O'Brien vows Canucks will be more aggressive

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obrien.jpgWhile Shane O’Brien has certainly been the brunt of a number of jokes
lately, he’s been able to step up and become one of the vocal leaders
on the team in the playoffs. The coaches weren’t too pleased with some
of his antics against the Kings, so he toned down his emotions and
started playing some good defensive hockey.

Now, with the series
against Chicago tied as it heads back to Vancouver, he’s decided that
perhaps his team is allowing
their goaltender to take too much abuse.

“I’m only speaking for myself here, but I think we’re being a little too
soft on them definitely in front of the net,” O’Brien said. “The refs
seem to be letting them do whatever they want to Lu. Their guys are
going hard to the net and snowing him and bumping and slashing him. So
we need to do better job of getting in front of him. We have to play a
lot grittier and a lot meaner.”

He went on to say
that he’s not necessarily upset with how the officials are calling (or
not calling) the aggressive approach by the Blackhawks around Luongo.
Instead he feels that the Canucks are letting their desire to not let
their emotions take over affect how they try and answer the way the
Hawks are abusing Luongo.

If the officials aren’t going to call
it, then the Canucks need to answer. With the series now moving to
Vancouver, I’m guessing we’ll see a much more vocal, aggressive and
physical O’Brien near the net, especially if Ben Eager and Adam Burish
attempt to continue their shenanigans from Game 2.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.