2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4: Flyers not worried about top line's struggles

Carter2.jpgThe top line of the Philadelphia Flyers have not had a good series
against the Hawks, but the rest of the team isn’t really all that
worried about it.

After all, the Flyers survived until the third round without leading
scorer Jeff Carter. Simon Gagne’s return in the second round helped
spark the Flyers’ historic comeback against the Bruins, yet since
scoring seven goals in seven games against the Bruins and the Canadiens
he has just one point in his last five games. Still, the Flyers keep
winning and the rest of team has found ways to step up and make up for
the lack of production from their best players.

Coach Laviolette is far from worried, and says he was pleased with
what he saw from the trio on Wednesday night.

“You’re talking about really three of our top goal scorers on the
team, there are others as well,” Laviolette said when asked about
potentially breaking up the top line.

“But those three guys are capable of putting the puck in the net.
Their opportunities are there. Their chances are there. And I think
what I look for anyway in a line is: are they getting looks? Are they
getting opportunities? And they are. Some of them are hitting the net.
Some are getting blocked. Some attempts are missing the net. But the
chances are there. So we’ll continue with that line.”

One aspect of the top line’s lack of production has been the
continued struggles of Jeff Carter. Carter returned from his injury in
Game 4 against the Montreal, and scored two big goals against the Habs
in the series-clinching game. Since then, the top line of Gagne,
Richards and Carter is a combined minus-15, with just one goal and
three points between them. Carter has yet to show that he can keep up
with the tremendous pace of the series so far, and has yet to get to use
his true speed and goal scoring ability.

Mike Richards isn’t ready to put the blame on Carter, however, and
says he sees improvement each game in his linemate.

“I think when you’re not on the ice for a long period of time, your
hands, it takes little bit to get back. I think they’re coming back.
He’s starting to get more shots there now. The little areas, the little
passes, in the corner I think he’s obviously doing a lot better job of
finding those seams, and the little plays through people.”

During Wednesday’s game I noted that Mike Richards didn’t exactly
resemble the captain of a Stanley Cup winner, as he struggled all game
long with sustaining pressure on the Blackhawks and made several poor
decisions as he pressed and tried to make plays that just weren’t there.
I wish I could find a note I made on Carter, but there weren’t any —
Carter was nearly invisible.

Whether it’s just the injury that’s
holding him back, or the incredible play by Duncan Keith and company,
there’s no doubting that the best players on this Flyers team are
struggling and Carter is at the center of that. Thankfully, this is a
team that has survived due to its dept and this is a team that is
supremely confident in its role players continuing to make a difference.

said it for over a week now, but the Flyers will eventually need Carter
and the top line to make a difference. For now, we’ll continue to cover
their struggles; something that’s not as big a deal after they’ve won a
big overtime game at home.

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    Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

    Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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    Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

    Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

    Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

    The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

    “I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

    He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

    WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

    Ryan White, Matt Martin
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    You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

    Here are the handy links for the two contests.

    First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


    After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


    Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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    The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

    Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

    “Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

    Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

    Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

    Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

    Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

    Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

    Ryan Johansen
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    One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

    You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

    — Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

    — GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

    — Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

    So there’s that. What’s next?

    At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

    Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

    So, consider the similarities now:

    — Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

    — Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

    — Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

    — Both are Overhardt guys.

    — The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

    — Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

    For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

    And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

    And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.