Simon Gagne set to make emotional return to Philadelphia

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During the off-season when it came time for the Philadelphia Flyers to shed some salary to be able to have some spending flexibility during the summer, there weren’t a lot of candidates to be sent out of town to make it happen. One guy who stood out amongst the pack thanks to having just one year remaining on his contract was Simon Gagne. Sure enough, it was Gagne who was traded to Tampa Bay for Matt Walker in a cost-cutting move. Gagne who was a lifetime Flyer up to that point is still much beloved in Philadelphia, and considering how cuddly Philly fans are, that says a lot about what they think of his time there.

Now it’s time for Gagne to make his first appearance in Philadelphia as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio finds out that Gagne is expecting his homecoming to be a welcome one.

“It’ll be special. It will mean a lot. I spent 11 years there and 11 years in one life is a lot. And it’s not just the 11 years. I started my career there. I was a rookie there. When I left home for the first time I went to Philly. … Going back there is going to be weird. It’s going to be hard.

“I was laughing with the [Tampa and Montreal] media today about how it’s going to be tough to make sure I go to the left side and the locker room where we’re supposed to be and not the Flyers locker room.”

Among the vast array of new generation players – those who came to the Flyers two decades after their two Stanley Cups – Gagne was among the most congenial “gentlemen” to ever wear orange ‘n black.

He was pure class from the time he arrived with the Flyers until the time he left. He was also among a handful of Flyers who you never heard anyone say a bad thing about, including opposing players.

Whenever people think about the Philadelphia Flyers and their players, you’d be hard pressed to find the words “pure class” or “gentlemen” being applied to anyone throughout the team’s history. Gagne, however, is a different breed. He was always the pure offense on a team often littered with enforcers and power forwards who made their living laying the body all over the ice. With Flyers fans still having a place in their hearts (yes, they do have them) for Gagne, this may be one of the few Philly homecomings for an opponent that doesn’t end in a cascade of boos.

Time will tell if Philly letting Gagne go was the right move for them as a team. Financially it made complete sense as his $5 million salary was just too much for the Flyers to keep around when looking for salary cap space. You wonder if they’ll miss out on his offense. The Flyers brought in Nikolay Zherdev on the comparative cheap to try and fill the hole left by dealing Gagne and his performance this season will help determine whether or not he ends up being the focus of fans’ anger. Replacing Gagne in Philly isn’t a role anyone should be eager to fill and his reception tonight will be proof positive of that.

WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

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It’s really happening.

For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Sutter won’t retire from coaching, willing to join a rebuild

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Given he turns 59 this summer, has won a pair of Stanley Cups and coached over 1,000 NHL games, Darryl Sutter probably could’ve called it a career after getting fired by the Kings earlier this month, and done so comfortably.

But that’s not happening.

In speaking with TSN’s Gary Lawless, Sutter said he has no plans to retire from coaching. What’s more — and, perhaps more interesting — is that Sutter said he wouldn’t limit his next job solely to a contending team.

Currently, there are just two vacant coaching gigs in Buffalo and Florida. We wrote about the Panthers’ search earlier today (more on that here). The situation in Buffalo is more complex, as the Sabres need to hire a new general manager and coach. Logic suggests the GM will be hired first, then spearhead the new bench boss hire.

In that regard, Buffalo is pretty intriguing.

Though the Kings have yet to be contacted for an interview request, ex-GM Dean Lombardi has been tied to the Sabres gig. And Lombardi, of course, is forever tied to Sutter — he was the one that hired Sutter after a five-year coaching exodus to join the Kings, and the pair went on to achieve great success together.

That five-year coaching exodus does need to be mentioned, though.

History suggests that Sutter isn’t joking when he says he’ll be picky about the situation and won’t rush to find the right fit. After being dismissed in Calgary in 2006, he returned to work on the family farm in Viking, Alberta and seemed fairly content doing so.

That said, hockey always seems to draw him back.

“The game has given us everything,” Sutter told Lawless. “We still have lots to give.”

Coyotes fire assistant coach Newell Brown

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The Arizona Coyotes have parted ways with some personnel.

Assistant coach Newell Brown has been fired, along with Doug Soetaert, who was the general manager of their AHL affiliate in Tuscon.

Pro scouts David MacLean and Jim Roque won’t be back either. Their contracts will not be renewed.

“I’d like to thank Newell, Doug, David and Jim for their contributions to the club,” said GM John Chayka. “They are all good people but we believe these changes are necessary in order to improve our organization. We wish them the best in the future.”

A longtime NHL assistant coach, Brown is perhaps the most prominent of the four men. He joined the Coyotes in the summer of 2013 and received high praise for his work with their power play.

But Arizona’s power play slipped to 26th this past season, converting at a rate of just 16.2 percent.

As for Soetaert, he was only named GM of the Roadrunners last summer. The former NHL goalie had previously been a scout.

Plenty of seats available for tonight’s game in Ottawa

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The Ottawa Senators say they’re still expecting a full house, but Ticketmaster’s website shows plenty of available seats for tonight’s second-round opener with the New York Rangers.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Many of the available tickets for Thursday’s game were in the corners of the upper bowl, seats that carry a $96 price tag.

The Senators sold out all three games in the opening round of the playoffs against Boston. Game 1 drew a crowd of 18,702, while 18,629 showed up for Game 2 and 19,209 were in the seats for Game 5.

Attendance has been an issue in Ottawa — or, more specifically, suburban Kanata — all season, to the point owner Eugene Melnyk expressed great frustration with the lack of sellouts at Canadian Tire Centre.

Poor attendance also led to friction behind the scenes. At least, it sure sounded that way in the lawsuit that was filed against the team by its former chief marketing officer.

Poor attendance is why the Sens are trying to get a new downtown arena built. They believe that a more central location is the key to bigger crowds.

But regardless of the arena’s location, it won’t be a good look if there are empty seats tonight. This is the playoffs, and the Senators are one of eight remaining teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. The building should be full.

Related: Melnyk thinks Sens can make deep playoff run