Flyers

Ron Hextall, Dave Hakstol talk with Radko Gudas about hit

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Ron Hextall, Dave Hakstol talk with Radko Gudas about hit

VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers general manager Ron Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol talked individually with Radko Gudas on Friday about his unnecessary hit on Buffalo rookie Daniel Catenacci that earned Gudas a five-minute major for charging.

Even more, it earned yet another review by the NHL’s department of player safety — that’s four this year — and for the second time this month, Gudas did not receive a hearing, according to sources Friday (see story).

So the Flyers’ broad-shouldered defenseman dodged yet another suspension.

He didn’t dodge the wrath of his coach or GM. Their concern was whether Gudas understands time, place and whether the kind of borderline play he made was worth it with 3:33 left in a game the Flyers were winning, 5-1.

“There’s a big picture to all of it in terms of our main concern," Hakstol said. "Our main goal right now is to do all the little things necessary to win hockey games. 

“In keeping with that, how individually does everybody do their part to help us win games. That’s the basis of my conversation with Radko.”

The Flyers don’t need the extra scrutiny that Gudas is bringing upon the team with more regularity these days. Gudas admitted he met with Hextall.

“We talked in the morning, briefly,” Gudas said. “He was making sure I am paying attention and doesn’t want me to get suspended again. Be a good hockey player and make a good hit.”

Even though Gudas' hit on Catenacci was considered “legal” by the NHL, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was a “good” hit nor even necessary in that situation when a vulnerable player with his head down was already engaged with another Flyer (Chris VandeVelde).

Catenacci will not play for the Sabres tonight because of a possible concussion.

“Nothing really I want to comment on,” Gudas said. “You guys all saw it. I really can’t comment. It’s a hockey play. Everything can be done differently. I don’t take a look at it and say, ‘I should have done this or that.' I did what I did. It happened.”

Big hits — and questionable hits — are in Gudas' nature, just as they were in Zac Rinaldo's when he played here.

Yet the larger issue is whether Gudas recognizes that he is bringing unwanted attention to the Flyers at a crucial time of the season when tight games can easily be won or lost on an unnecessary penalty.

Does Gudas get it?

“That is part of the conversation we had,” Hakstol replied. “What are we doing to help ourselves win hockey games?”

It remains to be seen whether Hakstol punishes Gudas with less ice time or even benches him on Saturday against New Jersey.

Hakstol said there might be lineup changes but wouldn’t say who would come out.

He did say, however, he was happy with the two forward changes he made against Buffalo — R.J. Umberger and Jordan Weal.

If Gudas sits, Evgeny Medvedev would re-enter the lineup.

Flyers finally cooled off by the Capitals (and in the shootout of course)

Flyers finally cooled off by the Capitals (and in the shootout of course)

BOX SCORE

The Flyers went toe to toe with the NHL’s best and highest-scoring team Wednesday night.

And they of course took the action into overtime and the shootout.

The skills competition is where they were finally cooled off.

The Flyers lost to the Capitals, 2-1, at the Wells Fargo Center as T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored in the shootout for Washington.

The Flyers (10-5-3), who have gone past regulation six times in the last seven games, had their four-game winning streak snapped. They did, however, extend their point streak to seven games (5-0-2). They are 8-2-2 since Oct. 21.

Sean Couturier nearly won the game for the Flyers when he nailed the post in overtime.

The Capitals (14-2-4) lead the NHL with 32 points and are on a 13-game point streak (11-0-2). They entered scoring an NHL-most four goals per game.

• Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux went scoreless over the team’s big weekend sweep of the Maple Leafs and Bruins.

With the Flyers in desperate need of a play in the third period, Voracek and Giroux connected for a power play goal to make it 1-1.

The sequence makes you wonder if those two will reunite soon on the first line to get both of them going.

• Head coach Alain Vigneault shuffled his lines in the second period and then not long after pieced them back together. It seemed to work as the Flyers turned it up a notch in the back end of the stanza.

The Flyers came inches away from knotting the game when Travis Konecny rung the post as a power play expired with 4:51 left in the middle frame. A minute later, Tyler Pitlick had an acrobatic chance in front but was turned away.

