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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    Ilya Kovalchuk aiming for NHL return after 5 years away

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    MOSCOW (AP) Former NHL forward Ilya Kovalchuk says he wants to return to the league this summer and play there for “several more years.”

    Kovalchuk tells Russian state sports channel Match TV that if he doesn’t try again to win a Stanley Cup, “I won’t forgive myself for it when I get older.”

    Kovalchuk, who won the Olympic gold medal last month, says he’s focused on winning the Kontinental Hockey League with SKA St. Petersburg, “but in the summer I’m going to examine offers” from the NHL.

    He adds that he wants to match Russian teammate Pavel Datsyuk as a member of the so-called triple gold club of players who have won the Olympic gold medal, world championship, and Stanley Cup.

    Kovalchuk walked out on the New Jersey Devils in 2013 to return to Russia, where he has since won two KHL titles.

    The Buzzer: Kane nets four; Preds first to clinch

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    Players of the Night:

    Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks: It took him 565 NHL games and three teams, but Kane now has his first NHL hat trick. Then he made sure to grab his first four-goal NHL game for the hell of it. Kane has five goals and 10 points in eight games since the trade deadline, the most of any player dealt this year on deadline day.

    Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators: Hoffman had an assist in regulation and then one-timed his fifth game-winning goal of the season in overtime to help the Senators past the Dallas Stars.

    Nashville Predators: For no other reason than they claimed first blood in a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot.

    Highlights of the Night:

    Bravo, Johnny:

    Kane’s hat trick goal:



    Factoids of the Night:


    Senators 3, Stars 2 (OT)

    Capitals 6, Islanders 3

    Predators 4, Avalanche 2

    Sharks 7, Flames 4

    Ducks 4, Red Wings 2

    Wild 4, Golden Knights 2

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Rangers getting a good look at the future, despite playoff disappointment

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    Silver linings for teams far off the playoff line are few and far between at this time of the year.

    But if there is one that can be taken for any team looking at re-tooling or rebuilding for next season, it’s the ability to take a look at the future crop against NHL adversaries.

    The New York Rangers are one of these teams. They declared themselves open for business prior to the trade deadline and dealt away some big names, including Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, for some younger talent.

    They’re also facing a challenge with aging goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who, as great as he is, won’t win the battle with Father Time.

    Needing to fill holes at several positions, the Rangers have been able to take a good look at a couple of promising prospects, including what may well be their future between the pipes.

    New York has played rookie Alexandar Georgiev six times and owns a 3-2-0 record since he played his first NHL game on Feb. 22. Despite picking up the loss, Georgiev allowed just two goals on 40 shots for a .950 save percentage.

    He’d give up four in his next start the following night, but since then has amassed three straight wins, including a 37-save performance on Wednesday against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He’ll be called upon again on Saturday, another test and another chance for evaluation.

    The inital analysis is promising. Georgiev is sitting on a very respectable .929 save percentage in his brief time in the NHL and he’s already turning heads around the league.

    NHL.com’s Kevin Woodley’s wrote that Georgiev is taking after the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky — some pretty good company.

    Blueshirt Banter’s Tom Urtz Jr. took a really deep dive in Georgiev, concluding by calling him a “pleasant surprise.”

    There’s a lot to like about him, his potential is visible, and the circumstances are set up in his favor for him to be able to prove himself more in an extended setting next season,” Urtz Jr. wrote.

    Shifting to the men in the rearguard, Neal Pionk is making the most the big minutes he’s been getting over the past 17 games, and he’s starting to produce.

    Pionk is on a three-game point streak with five assists during that span.

    Also 22 and also undrafted, Pionk, like Georgiev, is showing real promise on defense.

    “He competes hard and he’s got a good skill set,” Vigneault told NYRangers.com on Friday. “He can make that good pass and there’s no doubt that in his college and prior to that, he was considered an offensive defenseman. He’d join the rush and was good on the power play, so there is some upside there with him. We need to continue to work at his game and continue to improve it.”

    The Rangers appear to have some budding young talent and an array of players to build around with the likes Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey — assuming they sign the latter two who are set to become RFAs at the end of this season.

    And perhaps most importantly, the Rangers, who have long held the distinction as a team where old players go to get older, seem to finally be favoring youth over past-their-prime talent.

    That’s good news for Rangers fans.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Ducks lose Bieksa for 2-5 weeks


    ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa will be out for two to five weeks after surgery to remove scar tissue from his left hand.

    Bieksa is having surgery Friday, the Ducks announced.

    The 36-year-old Bieksa has eight assists in 59 games this season for Anaheim, which is fighting to get into playoff position with three weeks left in the regular season.

    Anaheim recalled defenseman Korbinian Holzer from its AHL affiliate in San Diego before facing the Detroit Red Wings at Honda Center on Friday night.

    The Ducks have won five consecutive Pacific Division titles and made five straight postseason appearances, reaching the Western Conference finals last season. But Anaheim (35-24-12) began this weekend out of playoff position and in fourth place in the Pacific.

    More AP NHL: http://www.apnews.com/tags/NHLhockey