Bo Horvat

NHL Notes: Canucks give Bo Horvat 6-year, $33 million extension

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NHL Notes: Canucks give Bo Horvat 6-year, $33 million extension

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks signed restricted free-agent center Bo Horvat to a $33 million, six-year contract extension Friday.

The 22-year-old Horvat had 20 goals and 32 assists in 81 games last season for the Canucks.

"Bo has quickly become a foundational player on our team and we're thrilled for him to be a part of what we're building here long term," Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in a team release. "His commitment and work ethic have helped his game improve each season. He's already a leader on our team and a young player fans can be excited to watch for years to come."

Horvat has 49 goals and 68 assists in 231 career games in three seasons with Vancouver.

The Canucks open training camp Tuesday at Rogers Arena.

Penguins: Stevens named special assignment scout
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have hired former star Kevin Stevens as a special assignment scout.

The 52-year-old Stevens was a three-time All-Star during his 15-year career with five teams, including eight with the Penguins. Stevens helped Pittsburgh to consecutive Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. His 17 goals during the 1991 playoffs remain a franchise record.

Stevens will be based in Boston and will scout amateurs and college free agents for Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford.

Stevens was sentenced to probation and fined $10,000 in May after pleading guilty to a federal drug charge.

NHL: Parros hired as head of player safety
NEW YORK -- George Parros, the bushy-mustachioed Princeton man who spent almost a decade as an NHL enforcer, is now in charge of the league's player safety department.

After a career in which he fought 159 times and racked up 1,127 penalty minutes, Parros believes there's one major reason he'll succeed as the new vice president of player safety.

"What uniquely positions me for the job is that I played the game as physically as anybody and I never once was fined or suspended," Parros said Thursday at the NHL office. "I know where that line is. I know how to protect my guys or intimidate but not injure or hurt."

He is succeeding Stephane Quintal, who is pursuing other opportunities in hockey but staying on this season to assist with the transition (see full story).

Flyers-Canucks 5 things: A game that needs to be won

Flyers-Canucks 5 things: A game that needs to be won

Flyers (21-16-6) vs. Canucks (20-19-4)
7 p.m. on CSN, and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers have lost nine of their last 11 games but have a quality opportunity to get back in the win column when they host the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Take care of business
The spiraling Flyers need this one.

They have three games before their NHL mandated bye week — which Ron Hextall is not a fan of, by the way — and the final two matchups are no cupcakes: at Boston and at Washington.

The Canucks come to town as one of the league’s worst road clubs at 5-13-2 away from home, where they score 2.15 goals per game compared to 3.10 goals against.

Overall, Vancouver ranks in the bottom 19 of the NHL in goals per game (2.37 — 25th), goals against per game (2.84 — 19th), power-play percentage (13.7 — 27th) and penalty-kill percentage (80.7 — 20th).

The Flyers are 2-6-3 over their previous 11 contests. If they lose to the Canucks before heading to Boston and Washington, they could be in an ugly state entering the five-day break.

2. Hakstol’s carousel
The changes keep on coming.

Head coach Dave Hakstol has consistently experimented with his lineup and benched players throughout the team’s 43 games.

It will continue Thursday.

Radko Gudas — not Andrew MacDonald — will be a healthy scratch, signaling Nick Schultz’s entering the defensive pairs.

Meanwhile, the forward combinations will see some tinkering, too.

"We’re not going to start mixing and matching all over the place,” Hakstol said Wednesday after practice, “but at the same time, we haven’t had a whole lot of success over the last 10 games. We’ll do things with reason and with purpose, and if we feel a change is necessary and makes sense, we’re going to make it.”

3. Time for a trade?
No, says general manager Ron Hextall — and justifiably so.

A losing stretch will not alter Hextall’s course of action.

“I'm not going to make a trade to send a message,” he said Wednesday. “I'm [only] going to make a trade to make us better.”

Decisions will be coming, though, with Mark Streit’s impeding return.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Brayden Schenn’s play is not drawing much praise because of the team’s struggles, but the forward is doing his job. Schenn has nine goals in the last 14 games and overall has nine power-play markers, tied for most in the NHL with Cam Atkinson and Sidney Crosby.

