Flyers

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Taylor Leier expected back tonight against Ducks

usa-taylor-leier-flyers.jpg
USA Today Images

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Taylor Leier expected back tonight against Ducks

VOORHEES, N.J. -- A big part of the Flyers' early-season success is the upgrade in their fourth line.

Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier have formed a fast, skilled and tenacious bottom three. Leier credits time spent at Lehigh Valley with the former first-round pick Laughton for much of the unit's chemistry early on.

"It's very comforting playing with Scott and Raff," Leier said after Tuesday's morning skate. "Me and Laughts grew up together in the AHL and now we're here together and that's a very comforting feeling. Being with a familiar face and familiar centerman."

While Leier and Laughton developed together with the Phantoms, Raffl was going through a tough, injury-riddled season with the big club. The 28-year-old forward's style of play has fit in nicely with his young linemates.

"Raf is so good down low," Leier said. "He's fast and he's strong. That complements me and Scott and we complement his game very well because we're fast and shifty and can hound pucks and be tenacious in the O-zone and retrieve pucks. He's so good in the corners and holding on to the puck and I think that's really good for me and Scott when we're buzzing around in the O-zone, trying to disrupt [the other team]. Overall, it's been fun to play with those two."

Leier missed Saturday's win over Edmonton with an upper-body injury suffered against Nashville last week, but it appears likely the 23-year-old will draw back into the lineup. The Flyers didn't do line rushes during the morning skate, but Matt Read and Jordan Weal were the last two Flyers on the ice. Weal will miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury.

"It feels good to be back," Leier said. "For any player, being injured is not a good feeling. It's good to be back."

Moose call
Brian Elliott will get the nod tonight against the Ducks, despite the recent success of Michal Neuvirth and the fact Elliott just started Saturday afternoon's win over the Oilers.

Neuvirth has just one win on the young season but has a microscopic 1.36 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage in three starts. 

It's not to say Elliott has played poorly. Since allowing six goals in the team's heartbreaking 6-5 loss in Nashville back on Oct. 10, Elliott has been solid in his last two starts. He's turned away 44 of the 47 shots he's faced and led the Flyers to two victories.

"I think both guys are playing well and both guys have contributed over the last week," head coach Dave Hakstol said. "We're happy with both of them. Like I said, both guys have done a real nice job for our team."

Fly Eagles Fly
Hakstol coached at the University of North Dakota for 11 years before accepting the head job with the Flyers.

He knows all about Eagles quarterback and NFL MVP candidate Carson Wentz, who spent his college days at North Dakota State.

Monday Night Football color analyst Jon Gruden, known for his superlatives, referred to Wentz as "North Dakota tough" during the team's 34-24 win over Washington.

What does "North Dakota tough" mean?

"You saw it in Carson Wentz last night. It's that simple," Hakstol said of Wentz. "Things get heated, things get tight, he seems to get calmer and more focused on the job at hand."

Capitals regain top spot in Metro as Ovechkin scores NHL-best 35th goal

usa-alex-ovechkin-washington-capitals-celebration.jpg
USA Today Images

Capitals regain top spot in Metro as Ovechkin scores NHL-best 35th goal

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Alex Ovechkin can stop fretting about what the Washington Capitals captain described as the worst game of his career.

He and the Capitals were much better in a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, two days after a 7-1 meltdown at Chicago.

After being held without a shot against Chicago, Ovechkin responded by scoring his NHL-leading 35th goal, and Washington reclaimed the top spot in the Metropolitan Division

"Yeah, I think the last game I didn't play my game. I think it was the worst play of my career by myself. I take the blame on it," Ovechkin said. "I think we understand the game in Chicago was just forget about it, you know. We moved forward. We got two points."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz noticed how much more involved Ovechkin was against Buffalo, particularly after a few early exchanges with Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (see full recap.)

Marchand's OT goal gives Bruins win over Flames 
CALGARY, Alberta — Brad Marchand scored his 22nd goal 3:36 into overtime to give the Boston Bruins a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Monday.

After a turnover deep in the Flames end, Riley Nash sprung the Bruins' leading scorer on a breakaway and Marchand made no mistake, slipping the puck through the pads of David Rittich.

