NHL

Flyers' Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny added to Team Canada roster

Flyers' Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny added to Team Canada roster

Team Canada will definitely have a Flyers feel to it this spring at the IIHF World Championships in France and Germany.
 
General manager Ron Hextall and Hockey Canada officially announced their first 18 players on Wednesday afternoon and it includes two more Flyers: Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier.
 
Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds confirmed their participation last week. So that's four Flyers going to Europe for coach Jon Cooper and his assistant, who happens to be Flyers coach Dave Hakstol.
 
"It’s always special when you get to represent your country, and you can see it from the quality of our initial list of players who will join us at Worlds," Hextall said.
 
"Between them, these players have made 17 appearances at this very event, including nine players who've come away as gold medalists for Canada, and they can play a big role in helping set the tone for this team.
 
"Our coaches have a lot to work with, and we will be ready to ice a competitive team in Paris for our opening game on May 5."
 
The remainder of the first group announced so far: Eric Comrie, Calvin Pickard, Tyson Barrie, Calvin De Haan, Jason Demers, Michael Matheson, Josh Morrissey, Alex Killorn, Nathan MacKinnon, Brayden Point, Mark Scheifele, and Jeff Skinner.
 
Team Canada will play the Swiss in a pre-tournament game May 2 in Geneva, Switzerland. Its first tournament game is May 5 against the Czech Republic in Paris.

Ron Hextall prefers short-term veteran goalie, disagrees with Mason's platoon thoughts

Ron Hextall prefers short-term veteran goalie, disagrees with Mason's platoon thoughts

VOORHEES, N.J. -- It has been the single biggest area of discussion so many times over the course of Flyers history, ever since Bernie Parent and Ron Hextall retired.

What about the goaltending?

That question remains on the front burner this summer and Thursday, Hextall offered little clarity on the issue yet indicated he would prefer to add another veteran on a short-term deal either via free agency or trade.

Which means the Flyers could be signing their 54th goaltender all-time in the months ahead.

"We'll work through our process here and in the end, we'll figure out what's our best option for next year and the following year and after," the general manager said at Flyers Skate Zone. "We do have kids coming, and I think everybody knows it. 
 
"I don't have a lot of interest in getting into a long, drawn-out deal with a goaltender, but again we'll look at our options and move when we feel it's our best option at the appropriate time."
 
Hextall isn't certain whether Anthony Stolarz, who sustained a lower-body injury Wednesday with the Phantoms and is on crutches, can handle being a full-time backup next season.
 
Stolarz played well in seven games, yet both Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol considered that a "small sample" only.
 
While Hextall remains open to re-signing Steve Mason, he emphatically shot down Mason's criticism of the "platoon" system and gave strong support that he expects Michal Neuvirth to rebound next season from a poor performance.
 
Asked if he's comfortable with Neuvirth and Stolarz, Hextall gave pause.
 
"That's a question still to be answered," he replied. "We'll use the best option that's realistic for us. Obviously, you've got salary cap, you've got term. There's a lot of factors that go into this. It's not just one."
 
So what's the future?
 
"I don't know," Hextall replied and then reiterated what he said before.
 
Mason said he wants to return but not in a platoon situation. He feels it's paramount to know who the No. 1 is in net.
 
"I guess if you ask the Pittsburgh Penguins right now, they'd say you need two, right?" Hextall said, referring to Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray, who was injured in warmups before Game 1 Wednesday against Columbus. 
 
"Neuvy and Mase last year were terrific. This year they weren't as good. It worked two years ago. I think Mase played 58 games this year. He played the biggest part of the workload.  You have to have two goalies."

Hextall said Mason had to realize no job is yours forever.
 
"The way pro sports work, the way we work, you earn your ice time," Hextall said. "So, whether you're a defenseman, a forward, a goalie, you earn your ice time. Mase has been pretty much our goalie for the last four or five years.
 
"He's done a good job for us. He played the bulk of the game as he did this year. I know Mase has his thoughts and we all have our thoughts, but he played 58 games this year. … Mase would want to know if he's No. 1, Neuvy would want to know if he was No. 1, but you've still got to earn your ice time."
 
Twenty-two of Mason's starts, however, were necessary because Neuvirth was injured and Hakstol was reluctant to throw his trust behind Stolarz.
 
"Well, but understand when Mase plays a lot of those games, maybe he's starting to wear down and needs a break, so when Neuvy comes back, you're going to give Neuvy a few games," Hextall said.
 
"I've seen coaches try to say before the season, Mase, Neuvy, Mase. Try to dictate the whole season before the year and you look back and it's almost laughable. It doesn't happen. It's not a perfect science."
 
If you sense Hextall has issues with Mason's mental strength, he actually doesn't.
 
"I'd say it's 80 percent [mental strength]," Hextall said. "There's a lot of goalies in the minors with NHL ability. What's separating them?
 
"The mind. Mase has been in the league for what now, 10 years? Nine years? He's good. Mase is a good goalie. I've got respect for Mase."
 
Neuvirth has a new two-year contract. The way Hextall was talking, he's coming back. Which means the club will gamble and expose Stolarz in the expansion draft.
 
Hextall expects a strong bounce-back from Neuvirth next season.
 
"I think it's human nature," Hextall said. "You have an off year, you're that much hungrier the next summer, you work harder and you're that much more focused come September. I had meetings with Neuvy a couple of times this year, including a couple days ago.
 
"I really believe Neuvy is going to come back focused. He was really good for us last year. This year he was kind of reflective of our team. He was inconsistent. … I expect Neuvy to come back and be a really good player for us. In saying that, we need two guys."

Best of NHL: Capitals beat Rangers to clinch Presidents' Trophy again

Best of NHL: Capitals beat Rangers to clinch Presidents' Trophy again

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored and the Washington Capitals wrapped up their second consecutive Presidents' Trophy with a 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.

As Metropolitan Division champions, the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the team with the most points in the NHL, the Capitals wrapped up home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. It's their third Presidents' Trophy in the past eight seasons.

Ovechkin reclaimed the team lead in goals by scoring on the power play in the second period, beating Henrik Lundqvist from his trademark spot in the faceoff circle. Kuznetsov scored off the rush in the third period, and the best home team in the league beat the best road team thanks to a 24-save shutout from Vezina Trophy candidate Braden Holtby (see full recap).

Sabres snap Canadiens' 5-game win streak with 2-1 victory
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyler Ennis scored and the Buffalo Sabres closed their home schedule with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night to snap the Montreal Canadiens' five-game winning streak.

Robin Lehner stopped 31 shots in a game the Sabres hung on to win after building a 2-0 lead through two periods.

Tomas Plekanec scored for the Canadiens and Carey Price stopped 28 shots in what was essentially a mean-nothing game between two Atlantic Division rivals.

Buffalo has already been eliminated from playoff contention to extend the franchise's longest postseason drought to six years. The Sabres did hit a milestone by finishing with a 20-15-6 home record to reach the 20-win mark for the first time since a 21-12-8 finish in 2011-12 (see full recap).