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Best of NHL: Devils snap Kings' 8-game win streak

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Best of NHL: Devils snap Kings' 8-game win streak

NEWARK, N.J. -- Taylor Hall scored twice and the New Jersey Devils ended the Los Angeles Kings' eight-game winning streak with a 5-1 victory Tuesday night.

Travis Zajac, Brian Boyle and Brian Gibbons also scored for the Devils, who snapped a two-game skid. Cory Schneider made 13 saves.

The Kings were beaten for the first time since losing 3-2 in overtime to Arizona on Nov. 24. Their winning streak was the longest in the NHL this season.

It was Los Angeles' first defeat in regulation since a 2-1 loss to Winnipeg on Nov. 22.

Jonathan Quick made 20 saves for the Kings, and Torrey Mitchell's goal with 7:56 left prevented Los Angeles from being shut out for the first time this season (see full recap).

Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point scored, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 32 shots and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0 on Tuesday night in a matchup of the NHL's top two teams.

Tyler Johnson added an empty netter as Tampa Bay (22-6-2) earned its fifth straight win. It was Vasilevskiy's third shutout of the season and the seventh of his career.

Jake Allen made 22 saves for St. Louis, which had won four in a row. The Blues (21-9-2) were shut out for the third time at home this season.

Point put Tampa Bay in front when he lifted in a rebound of his own shot at 19:15 of the first period. From the side of the net, Johnson fed Point in the slot. His shot hit the crossbar and caromed to the right. Point alertly followed the puck and extended his point streak to five games, setting a career high.

Vasilevskiy had several nice saves, turning away Vladimir Tarasenko on a 2-on-1 breakaway in the second period. Vasilevskiy leads the league in wins with 20, and Allen is second with 17 (see full recap).

Granlund lifts Wild to shootout win
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mikael Granlund scored the winning goal in a shootout and the Minnesota Wild defeated the Calgary Flames 2-1 on Tuesday night.

The shootout reached the fifth round before Granlund beat Mike Smith. Alex Stalock stopped Michael Ferland to give Minnesota its third straight victory, the first two coming in overtime.

Ferland and Minnesota's Matt Cullen scored in regulation. Smith made 21 saves for Calgary, while Stalock stopped 16 shots in two periods plus overtime for the Wild. He replaced injured goalie Devan Dubnyk after the first.

Calgary dominated the puck throughout the first period and carried a 10-1 advantage in shots on goal 17 minutes in. But after the Wild killed off the second Flames power play of the frame, their second and third shots on net produced the game's first goal.

Ryan Suter took a shot from the top of the left circle that Smith turned aside. Joel Eriksson Ek took a whack at the rebound before Cullen poked it in to put Minnesota on top 1-0.

The Flames tied it with just more than a minute left in the second period on Ferland's 12th goal of the season. Ferland fired a slap shot from center point that deflected off Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin and beat Stalock over his left shoulder.

Stalock entered at the start of the second period in place of Dubnyk, who stopped all 10 shots he saw in the first but was removed after aggravating a lower-body injury (see full recap).

Why Wayne Simmonds could come out stronger than ever for Flyers

Why Wayne Simmonds could come out stronger than ever for Flyers

Wayne Simmonds had just finished describing the season from hell.

He was the Flyers' 2017-18 version of the walking wounded, fighting so many injuries that he lost track running them off in late April.

At the time, no one would have blamed Simmonds for lacking some aplomb. Sitting at his end-of-the-season press conference, Simmonds was destined for surgery to address a tear in his pelvic area while coming off a stability-shaken year that produced his fewest goals (24) and points (46) over a full campaign since 2010-11.

Then again, it takes a lot to knock down a player like Simmonds.

This wasn't going to do it.

When asked if he believed he would be fully healthy for 2018-19, Simmonds responded with a resounding confidence.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "One hundred percent, no doubt."

Simmonds, a driven athlete, might have the most fuel he's ever had in a Flyers uniform. There are motivational factors flying at him from every angle and would you expect anything different than Simmonds embracing them all with open arms?

"When you're as dedicated as Wayne is and you put in the effort, the time, the preparation on a daily basis and get better every year, that's what we all should strive to do," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said in March 2017. "I think Simmer is an example for everybody to get better every year."

What exactly is the motivation this year?

Everything.

For starters, Simmonds is about to step foot into a contract year, unless his representation and Hextall agree on an extension beforehand. That very well could happen, but the Flyers may want to see Simmonds prove his health and production. Not only would that serve as reassurance on the soon-to-be 30-year-old, it also could help with trade value, if the Flyers decide to contemplate that route.

"If it has to go into next year, we're comfortable with that," Hextall said July 1.

Such a scenario wouldn't be a terrible idea for Simmonds. A loud and fast start to 2018-19 would provide him leverage in what he'll ultimately receive from the Flyers or elsewhere.