David Pastrnak also scored for Boston (36-13-8), which moved within one point of Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Boston has two games in hand.

Matthew Tkachuk scored for the Flames (30-21-9), who fell to 1-3-4 in their last eight home games.

With the teams meeting for the second time in six days, Calgary was territorially outplayed by a wide margin in the first period but Rittich kept the Flames in it (see full recap.)

Cullen, Ennis star in Wild win against Islanders 
NEW YORK — Minnesota knows it needs to play better on the road to strengthen its push for a playoff spot. The Wild also want to do a better job of holding third-period leads than they have lately.

They accomplished both Monday against the New York Islanders.

Matt Cullen and Tyler Ennis scored in Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild beat the Islanders 5-3. Jason Zucker added two goals, Joel Eriksson Ek also scored, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 32 shots as Minnesota improved to 4-1-2 in its past seven games.

The Wild just lost three of five on their homestand, including twice when they gave up the tying goal in the third period before falling after regulation.

"Having the lead in the second and keeping it is really good for us," Zucker said (see full recap.)

Arvidsson scores twice in Predators' win vs. Senators 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Viktor Arvidsson scored twice to reach 20 goals this season, and the Nashville Predators beat the Ottawa Senators 5-2 on Monday night.

Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Craig Smith also scored for Nashville, which ended a two-game skid and tied Winnipeg for first place in the Central Division.

The Predators recorded two power-play goals and scored on the man advantage in their second straight game after going six games without converting on the power play.

Pekka Rinne made 36 saves to earn his 30th win of the season.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Max McCormick scored for the Senators, who played catch-up most of the game. Craig Anderson stopped 36 shots (see full recap.)

Goaltending help is on the way for the Flyers

ap-petr-mrazek-red-wings-flyers.jpg
AP Images

Goaltending help is on the way for the Flyers

With injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, the Flyers wasted no time in finding a competent goaltender.

General manager Ron Hextall acquired Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings late Monday night in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 and a conditional third-round pick in 2019. According to sources, the Flyers were also in discussions with Toronto regarding Calvin Pickard but ultimately settled for Mrazek.

“We’re excited to have obtained Petr Mrazek. Petr is a proven NHL goaltender and given the situation we’re in, we needed a proven goaltender and we got one,” said Hextall. 

Hextall confirmed if the Flyers make the playoffs and Mrazek wins five regular season games, the 2018 fourth-round pick becomes a third rounder. If the Flyers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and Mrazek wins six playoff games, the third-round pick then becomes a second rounder.

If the Flyers re-sign Mrazek for next season, then the Red Wings would also get the Flyers' third-round selection in 2019.

“Quite frankly when I look at this deal, I think it’s a fair and reasonable deal for both sides,” Hextall said. “If Petr performs, we pay more and Detroit gets more. I like the makeup of this deal. I think it’s a fair deal and I think both teams got what they wanted.”

Hextall had reportedly turned down Mrazek for a third-round pick last week, according to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, but that was prior to Neuvirth’s injury Sunday against the Rangers. Hextall also announced that Neuvirth is out “long-term” meaning weeks and not days, and quite possibly the remainder of the regular season.

As a backup to Jimmy Howard, Mrazek has appeared in 18 games this season with an 8-7-3 record, a 2.89 GAA and a .910 save percentage. In January, Mrazek posted back-to-back shutouts against the Blackhawks and the Devils before the Flyers snapped Mrazek’s shutout streak at 145 minutes and five seconds in a 3-2 overtime loss. 

The Red Wings will retain half of Mrazek’s $4 million salary in the deal, leaving the Flyers with a reasonable $2 million cap hit. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

Since Dec. 4, the Flyers are 21-8-3 and have climbed up the Metropolitan Division standings where they’re currently tied with the New Jersey Devils for third place with 70 points.

“This is a sign that our players have done a really good job,” Hextall said. “They’ve worked extremely hard. We’re in a tough situation. You lose your two goalies when you’re fighting for a playoff spot and our players have worked hard for a long time now. I didn’t feel like it was fair to not have a proven NHL goaltender for this team.” 

Mrazek is expected to join the Flyers for Tuesday's morning skate.