Flyers

NHL Notes: Slimmer Alex Ovechkin makes early debut at Capitals' workouts

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NHL Notes: Slimmer Alex Ovechkin makes early debut at Capitals' workouts

ARLINGTON, Va. -- A slimmer, trimmer-looking Alex Ovechkin is back on the ice for summer workouts more than two weeks before the start of training camp.

The Russian superstar skated in an informal practice with Washington Capitals teammates on Tuesday and looked lighter than his playing weight of 239 pounds last season. If that's indeed the case, Ovechkin took to heart the challenge from general manager Brian MacLellan to train differently and add more speed to his game as he's about to turn 32.

A team spokesman said Ovechkin would not speak to reporters until the first day of training camp in September. But his teammates certainly notice a change in Ovechkin's physique.

"You can see he lost some weight," center Evgeny Kuznetsov said. "Every year you're trying to be better. You change something in the summer. Ovi's like other guys, too -- he wants to change something, right? It's always nice to see when your teammates get better. They change. They try something new."

Ovechkin is already trying something new by getting to the D.C. area in late August, which is earlier than usual for captain and 13-year pro. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and fellow Russian Dmitry Orlov all flew back together, joining goaltender Philipp Grubauer and others (see full story).

Devils: Butcher feels he is ready to play right now
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Will Butcher believes he is ready to play for the New Jersey Devils right now.

A day after signing a two-year, $1.85 million contract with the rebuilding Devils, the 22-year-old Butcher said he was ready to make the jump from being college hockey's top player to the NHL without a stop in the minor leagues.

Speaking on a conference call, the defenseman said he chose to sign with New Jersey because he felt good after meeting coach John Hynes and he thought the Devils' up-tempo system best fit his game.

Butcher was drafted in the fifth round by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013 at the Prudential Center -- the Devils' home rink. He became a free agent on Aug. 15 after failing to reach an agreement with Colorado, although the former University of Denver player said he knew by May he intended to test the free agent market.

After meeting with a number of teams, his decision came down to the Devils, Las Vegas, Buffalo and Los Angeles.

"It seemed like a great fit in how I wanted to play, and they saw me being in a better role with what they wanted to do there," Butcher said of choosing New Jersey. "It kind of reminded me a little bit of how we were going to play with my college hockey" (see full story).

NHL: Russian winger Zaripov cleared to pursue contract
Danis Zaripov will get the chance to take his talents to North America after the NHL approved the Russian winger's eligibility following a doping ban in the Kontinental Hockey League and international play.

The 36-year-old Zaripov is free to sign with any team and could be the latest established Russian player to make an immediate impact in the NHL. Agent Dan Milstein said Zaripov is looking for a one-year contract so he can prove himself.

"He's going to be a huge contributor to whatever team that he will choose," Milstein said.

Even that is only possible after the NHL ruled that the suspension by the KHL and International Ice Hockey Federation wouldn't have happened under its rules and found Zaripov eager to show he didn't intentionally use a banned substance.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Monday that Zaripov was cleared in part because pseudoephedrine is not on the NHL/NHL Players' Association prohibited substances list and that he was not allowed to testify at his hearing for the initial suspension . He added that the league approved Zaripov's status after the veteran forward testified last week and it reviewed evidence related to the suspension.

"I look forward to continuing my professional hockey playing career in North America, and today I am very grateful to the senior management of the NHL for its decision, which provides me the opportunity to do so," Zaripov said in a statement (see full story).

Flyers-Flames observations: Funk continues despite four goals

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Flyers-Flames observations: Funk continues despite four goals

BOX SCORE

Thursday night, the Flyers couldn’t hold on to a third period lead.

Saturday afternoon against the Flames, they Flyers coughed up a two-goal second-period lead, and Calgary won 5-4 in overtime. Michael Frolik scored the game winner from Micael Backlund.

The Flyers have dropped four straight, three by one goal. 

Flames center Sean Monahan scored a second-period power play hat trick in a span of 7 minutes and 49 seconds.

• Patrick had a prime opportunity to pick up a second goal in the third period when he collected a loose puck cutting across the crease, he just fired it over the net. This was Patrick’s best game in a Flyers sweater, as he was very active in the offensive zone.

• The Flames top line had so many quality chances. Right wing Michael Ferland had a shot from close range that Elliott snared. That top line had 12 shots on net through the first two periods, and for the most part, they were from close range. 

• Travis Konecny had some excellent chances, but his shot has been all over the place the past few games. He had an opportunity to give the Flyers a 5-4 lead but he shot over the net (again) and hit glass.

• Patrick looked a lot better than what we saw in the game in Winnipeg, as expected. In the second period, he had a nice backhand feed from his knees to Wayne Simmonds coming down the slot, as Simmonds had his best scoring opportunity in a long time. The Wayne Train’s shot hit Smith right in the midsection.  

• An unfortunate sequence at the 13:45 mark of the second period during 4-on-4 play. The Flyers had a 3-on-2 opportunity when Provorov sent a pass that was a little too far for Patrick. Provorov could have taken the shot himself.

• Gaudreau almost did it again as he read the puck and made a break towards center ice. Michael Ferland recognized it and tried to send a two-line backhand pass to Gaudreau but the pass was behind him and it slid all the way to Elliott. You almost need a free safety back there keeping an eye on the always sneaky Gaudreau.