So, many eyes will be watching Simmonds' production. From where it comes will be one of the more intriguing storylines throughout.

With the Flyers, Simmonds has built himself into an elite power-play producer. Since the 2011-12 season, his first in orange and black, Simmonds owns 86 man-advantage goals, second in the NHL to only Alex Ovechkin with 131.

Which made it hard to believe when Simmonds lost grip of his first-unit net-front role down the stretch last season. The power forward went down from Feb. 20 to March 4 with a torn ligament in his thumb, opening the door for 19-year-old rookie Nolan Patrick, who impressed with his savvy and skill around the blue paint.

Patrick netted three power-play goals during Simmonds' seven-game absence and never lost his spot the rest of the way. He led the Flyers with five markers on the man advantage over the final 23 regular-season games and dished out this beauty of an assist.

Simmonds, a team-first guy who was never healthy, took it in stride.

"I've played in this league a long time and I think you come to realize as a player if you're not at your top, you're probably not going to be getting probably what you usually should," he said after the season. "I know that's what maybe went down at the end, there's not really much I can say about that. If I was 100 percent, then I think there might be some annoyance, but I wasn't 100 percent and I understand the situation that we're in, the position that we're in, we were fighting for the playoffs. 

"While I got hurt there, Patty got put on the first power-play unit and scored two goals the first [two games], so what am I going to argue with? The kid's a heck of a hockey player and he earned it, he definitely earned it, and there's not much I can say. Just going to go out there once I got back and do what I can to help the team."

None of this is to suggest Simmonds won't regain his post on the power play. When healthy, there aren't many better at it, but the competition is clear with the rise of Patrick and the addition of James van Riemsdyk, a net-front guy himself.

Even before JVR jumped back into the picture, Simmonds saw his ice time dip. He played 15:13 during the Flyers' last six regular-season games and just 14:36 in six postseason contests. Simmonds simply wasn't himself. As a result, he was relegated to a third-line slot and may see the same in 2018-19 now that the Flyers are deeper.

"He can play every way," Hextall said about Simmonds when the Flyers inked van Riemsdyk on Day 1 of free agency. "He's net front on the power play, he's a physical player, forechecker, straight-line, go-to-the-net-with-your-stick-on-the-ice guy. Simmer can play up top or certainly down your lineup."

No matter where he plays, Simmonds will be motivated, maybe even a little ticked off.

That's a scary thought.

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The best of Jakub Voracek on his 29th birthday

The best of Jakub Voracek on his 29th birthday

It's Aug. 15, the dog days of summer and hockey is still a few weeks away.

But Jakub Voracek turns 29 years old today and this summer, the winger has already played a big part in helping push the Flyers' process into its next stage by helping recruit James van Riemsdyk back to town (see story).

Voracek is coming off a career-best season at 28 years old, posting 85 points in 82 games in 2017-18. He finished fourth in the NHL with 65 assists and ninth with 35 power-play points.

All of this came after a somewhat disappointing 2016-17 season ‚ÄĒ 61 points in 82 games, not particularly bad numbers but also not the production you'd like from a player with an $8.25 million cap hit and in Year 1 of an eight-year, $66 million extension.

Last season, though, Voracek proved that he can still very much produce at a top level. Since joining the Flyers in 2011-12, Voracek is third among all wingers with 303 assists and fifth in points with 439. Since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, he's eighth among all skaters with 272 assists and 15th in points with 390.

With today being Voracek's birthday, let's take a look back at some of the best from his time as a Flyer because Voracek is one of the most personable players around.

Some plays

Jan. 27, 2016: Voracek scored the game-winner 38 seconds into overtime. It was an important goal in a big game as the Flyers were in the middle of a wild-card chase (see story).

Oct. 14, 2017: The Flyers put a pounding on the Capitals in an 8-2 win at the Wells Fargo Center. Voracek had three assists. This one was one of them. Poor Madison Bowey.

Jan. 13, 2018: Voracek has also torched other teams than the Capitals. Here is a kick pass to Giroux against the Devils in North Jersey.


Some fights

Voracek is not exactly a fighter. According to hockeyfights.com, he has four official fights during the regular season and all have come with the Flyers.

There was the time he dropped the gloves with Gabriel Landeskog for about 30 seconds in Colorado and then said, "I don't think I picked the right city to fight in."

Then there was the time when he roughed up Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi.


Some singing

Sportswriters aren't the only ones who like Bruce Springsteen. Yes, Voracek is also a fan.


A little charity

On Feb. 28, 2017, against the Avalanche, Voracek was eventually credited with a goal many Flyers fans believed was Wayne Simmonds' hat trick. In fact, 396 hats came pouring down to the ice.

As a gesture for taking a hat trick away from Simmonds, Voracek purchased 396 new Flyers hats and donated them to local hospitals for children battling cancer (see story).

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