• The Flyers’ third line could change soon. Carsen Twarynski, Kevin Hayes and Voracek haven’t gotten much going. The group has good size but hasn’t used it to its advantage.

Vigneault expects more out of Voracek and Hayes — and justifiably so. Voracek had the timely assist on the power play, while Hayes is without a point in eight straight games.

• Carter Hart came in 4-0-0 with a 1.92 goals-against average and .929 save percentage during November. He was brilliant against the league’s top-scoring team, making 35 saves.

Hart was once again clutch during the first period, making 15 saves as the Capitals took it to the Flyers in the opening 20 minutes. Prior to Washington’s goal by Brendan Leipsic, the Flyers had outscored the opposition 6-0 during the first frame in their previous four games.

Washington goalie Braden Holtby went 3-0-0 with 84 saves on 90 shots against the Flyers last season. He cracked only once Wednesday, finishing with 30 stops. Giroux was the only Flyer to beat him in the shootout.

• For the first time in 12 NHL games, Joel Farabee took a step back. He didn’t look like himself with the puck, quickly giving it away a few times instead of keeping it on his stick and making a smarter decision.

In the second period, he was briefly taken off the first line and both power play units, possibly a message from Vigneault telling the 19-year-old to get his game going and not be intimidated by the Capitals.

The rookie didn’t play much in the third period and didn’t see action in OT.

• The penalty kill continued its yeoman’s work. The Flyers, who entered as the NHL’s seventh-best shorthanded team at 85.4 percent, held the Capitals’ vaunted power play to 0 for 3.

The Flyers have not allowed a power play goal at home since Oct. 21.

The team’s own man advantage had fallen into a 2-for-17 funk before snapping out of it in the final stanza.

• Matt Niskanen, who spent his previous five seasons in Washington and won the 2018 Stanley Cup with the Capitals, played his first game against his former teammates since being traded to the Flyers during June.

He was his typical steady self.

Radko Gudas, who was sent to Washington in the trade, received a tribute from the Flyers during the first period.

• The Flyers open their fifth back-to-back set of 17 this season when they visit the Senators Friday (7:30 ET/NBCSP+).

The team returns home Saturday to play the Islanders (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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Matt Niskanen's fine balance of saying hello and cutting the cord

Matt Niskanen's fine balance of saying hello and cutting the cord

Matt Niskanen will never forget his time with the Capitals.

When you give hundreds of thousands of fans a parade in a city craving a championship, it would be impossible to move on with no sentimental feelings for the past.

But Niskanen is now a Flyer and playing for a city that hasn't seen its hockey team win a Stanley Cup since 1975. Performing in orange and black is his focus, as hard as that is when facing his former teammates for the first time since being traded during June.

Niskanen won the 2018 Stanley Cup in Washington, the city's first major championship since 1992. The Capitals visited Philadelphia to play the Flyers Wednesday night and held a morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 32-year-old defenseman hadn't yet caught up with his old buddies. Following the game might be a better time for Niskanen.

"There’s that kind of special connection that you get when you have that kind of success with a team," he said Wednesday morning.

"There’s a fine balance of wanting to say hi to these guys and also you’ve got to cut the cord a bit, too. My focus is playing well with the Flyers right now. But I’m not that far removed from playing with these guys, so if I see somebody, I’ll chat and say hi.”

Niskanen has been excellent for the Flyers, impacting the club's improved goal prevention, special teams units and young defensemen. Some of his new, younger teammates have asked him about winning a Stanley Cup.

"A bit," the unassuming Niskanen said. "It’s not something that comes up all the time, or usually not in front of a big group. I try not to bring it up too much. On occasion, a few times they have.”

Alain Vigneault knew about Niskanen from coaching against him in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers' head coach also heard from Scott Arniel — one of the Capitals' assistant coaches who was on Vigneault's staff in New York — about Niskanen.

“He told me that I was going to have a real solid leader, quiet leadership, but great role model and that’s exactly what we have," Vigneault said.

“Just by the way he conducts himself. If you watch him in practice, he’s always doing things the right way and he pays a lot of attention to details. When he talks to, whether it be a teammate or coaches, it’s soft-spoken but right to the point. We’ve got a great person there and we’ve got a defenseman that’s really helping us out.”

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