Flyers

Best of NHL: Bruins lock up playoff spot with 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Bruins lock up playoff spot with 6th straight win

BOSTON -- David Pastrnak scored twice, Tuukka Rask stopped 28 shots and the Boston Bruins clinched their first playoff berth since 2014 with a 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Drew Stafford and Zdeno Chara also scored for the Bruins, who extended their season-high winning streak to six games. More importantly, by winning in regulation, Boston guaranteed a return to the postseason after missing out the last two years.

Boston fans celebrated by cheering throughout the final two minutes. After the final horn, the Bruins joined in by swarming Rask following his career-best eighth shutout of the season.

Rask faced only four shots in the first period but was ready when the Lightning generated pressure after that.

Andrei Vasilevskiy kept Tampa Bay close with 34 saves (see full recap).

Penguins dominate Blue Jackets to help playoff seeding
PITTSBURGH -- Patric Hornqvist picked up his 20th goal of the season, Matt Murray finished with 37 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins sped past the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 on Tuesday night.

Jake Guentzel and Carter Rowney also scored for Pittsburgh. Brian Dumolin added his first regular season goal in more than two years as the Penguins moved three points ahead of Columbus in the race to have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Pittsburgh won its third straight to inch closer to opening its Stanley Cup defense at home thanks in large part to Murray and offensive contributions from unexpected places.

Brandon Dubinsky scored short-handed for Columbus. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 23 shots but the Blue Jackets dropped a season-high fourth straight and have ceded control of the second seed in the Metropolitan Division to Pittsburgh with three games to go (see full recap).

Wild eliminate Hurricanes with 5-3 win
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two goals and an assist to lead Minnesota to a 5-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night that clinched second place in the Central Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the Wild.

Zach Parise scored and had two assists, and Eric Staal also added two assists to give the Wild's first line eight points. Charlie Coyle scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period, and Devan Dubnyk shook off a shaky first period to stop 27 shots for his 39th win.

Jeff Skinner scored twice to set a career high with 35 goals and Lee Stempniak had a goal and an assist, but the Hurricanes were eliminated from postseason contention on a night when they took their third straight loss.

Cam Ward made 31 saves for the Hurricanes (see full recap).

Andrew MacDonald out 4-6 weeks with lower-body injury

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AP Images

Andrew MacDonald out 4-6 weeks with lower-body injury

A roster spot for Samuel Morin appears to have opened up.

Andrew MacDonald will miss 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall announced Sunday. MacDonald will likely land on injured reserve.

The injury likely occurred midway through the third period against the Oilers on Saturday, when MacDonald blocked a Mark Letestu slap shot with 10:48 left in regulation and 1:44 left on an Edmonton power play.

MacDonald hobbled around on basically on one leg before being able to clear the puck and make it to the bench after 44 seconds. MacDonald blocked a game-high six shots Saturday.

“You just got to get up,” MacDonald said after the Flyers’ 2-1 win. “If you don’t get up, it’s 5-on-3. There are other opportunities that can arise from it. Do your best and try to hang in there. Wait for some help. Wait until you clear it. Everyone battles through it.

“You take a shot. You just get up, get back in there and help your guys.”

With MacDonald injured, the Flyers now have six defensemen. Brandon Manning has been a healthy scratch the past two games as Travis Sanheim drew back into the lineup.

The Flyers have yet to make a corresponding roster move, but considering Morin nearly made the team out of training camp and hung around for the four-game season-opening West Coast trip, it’s a safe assumption that Morin will find his way back to the NHL.

Morin had a goal and an assist for the Phantoms on Saturday night, an assist Friday night and points in all his three games in Lehigh Valley.

If Morin does come back up, the question is will he play?

The Flyers were reluctant to play three rookie defensemen on their season-opening trip and scratched both Sanheim and Morin for the season opener.

Things have changed now, though. MacDonald is third on the Flyers in ice time, averaging 19:36 while playing with Ivan Provorov, who will now find himself with a new partner.

Dave Hakstol could insert Manning into the lineup, which is a strong possibility. How Hakstol draws up his pairings remains to be seen, though it’s unlikely he’ll break up Shayne Gostisbehere and rookie Robert Hagg. It’s possible Provorov finds himself with Manning or Morin, or perhaps Radko Gudas. We’ll know more after Monday’s practice.

Calling up Morin is not Hextall’s only option. The Flyers also have T.J. Brennan in the AHL, who is a better fit as a seventh defenseman.

Scott Laughton credits longtime skating coach Dawn Braid for NHL rebirth

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USA Today Images

Scott Laughton credits longtime skating coach Dawn Braid for NHL rebirth

After spending nearly the entire 2016-17 campaign at Lehigh Valley, Flyers center Scott Laughton looks like a whole different player this season. But the demotion and time spent in the minor leagues aren’t the only reasons behind his NHL rebirth.

Laughton also became a far better skater.

Through eight games, Laughton has two goals and one assist with a plus-one rating – hardly the kind of numbers that typically garner a lot of attention. However, the former first-pick is centering a quality fourth line for the Flyers, a grouping that has been strong in its own end while also generating impressive offensive opportunities at the other. Laughton leads the club’s forwards in shorthanded time on ice as well, playing a huge role in a penalty-killing unit that’s managed to ward off all but one of the last 13 power plays it’s faced.

The difference is apparent, and Laughton knows it, too. Some of that comes with age and experience – he’s only 23, with 117 NHL games under his belt. Yet Laughton directs much of the credit for his growth on the ice to his longtime skating coach, Dawn Braid.

“Worked with the same skating coach I have been for the last six, seven years,” Laughton said Friday of his offseason regimen. “She actually just got hired with Arizona. She was a skating coach there.

“I've been working with her. I did a lot of tight edges, a lot of tight work, and I did a lot of crossovers to try and develop speed. I think everything kind of comes together though — your off-ice training combined with that — and just getting stronger as I get older. I'm getting older and coming into my body.”

A former figure skater, Braid was named the Coyotes' skating coach in August of 2016, become the NHL’s first full-time female coach in the process. From the sound of things, the hiring was long overdue.

Braid had built a following around the league, and from players vastly more acclaimed than Laughton.

“She works with (Islanders center and four-time All-Star) John Tavares and helped him,” Laughton said. “She's got (Stars center Jason Spezza). She's got a bunch of guys. A lot of guys go to her. She's like Barb Underhill in Toronto. They were partners.

“I've been skating with her since I was in first year of juniors, so I really like her.”

It sounds like Laughton is getting an education in more than how to be better on his skates. As Braid has worked with more NHL stars and teams, she’s began teaching more than just being quicker and more fluid on the ice.

There are applicable hockey lessons and techniques involved in their training.

“I think she's really incorporated puck work,” Laughton said. “It used to be no pucks. She watches game film and things like that, and sees what's going on in the game and tries to help you that way.”

Whatever Laughton is doing, it appears to be working. A year ago, he couldn’t crack the Flyers’ main roster, managing to appear in just two games. He finished with 19 goals, 20 assists and a plus-17 rating in 60 games for the Phantoms in 16-17, with an additional two goals and one assists in five playoff tilts. Despite finishing with a 39-33-10 record and missing the postseason, the big club never felt as though Laughton was needed.

It’s early into the 17-18 campaign, but it’s already difficult to imagine this Flyers squad without Laughton’s contributions – so give the assist to Baird on this one.