Nothing yet on Michal Neuvirth, but plenty can happen for Flyers on trade deadline day

Nothing yet on Michal Neuvirth, but plenty can happen for Flyers on trade deadline day

It's the least favorite day of the NHL season for most players.

Welcome to trade deadline day.

Because of salary cap restraints and an ongoing rebuild over the past couple seasons, the Flyers enter this year's deadline pretty much the way they entered last year's -- as sellers, not buyers.

General manager Ron Hextall stood pat a year ago on the team that was on the upswing at the end and headed to the postseason.

That can't be said this time around for coach Dave Hakstol's squad as the Flyers entered Tuesday's games six points behind Toronto in the wild card.

There isn't a single player available that would guarantee the Flyers a playoff berth and Hextall knows that.

Hextall said over the weekend in Pittsburgh, he would be inclined to sell. Tuesday's 4-0 massacre of Colorado has to be taken with a large dose of reality (see story). The Avs are the worst team in the league.

Florida and Washington will offer considerably more of a challenge this week.

"We haven't gotten results," Hextall said last Friday. "We need to get results. It's not about moral victories or playing good against Washington. That's fine and dandy but not good enough. We have to win games."

They haven't won enough to this point and remain a long shot to earn 93 or 94 points, which could get them in.

Which is why Hextall will likely try to sell Wednesday unless there is something out there long term that benefits the club. Most teams make deals on deadline day for this season, this playoff run.

Hextall won't dive into the fray for a major signing unless the benefit goes into next year and beyond because there are no guarantees his team will even qualify for the postseason right now.

The Flyers' current scoring woes run deep throughout the roster. No single-player acquisition is going to change those fortunes this season.

Hextall has three pending unrestricted free-agent defensemen -- Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz -- one or more of whom might be of draft pick value to the Flyers in a trade.

Hextall also has two goaltenders -- Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth -- whom are set to be UFAs. Either of them might be of value as a backup to some club, but that ship seems to have sailed with the L.A. Kings' rather inexpensive acquisition of Ben Bishop from Tampa Bay earlier this week.

A report by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun surfaced Tuesday night that the Flyers were trying to re-sign Neuvirth right now. Sources said no deal was reached Tuesday.

Colorado has spent a lot of time over the past month scouting the Flyers and other clubs in an attempt to move Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog.

Yet, if the Flyers were going to do anything there -- the asking price was rumored to be enormous -- they would have completed a deal Tuesday before the Flyers played the Avs to assure their acquisition wasn't injured during the game. Didn't happen.

One thing Hextall has at his disposal on Wednesday is a slew of young defensemen (see Future Flyers Report), at least two of which will be NHL-ready next fall, plus a deep pool of goaltenders, one of whom figures to be the club's next long-term franchise goalie, the way Hextall was during his playing days.

Since returning to the organization in the summer of 2013, Hextall has been very careful about protecting his assets. Both of L.A.'s Stanley Cups during this decade owe a chunk of its success to the organizational depth Hextall built and oversaw as the Kings' assistant GM to Dean Lombardi.

He won't move future parts without getting similar, significant parts in return. He hasn't forgotten that 11 players from the Kings' Cup roster of 2014 were players he oversaw in player development.

That model for success is what Hextall is trying to duplicate here in Philadelphia, amid an anxious fan base that would like to see the "process" accelerated at a faster pace.

Won't happen.

Hextall believes time is on his side and, as he said last week, he won't promote any young prospect to the NHL level until he's certain they're ready.

Loose pucks
With trade deadline day Wednesday, Hextall has his key people in town (scouting and personnel), including senior vice president Bob Clarke, who Hextall leans on for advice about the makeup of certain players. ... Michael Raffl's injury against Colorado was listed as lower body, but the fact is, he took a very hard hit to the upper body along the boards.

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

USA Today Images

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

WASHINGTON — T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen scored as the Washington Capitals swept a home-and-home set against the skidding New York Islanders with a 6-3 win on Friday night.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who hammered the Islanders 7-3 in New York on Thursday. Jakub Vrana's goal gave Washington a 5-1 lead with 9:04 remaining. Lars Eller added an empty-netter, and Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

Washington broke a tie with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals' four-game winning streak is their longest since taking five in a row from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's second-leading scorer, left in the second period and did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury, according to the team.

Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have lost 10 of 11 (see full recap).

Hoffman lifts Senators over Stars in OT
OTTAWA, Ontario — Mike Hoffman scored at 3:26 of overtime and the Ottawa Senators beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night to win their third game in a row for just the second time this season.

Ottawa won on home ice for the first time since Feb. 17.

Marian Gaborik and Matt Duchene also scored for the Senators (26-33-11), and Craig Anderson made 23 saves.

Tyler Seguin and Tyler Pitlick had the goals for the Stars (38-26-8). Ben Bishop, who stopped 22 shots, made his first start since missing five games with a knee injury sustained March 5 against the Senators. Bishop has a 9-0-4 career record against Ottawa.

Dallas has lost four straight, its longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Predators rally past Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Nashville Predators keep rolling toward the best regular season in franchise history.

Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris each had a goal and assist in the third period, leading Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Ryan Ellis also scored to help the Western Conference-leading Predators get their 21st road win of the season and improve to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games overall. Pekka Rinne finished with 32 saves.

Nashville, which reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after earning the second wild card in the West, has 102 points through 70 games, and needs nine more in its final 12 games to set a new franchise record (see full recap).

Alex Lyon can save the Flyers' season

USA Today Images

Alex Lyon can save the Flyers' season

Lost amid the Flyers’ 5-3 defeat at the hands Blue Jackets on Thursday was yet another stellar relief appearance in goal from Alex Lyon.

Lyon was sensational after replacing Petr Mrazek between the pipes early in the second period, stopping all 18 shots that came his way. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol praised the rookie netminder for giving his team an opportunity to come from behind.

“He’s a battler, and that’s what we asked from him last night going into that situation,” Hakstol said following Friday’s practice.

“You need to have a mindset of going in there and absolutely slamming the door to give your team a chance to win. In order to do that, you have to have a real battling mentality, and I thought he had that right from when he stepped in the net.”

Success in a sort of stopper role has become increasingly commonplace for Lyon since joining the Flyers.

Lyon came off the bench to make five saves during the final eight minutes of a 5-3 loss to the Capitals in his January debut. The 25-year-old later earned his first NHL win against the Rangers in February, blocking 25 of 26 shots over the second and third periods to help procure a 7-4 victory.

His play has been on the rise ever since. Lyon appears to be improving with experience, posting a 2-1-0 record with a .939 save percentage in his last four games.

“I don’t know if I’d say confidence so much as comfortability,” Lyon said of his growth. “I think I always had the confidence in myself that I could do it. It’s just you have to get comfortable enough to kind of believe that.”

He shined as a substitute goaltender all along. Including his performance against the Blue Jackets, Lyon has amassed a .980 save percentage in three relief appearances — a number emblematic of his season.

Lyon began 2017-18 as the emergency-goalie-in-waiting at Lehigh Valley. He earned the call-up to the Flyers’ main roster after the injury to Brian Elliott, then saw an uptick in ice time due to Michal Neuvirth’s subsequent maladies.

The club traded for Petr Mrazek after Neuvirth went down, but Lyon still finds himself in the mix. He’s expected to start against the Hurricanes on Saturday — a pivotal contest for the Flyers’ bid to make the playoffs.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Lyon said. “This is what you think about when you’re a little kid.

“It’s not quite the same, but down in Allentown we were in a pretty hot playoff race last year and always at the top of the standings, so I’m going to draw on my past experiences.”

Elliott returned to the ice this week and could be back in uniform soon, at which time Lyon will be sent back to the minor leagues. But if the Flyers do manage to reach the postseason, his fill-in contributions will have played a big part.

Perhaps Lyon will even warrant a closer look for a full-time spot on the Flyers’ roster next season.