• The slashing penalty on Brandon Manning was ridiculous. Manning was simply trying to use his stick against Matt Stajan’s to win a puck battle, and Stajan’s stick wound up snapping in two.  

• Elliott made a terrific glove save on Gaudreau, who tried to pick the upper left corner with a wide open wrist shot. That led to a rebound and no Flyer was there to clean it up.  It all started up top when T.J. Brodie faked a shot, forcing Couturier to go to the ice, and from there the Flyers were all out of position. 

• Not a memorable game for Shayne Gositisbehere. Aside from the first period mishaps described below, he was sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct after saying something to the officials, and then went back to the box 65 seconds later when he got his elbow up on Michael Ferland. Two bad mistakes that cost the Flyers two goals. 

• Sean Monahan scored a second-period (power play) hat trick, with his third goal coming on a one-timer from the left circle. Monahan's absolute bomb beat Elliott glove-side high. 

• The Flyers scored on their first shot of the game,  as Brandon Manning sent a somewhat harmless shot on goal that hit goaltender Mike Smith’s shoulder, off the post, off Smith’s back and over the line. Michael Raffl  provided the takeaway, creating the turnover and keeping the puck in the zone.  

• Two mistakes by Shayne Gostisbehere on one sequence. His outlet pass was picked off by Gaudreau, which led to Sean Monahan’s shot, and then Ghost failed to pick up Michael Ferland on the back end. Ghost doesn’t appear to be playing with much confidence right now. He had a clear opportunity to skate up the ice with the pick and hesitated looking for someone to pass to. When he’s playing with confidence, you can see it with the puck on his stick.

• Wonder why 31-yer-old Kris Versteeg has played for eight teams and can’t seem to stick around? Dumb, selfish plays like we saw in the first period when he takes an unsportsmanlike penalty on Taylor Leier AFTER the lineman blew the whistle for offsides. Versteeg, obviously upset from a previous incident, took a run at Leier, and it cost the Flames a goal. 

• On the Flyers power play, they did exactly what they’ve been trying to do over their last five games. Get shots in from the point and hope for rebound opportunities. Mike Smith gave up a bad one on Voracek’s wrist shot and Couturier continued doing what he’s done all season, camping out in front of the net looking for leftovers. This time he actually put the puck airborne. 

• Subtle but nice move from Jori Lehtera, who stepped into the face-off circle and kicked the puck out to Ivan Provorov, who perfectly placed a shot over Smith’s glove-side shoulder and gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead.

• Couturier almost scored a second goal by nearly converting a backhand on a shorthanded breakaway as he came across the slot he tried to go between Smith’s pads. There was a slight opening, but Smith caught it short side with his right pad and kept it from going in. 

• As he’s been throughout the past four games, Brian Elliott was splendid on a 4-on-3 penalty kill, as he was target practice from Gaudreau, Monahan, Hamilton and Giordano. Elliott made 4 saves in a 40-second span.

LINES, PAIRINGS & SCRATCHES

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny

Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds

Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hägg

Brandon Manning-Shaybe Gostisbehere

Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt

Goalies
Brian Elliott

Michal Neuvirth

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

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Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves for his 21st career shutout and Zach Werenski and Artemi Panarin scored in the Columbus Blue Jackets' 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night.

New York ran into a hot goalie in Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who notched his second shutout of the season in powering Columbus to its third straight victory.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was nearly as good against the increasingly aggressive Blue Jackets, stopping 40 shots on the night. The Rangers (11-8-1) lost their second straight following a six-game win streak.

After a scoreless first period in which both goalies made some slick, sprawling saves, Werenski found the back of the net with his sixth goal of the season 13:34 into the second.

Brandon Dubinsky lost the handle of the puck in the slot, and Werenski picked it up just inside the right circle and beat Lundqvist with a one-timer.

Columbus (12-7-1) was the aggressor in the second frame, outshooting the Rangers 19-9, and kept up the pressure in the third.

Panarin scored his fourth goal of the season on a power play 7:14 into the third period, rocketing a slap shot from the high slot that ricocheted off the bar and in.

The Blue Jackets are 9-1-0 this season when allowing two goals or fewer (see full recap).

Red Wings’ 3rd-period goals enough to top Sabres
DETROIT -- Tomas Tatar scored a go-ahead goal midway through third period and the Detroit Red Wings went on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Friday night.

Detroit's Luke Glendening broke a scoreless tie late in the second period. Ryan O'Reilly pulled Buffalo into a 1-all tie 5:50 into the third.

Dylan Larkin scored late in the game and Jimmy Howard had 19 saves for the Red Wings. They have won consecutive games at home for the first time this season.

Buffalo's Robin Lehner stopped the first 20 shots he faced and finished with 30 saves.

The Sabres have lost four straight, one away from their longest losing streak of the season, but were thankful they didn't lose more than a game in Detroit.

Jack Eichel went to the dressing room late in the second period after coming off the ice slowly, keeping weight off his right skate following a collision with Glendening, and making a brief stop on the bench. Buffalo's standout center was cleared to return at the start of the third period.

After a scoreless first period with a combined 14 shots, Detroit outshot Buffalo 13-4 in the second and took control without that translating to a big lead (see full recap).