Canucks: Bo Horvat is a nice, young player for Vancouver. The 21-year-old center leads the Canucks in goals (13) and points (29), and just had a seven-game point streak snapped.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason is 0-5-2 in his past seven games with a 3.52 goals-against average and .864 save percentage.

• In 33 career games against the Flyers, Canucks goalie Ryan Miller is 16-13-2 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.

• Shayne Gostisbehere has gone 20 straight games without a goal.

• The Flyers are two points ahead of the Panthers for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

Flyers Skate Update: Travis Konecny moves to 1st line RW vs. Canucks

Flyers Skate Update: Travis Konecny moves to 1st line RW vs. Canucks

Travis Konecny will have a little extra motivation tonight vs. the Canucks. For a couple of reasons.

Looking for offense, head coach Dave Hakstol will shift Konecny to his natural right wing position on Claude Giroux’s top line. That’s quite the leap. From healthy scratch two weeks ago to the top line, centered by one of the league’s top playmakers. But Konecny is not fazed by his promotion.

“At this point, obviously it’s still Claude Giroux, but he’s my teammate now and it’s been half the season so far, so it’s just another opportunity to play with another player on the team,” Konecny said after Thursday’s optional morning skate.

“Just make sure I get to open space. He finds guys in the right areas, so as long as I can get him the puck and do my part in battling, compete down low to give him the time and space, then I just gotta give him that."

Hakstol first toyed with the move at practice Wednesday, hinting at “a change or two” to spark the Flyers’ ailing offense. Since the team’s 10-game win streak was snapped on Dec. 17, the team has stumbled to a 2-6-3 record, averaging just 1.73 goals per game. It’s no coincidence the Flyers’ tumble down the standings began just as their offense fell into a rut. 

“It’s not necessarily about getting Travis going,” Hakstol said. “He’s playing pretty well, he’s playing hard. I think he’s going through the typical ups and downs of a young player. Especially now, we’re getting to a little tougher time in the year. I think his effort and his play has been pretty good.

“Just over the last 10 games, we haven’t had the production that we want. We haven’t had the results that we want. So with a little bit of caution from bouncing all over the place, we’re gonna keep working to find combinations that can get us consistently back on the right track.” 

At the peak of the win streak, the Flyers were soundly in playoff position with a nine-point cushion. Now, the Florida Panthers are just two points back of overtaking the second wild card spot from the orange and the black.

“It’s the way you gotta deal with things in hockey," Konecny said of the slump. "The moment you get down on yourself is when things start getting harder.

“That’s the hard part, is we’re playing good hockey at certain parts of the game, it's just a full 60 minutes is what we gotta play.”

Hakstol is hoping a revamped top line can end the slump and revive the offense that scored the third-most goals in the league through Dec. 17.

Konecny isn't worried about switching positions midway through they year. It's his natural position. He has played right wing for the majority of his OHL junior career. Shifting back to the right side is all “muscle memory.”

“It’s just the other side of the rink. It’s my forehand side, so it will probably be a bit easier for me coming down the wing. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

“Going back to the right side, it’s just like riding a bike.”

The promotion isn’t Konecny’s only motivation, though. The winger will face his second cousin Bo Horvat Thursday. 

The two were never that close growing up, but hockey has brought the duo together.

“Not too, too close, but I knew of him when he was growing up,” Konecny said. “And then as we kind of got more and more into hockey, we started hanging out a little bit more. And I see him at the gym all the time and skate with him all the time so we became close over the years. … I wouldn’t say it's like a text relationship back and forth, but we stay in touch and see each other almost everyday in the summer.”

Horvat leads the Canucks with 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) and was just named to his first All-Star game. Playing on Vancouver’s second line, the two should see plenty of each other tonight. 

The cousins have never played together, but had the opportunity to face each other in the OHL.

“He was probably in his third year at that point, so he was a developed guy in the OHL, just giving me a hard time.

“No, I’m going to try not to chirp him,” Konecny joked. 

When the two aren’t chirping on the ice, Konecny says they golf together in the summer.

And if Konecny and the Flyers can’t stop their slump soon, they may be golfing sooner rather than later this summer.

Loose pucks
After Shayne Gostisbehere practiced with Nick Schultz Wednesday — a sign he may be a healthy scratch — it will be Radko Gudas who sits out vs. the Canucks. 

Steve Mason will start in goal for the 27th time in 29 games.