Flyers

Flyers free-agent target: Steve Ott

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Flyers free-agent target: Steve Ott

Each day from now until July 1, the day free agency begins, Sarah Baicker and Tim Riday will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.

Steve Ott, forward
Age: 31
Height: 6-0
Weight: 189
Last team: St. Louis Blues
2013-14 cap hit: $2.95 million

Scouting report
Ott, who was selected with the 25th-overall pick at the 2000 NHL draft by the Dallas Stars, is one of the grittiest players in the league. He won't light up the stat sheets, but he does a lot of little things well. He's a magician in the faceoff circle, can kill penalties and excels at throwing opponents off their game. He has a tendency to go overboard with his antics and physical play at times, but is a tremendous competitor with admirable determination. He can also play all three forward positions.

As a member of the Buffalo Sabres, Ott quickly became a fan favorite. He was named an alternate captain after the 2013 trade deadline and finished his first season with the Sabres with nine goals, 15 assists and 93 penalty minutes in 48 games. Before the 2013-14 season, Ott and Thomas Vanek were awarded captaincy of the team. However, Ott was dealt, along with goalie Ryan Miller, to St. Louis just prior to last year's trade deadline and struggled to find consistency with the Blues. He had just three assists in 23 regular-season games with St. Louis and had just two helpers in six postseason appearances.

Baicker's projection
Ott is a Flyers kind of hockey player. He's gritty, he can play both wings as well as center, he can take faceoffs and he can kill penalties. That's why it makes total sense that he's been linked to them in the rumor mill this spring. That said, while I understand the appeal, I don't think the Flyers should put effort into courting him. The Flyers don't need gritty, hard-workers on offense; they already have plenty. Money spent this offseason would be better spent on players who can score and help Claude Giroux's game -- and Ott isn't that guy.

Riday's projection
Ott is one of the guys you'd love to have on your team, but you hate when he's wearing opposing colors. In recent years, he's proved he can be much more than just an agitator. He emerged as a leader in Buffalo and toned down the reckless physical play that got him in trouble with the league earlier in his career with Dallas. He'll still take a bad penalty from time to time, but the other guy always seems to head to the box with him. He does everything with a purpose.

Ott's desire to win, work ethic and toughness are exactly the qualities that Flyers coach Craig Berube looks for from his forwards. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him used in a third- or fourth-line role, but I think it's doubtful he'll wind up in Philadelphia. As I mentioned before, I believe the Flyers would be better off going after a goal-scoring forward if they elect to upgrade their offense through free agency.

Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

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Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz had his third career hat trick to help the St. Louis Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Schwartz has four goals and six assists this season and has at least one point in six of the Blues' first seven games. It was his 51st career multi-point game and fourth this season.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, Kyle Brodziak also scored, and Jake Allen made 22 saves. The Blues snapped a two-game losing streak

Duncan Keith and Ryan Hartman had late goals for Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 28 saves (see full recap).

Maple Leafs ride big 1st period to win
TORONTO -- Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves in his season debut and the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four times in the first period in a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Starting in place of Frederik Andersen, McElhinney stopped 14 shots in the third period to hold off the Red Wings.

Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander scored to help Toronto improve to an NHL-best 6-1-0. The Maple Leafs were coming off a 2-0 victory at Washington on Tuesday night.

Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Ericsson scored for the Red Wings, and Nick Jensen had three assists.

Jimmy Howard gave up three goals on four shots before getting yanked in favor of Petr Mrazek late in the first period (see full recap).

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

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How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

For the first time in his nine-year career, Michal Neuvirth knows when he gets home at night after a game, there will be someone waiting for him with a smile.

Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to Neuvirth, or especially to his one-month-old daughter, Emily Gudasová Carolina.

“When you come home, there’s a baby waiting and it's such an amazing feeling that someone is waiting for you at home,” Neuvirth said after Tuesday's 5-1 win over Florida. “Last year, I was mostly here by myself, so I definitely like it better having a family with me now.”

Family now consists of his newborn daughter, his fiancee Karolína Gudasová and uncle Radko Gudas, Gudasová’s older brother and Neuvirth’s Flyers teammate.

To those of us on the outside, the responsibility of fatherhood seemingly has altered Neuvirth’s disposition. He smiles more, cracks a few jokes and elaborates just a little more with his answers to the media. Perhaps, he can tolerate us because there’s a deeper purpose and a sense of providing that comes with fatherhood.  

“It’s an amazing feeling being a dad,” Neuvirth said. “For me, I just have another motivation to play for my family now.”

Of course, it also helps I’ve yet to see Neuvirth yawn or show up to practice with bags under his eyes. He has escaped any late-night drama with an eight-day road trip to start the season, and for now, he apparently has a rare lifetime pass for any early morning feedings.  

“I have an amazing fiancee. She takes care of her (Emily) as much as she needs to,” Neuvirth said. “I usually put her to bed at 10-10:30. During the night, Karolina goes and feeds her in the living room, and I’m a deep sleeper, so she doesn’t wake me up.”

As Gudasová has kept an eye on the cradle, Neuvirth has secured the crease. He’s allowed three goals in his two starts this season with a .956 save percentage, which has initiated the debate for more playing time.

Interestingly, adapting to a new addition is something Neuvirth has also discussed with teammate and fellow netminder, Brian Elliott, who went through a similar set of circumstances with his son, Owen, last season in Calgary. Elliott called that first month with the Flames “a huge adjustment” and his October numbers reflected that.

Six games into the season, Neuvirth apparently has it all figured out. 

Of course, a good night’s sleep has a way of bringing clarity to the situation.