personal bests in goals (25) and points (58). Filppula (plus-1) has seven goals and 34 points this season.

"It's not necessarily about the amount of points you get," Hextall said. "It's about the plus-minus points you get and give up. The game is not about outscoring a team, 7-6. It's about two-way hockey … he's one of those guys who helps you win hockey games.

"He'll fit in this group and he's an upgrade. The cost was, we felt, reasonable. You connect the dots in the middle. The centermen are the guys who make the wingers better."

One benefit here is that Filppula, who won a Stanley Cup with Detroit, will take pressure off Claude Giroux, who has been a minus player on the road this season. This should create a better matchup for Giroux.

"If you have three guys that match up, you can pretty much match one of the three up all game," Hextall said. "If you have one or two, it's pretty difficult. Whenever you add guys who can match up against top lines, it's going to help your team."

Filppula can help the Flyers transition to a younger club. He centered Jonathan Drouin and Ryan Callahan parts of this season. He'll be slotted as a second-line center. Hextall considers him top six or nine.

"We've got good players in the organization," Hextall said. "There aren't many pure scorers. We prefer all hockey players. How many Alex Ovechkin's are there, [players that] score 40 to 50 goals a year?

"Valtteri makes plays. Talk about a scorer. A scorer is not real good when someone is not making plays to him."

He also believes Filppula could make a difference in the Flyers' stretch run.

"We're in a tough spot, I understand that," Hextall said. "Can we make the playoffs? Yes, I believe we can. Do we have to go on a lights-out run? Absolutely. And we did last year."

Loose pucks
Because of salary cap issues, the Flyers agreed to pick up 4.7 percent of Streit's salary. When Streit got flipped, Tampa picked up half of his salary. … Hextall announced that Michael Raffl will miss six to eight weeks with a lower-body injury (see story).