Flyers

Flyers sign Michael Del Zotto to 1-year deal

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Flyers sign Michael Del Zotto to 1-year deal

It didn’t take the Flyers very long to fill the apparent hole left by defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

In fact, they got younger and quicker in a hurry, signing 24-year-old free agent Michael Del Zotto of Nashville, whose career has mostly been as a New York Ranger.

Del Zotto agreed to a one-year contract on Tuesday night. The deal is worth $1.3 million, which is about half of the $2.55 million he earned in 2013-14.

Timonen has blood clots in both lungs and his right lower leg. The uncertainty of his availability made it imperative that general manager Ron Hextall do something immediately.

Del Zotto (6-0, 194) is a former first-round pick -- 20th overall in 2008 -- of the Rangers, who had a very successful rookie year (2009-10) under John Tortorella with 37 points. Then, the left-handed shooting defenseman ran into a sophomore slump his next season when he fell out of favor with the club and was banished to the AHL. Some of it had to do with his lifestyle as a young player living in Manhattan.

Regardless, Del Zotto was among the Rangers' top four defensemen by 2011-12 and became even more valuable when Marc Staal was injured. He scored 10 points in 20 playoff games that spring.

“He gets up and down the ice very quickly,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said this past season.

The knock on him has always been his inability to maintain a consistent two-way game. It was why the Predators, who traded for him last January, were reluctant to commit to a long-term contract with him this summer, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.

When Alain Vigneault took over on Broadway, it was believed Del Zotto, a five-year veteran now, would reap the benefits of a fresh start under a new coach with more ice time and power-play responsibility.

It didn’t work out and GM Glen Sather decided to trade him to the Predators in January.

A longtime friend of former Flyer Steve Eminger, he has a lot of local ties to Philadelphia as Eminger and his wife live here.

The fact that Hextall gave him just a one-year deal indicates the Flyers are offering him the same carrot they gave Steve Mason -- here’s a job, earn it, play well and we’ll talk long term.

It worked for Mason. It’s up to Del Zotto to do the same.

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.