Sean Avery

Hockey Day Preview: Philadelphia Flyers visit New York Rangers; Is revenge on their mind?


After three meetings this season, the Rangers are still looking for their first point against the Flyers this season. Considering it was the Flyers who eliminated the Rangers on the last day of the regular season last year, the Rangers must be ready for a win against Philadelphia. Unfortunately for New Yorkers, the teams are going in opposite directions right now and the trends aren’t in their favor.

The Flyers are running away with both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with a 38-15-5 record (81 points). As a team, they’re a +45—also tops in the East. They lost on Friday, which was Rod Brind’Amour night in Carolina; but that doesn’t change the fact that they’ve been the most dominant team in the East as of late. The loss was only their 5th loss in 2011 and only their 3rd loss in February. It certainly didn’t help that captain Mike Richards missed his first game in two seasons on Friday night and is questionable for Sunday afternoon’s game. It sounds like he’s going to give it a go, but we won’t know for sure until game time.

On the flip side, the Rangers have been struggling lately. Their 3-6-1 record has seen them slip to 7th in the East and only 6 points ahead of 9th place Buffalo (who has 3 games in hand). They lost 1-0 to the Devils the last time they took the ice and only managed 16 shots on goal. Then again, on Thursday the beat the hottest team in the league (Los Angeles Kings) in a shootout. If the team that played against the Kings shows up, then it should be a great game. But if it’s the team that played against the Devils that shows up, it could be a long game for Rangers fans and hockey views alike.

Of course, talking about statistics and records wouldn’t do a rivalry game like the Rangers and Flyers justice. For those who last month’s game, there’s a little bad blood that may spill over to Sunday afternoon’s game.

In the second period of that Jan. 16 night, Sean Avery decided to use Matt Carle’s face as a punching bag. Avery dropped Carle to the ice and continued pounding him when the defenseman was down. In five seasons in the league, Carle had never been involved in a fight.
“I really didn’t know what was going on,” Carle said following the game. “I had the jersey wrapped over my head and the next thing I know I’m getting punched in the face. That’s the kind of player he is.”

Nothing like a little carry-over hate to get the blood pumping. There were multiple Flyers who wanted to exact revenge on Avery, but they chose to play the score and earned the two points instead of doing something stupid. But Sunday will be a new game—and 60 minutes is a long time for a team that hasn’t forgotten.

Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, just something to keep in mind if the teams drop the gloves in early in the 1st period.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado