Radko Gudas maintaining physical presence for Flyers after learning from past mistakes

Radko Gudas maintaining physical presence for Flyers after learning from past mistakes

You don’t have to work at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to realize Flyers blueliner Radko Gudas has toned down his act.
That the league hasn’t had to review any of his hits — legal or suspicious — is positive reinforcement that it’s finally beginning to sink in with the 6-foot, 204-pound defenseman what he can and can’t get away with on the ice.
“In general, he’s kinda gone back to the adjustment he made in his game last couple months of last season,” coach Dave Hakstol said after the Flyers' 3-0 loss to Tampa on Saturday. “He’s most effective when he is playing good, solid defensive hockey and letting plays come to him .”
Both Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall sat Gudas down prior to the start of the season after he was hit with a six-game suspension to begin 2016-17 for a preseason incident.
Gudas has also been watching video of what is clean, borderline and illegal in terms of hits.
“One of those things, having to figure out because guys are smaller than they used to be,” Gudas said. “Four years ago, when I came into the league, guys were 6-foot plus and 220-plus and now it’s slowly going back to smaller, lighter guys. You have to learn how to hit these guys, too.
“I’m still trying to be as physical as I can. If you hit them hard enough, he’s going to get hurt or stay down. I don’t want to say it’s a lot different, but there are some changes to be made, that’s for sure.”
During Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa, Gudas had a tremendous legal check off the boards on the Senators’ Mark Stone. He simply waited for Stone to come into the Flyers' end moving directly at him, turned his body and drove a hard shoulder into Stone without touching any part of the neck or head.
“The biggest thing is letting the play come to him,” Hakstol said. "The hits, the physical side of the game. He is a physical presence for us and we need that. He’s done a very good job of just letting the physical game that is naturally there come to him.” 
On Saturday, he had a tough clean hit on Ryan Callahan in the second period and J.T. Brown took exception and went after him. Gudas tuned him up in his first fight of the season.
Gudas leads the Flyers with 53 hits despite missing the first six games of the season. He came into Saturday’s game 20th overall in the NHL. 
Toronto’s Matt Martin, who has been the league’s leading hitter five years in succession, is the current leader this year, too, with 76.
Imagine where Gudas would rank now if he had not begun the season suspended for six games after a preseason hit on Boston’s Austin Czarnik.  He avoided a previous suspension for a hit on the Rangers’ Jimmy Vesey.
“I didn’t want to change a lot in my game,” Gudas said. “Just be smarter with those hits. There is nothing I can do about the suspension now except be the best I can for my team.”
Brandon Manning is second on the Flyers in hits with 42 and has played 17 of 18 games.  
Gudas does, however, lead the Flyers with 36 blocked shots and is 24th overall in the NHL in that department. Rookie Ivan Provorov is next with 30.
“I am trying to do the best possible,” Gudas said. “I don’t want to hurt anybody out there either, but still play that hard, physical game. It’s part of my hockey. For me, staying physical was an important thing. I’ve got to learn from my own mistakes.”
For now, he certainly seems to be doing that.
Power play
The Flyers are 0 for 10 in the last three games. It’s the first time this season they’ve gone three games without scoring on the power play.
The Flyers were shut out by the Lightning for only the fifth time since Tampa Bay came into the NHL in 1992. One of those previous shutouts was a 0-0 tie on Feb. 24, 2001. 
Four of the five shutouts have been witnessed in South Philly. The last time the Lightning shut out the Flyers was Feb. 1, 2011, in Tampa (4-0 loss). The last time it happened at the Wells Fargo Center was Jan. 28, 2006, (6-0 loss). The next day, the Flyers named Derian Hatcher their 13th captain.

It was also the Flyers' first shutout loss of the season.
Chris VandeVelde took a high hit from Braydon Coburn early in the game that resulted in a boarding penalty. VandeVelde did not return.
Review coming? 
Brayden Schenn had a legal shoulder hit on Jonathan Drouin in the final 4:40 of the opening period that caught the Lightning forward with his head down. Schenn’s shoulder appeared to make contact into Drouin’s chest. 
Initially, Drouin looked hurt going to the bench but did not go through the concussion protocol until the spotter alerted Tampa before the start of the second period. Drouin went to the quiet room but did return to play later in the period. 
Regardless, you can expect the Department of Player Safety to review the hit Sunday, as Drouin was concussed earlier this season.
The Flyers Alumni Association will make a Thanksgiving food donation to the St. Francis Inn in Kensington on Monday. This is the 11th consecutive year the association has performed this charity event. On hand will be Brian Boucher, Danny Briere, Terry Carkner, Doug Crossman, Todd Fedoruk, Bob Kelly, Brian Propp, and Brad Marsh.

Flyers-Oilers thoughts: Welcoming the best player in the world to Philly

USA Today Images/NBCSP

Flyers-Oilers thoughts: Welcoming the best player in the world to Philly

Flyers (4-3-0) vs. Oilers (2-4-0)
1 p.m. on NBCSP, and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 12:30

The best player in the world comes to South Philly today. Get your popcorn ready.

The Flyers, coming off a 1-0 loss to the Predators, host the Oilers in their first matinee of the season at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s Game 4 of the Flyers’ five-game homestand.

Let’s dive into some pregame thoughts before puck drop.

• Move over, Sidney Crosby. There’s a new sheriff in town. It’s time to anoint Connor McDavid as the best player in the world. Many already have. I’m fully on board now.

This kid is special, and each game he does something that blows your mind. On Thursday night, it was a ridiculous spin-o-rama assist against the Chicago Blackhawks.

What made the play exceptional was who he did it against, Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Between the two are seven All-Star Game appearances, two Norris Trophies and one Conn Smythe Trophy, so that’s no joke.

McDavid has three goals and five assists in six games this season. He has 156 points in 133 career games. He’s 20 years old. He should be the face of the league yesterday.

Market him better. I don’t care that he plays in Canada.

• It’s time to put the Brandon Manning-McDavid storyline to bed. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s overplayed (see story). If Manning is in McDavid’s head, it’s not for the better.

McDavid scored a goal and an assist last season in Philadelphia in his first game against the Flyers since Manning broke McDavid’s collarbone with a clean hockey play.

Then, in Edmonton, McDavid had a goal and two assists. Manning played both games. So if anything, it’s adding extra motivation for the best player in the world.

• It appears Travis Sanheim will remain in the lineup, a positive for two reasons:

1. Thursday against Nashville was Sanheim’s best game.

2. Sanheim’s speed and skating is a plus when having to defend McDavid.

Will Sanheim see much ice time against McDavid? I sure hope not. But the Oilers are a decent skating team, and McDavid’s speed is insane. You want as much speed against them as possible.

• You sure hope Jordan Weal can return after missing Thursday with an injury to part of his body. Weal is an important piece for the Flyers, and without him, Dave Hakstol will have to shuffle up his lines. Simply can’t replace Weal with Jori Lehtera on the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

That unit against the Predators was a disaster. If Weal is out again, I’d insert Matt Read into the lineup. He’s better suited for what the Flyers are doing now than Lehtera.

The good news is Weal practiced Friday. He’s expected to play.

• Three random Flyers stats:

1. Jakub Voracek needs two more points to reach 500 in his career. He will become the 23rd Czech player with 500 career points.

2. Shayne Gostisbehere’s 10 points are the most by a Flyers defenseman through the team’s first seven games dating back to the 1987-88 season.

3. Michal Neuvirth leads NHL goaltenders with a .957 save percentage. He was the worst qualified goalie last season in that category.

• The Oilers again will be without center Leon Draisaitl because of a concussion. Draisaitl practiced Friday but is still feeling symptoms. He hasn’t played since Oct. 9.

• Kailer Yamamoto, the Oilers’ 2017 first-round pick, has seen an increased role with Draisaitl injured. Edmonton has four more games to decide whether it’ll keep Yamamoto or send him back to junior. Yamamoto enters today on a three-game assist streak.

Here is the Flyers' projected lineup:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forwards Jori Lehtera and Matt Read, and defenseman Brandon Manning.

Best of NHL: Ovechkin wins it for Caps in OT over Red Wings

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Best of NHL: Ovechkin wins it for Caps in OT over Red Wings

DETROIT — Alex Ovechkin’s power-play goal at 1:56 of overtime gave the Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

T.J. Oshie forced the extra session for the Capitals, tying it with 1:01 left in regulation with a power-play goal of his own. Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty on Trevor Daley in overtime, then won it with his 10th goal of the season - a familiar slap shot from the left circle that beat Petr Mrazek to the glove side.

Tomas Tatar scored twice in the third period for Detroit. His second goal came on the power play after John Carlson was called for delay of game. But Dylan Larkin was whistled for the same penalty toward the end of the period, and Oshie was able to tie it at 3 with Caps goalie Braden Holtby pulled.

Darren Helm scored a short-handed goal for the Red Wings in the second. Andre Burakovsky tied it for the Capitals in the final minute of that period, and Jay Beagle added a short-handed goal of his own in the third for Washington (see full recap). 

Conor Sheary lifts Penguins past Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. — Conor Sheary scored a power-play goal with 2:53 left to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.

Sheary backhanded the puck past James Reimer.

Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist, and Sidney Crosby and Carter Rowney also scored for the Penguins. Matthew Murray stopped 28 shots, and Phil Kessell had two assists.

MacKenzie Weegar scored his first NHL goal and Aleksander Barkov and Jamie McGinn also scored for the Panthers. Reimer, who came in to relieve an injured Robert Luongo with 15:14 left in the third, made 11 stops.

Luongo made 33 saves before he left with a hand injury. He was hurt when Sheary backed into him, forcing his right hand hard against the post.

The Panthers tied it at 3 on Weegar's goal with 10:41 left. Weegar shot from the point and beat Murray (see full recap). 

Martin Jones makes 28 saves, Sharks beat Devils 3-0
NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun  had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl (see full recap).