Flyers

VandeVelde remains despite limited NHL success

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VandeVelde remains despite limited NHL success

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- On Thursday afternoon, the Flyers’ training camp roster shrunk to 27.

Gone was rookie Sam Morin, the defenseman selected 11th overall at last June’s draft that impressed so many coaches and fans after just a couple preseason games. Tye McGinn, the forward whose name was on the short list of players expected to have a real shot at making it on to the team, was sent away, too.

But after all of the 32 cuts made before the Flyers arrived in Lake Placid, 26-year-old center Chris VandeVelde, who was signed to a minor-league contract last week, still remained.

Even VandeVelde himself was a bit taken aback when he learned he’d be staying with the team for the next leg of camp.

“You’re always surprised a little bit,” he said. “But I’ve worked hard over the offseason. I gave myself a fair shot. I played pretty good in two preseason games and I’m here, so it’s good.”

Coach Peter Laviolette, it turns out, liked a lot of what he saw from the 6-foot-2, 190-pound grinder.

“I thought the scrimmage, the first scrimmage, I really liked him,” Laviolette said. “I thought he did a lot of good things in practice. He moves well, he skates well. He has some experience in the NHL. He serves different roles here. We're going to continue to look at him."

He did look strong in that game, spending a fair amount of time on the penalty kill, but VandeVelde has largely struggled at the NHL level. Since being drafted in the fourth round by the Edmonton Oilers in 2005, VandeVelde has played in just 28 NHL games -- and has only registered three points.

Though he was never able to fit in with the Oilers, even last year when the team was thin at center, VandeVelde considers the NHL experience he does have to be helpful, and possibly something that can help him as he competes for a roster spot.

“It was very valuable,” he said. “And hopefully I can carry it over here.”

Assistant general manager Ron Hextall is responsible for bringing VandeVelde onto the Flyers’ radar. His son, Brett, played hockey with VandeVelde at the University of North Dakota, and it was Ron Hextall who finally got in touch with VandeVelde earlier this summer, after his three-year deal with Edmonton expired and he became an unrestricted free agent.

VandeVelde says he could see himself fitting in on the Flyers as a third- or fourth-liner, and he hopes to continue to show the team’s coaches he’d make a reliable role player. He said he aims to show the coaches he is “skating hard and working hard,” and that he can “be consistent and reliable and outwork [his] opponent.”

“I think I’ve done that thus far,” he said.

The issue, of course, is that he struggled to do so while in Edmonton. In the 11 games in which he suited up in 2013, he was on the ice for four even-strength goals against. On the penalty kill, things were even worse -- in only about 11 minutes of ice time, VandeVelde was around for three opponents’ goals.

All that said, sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs to be successful. And VandeVelde believes he has an understanding of what it takes to flourish with the Flyers.

“I know what they like,” he said. “It’s a pretty blue-collar team. They like hard work, and that’s what I’ll do.”

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.