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

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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.

Lightning re-sign journeyman forward Conacher

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Cory Conacher has turned an impressive Calder Cup Playoffs run into a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Per the club, it’s a one-way deal in the first season and a two-way deal in the second, paying $650,000 annually at the NHL level.

Conacher, 27, had 12 goals and 16 assists in 22 playoff games as the Syracuse Crunch made it all the way to the 2017 Calder Cup Final.

The undrafted and undersized forward was also productive during the regular season, racking up 60 points (17G, 43A) in 56 games for the Crunch and four points (1G, 3A) in 11 games for the Lightning.

Conacher has been quite the traveler in recent years, making numerous stops in both NHL and AHL markets. He spent the 2015-16 season in Switzerland, before returning to North America to sign with the Bolts last summer.

Sens keep Condon with three-year, $7.2 million extension

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Ottawa was thrilled with the way Mike Condon played last year.

And so, they’ve rewarded him.

Condon has signed a three-year, $7.2 million extension, the club announced on Monday. It carries a $2.4 million average annual cap hit, and makes him the only Sens goalie under contract beyond next season. Both Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond are UFAs in 2018.

Condon, 27, found stability in Ottawa after a whirlwind start to the year. He was waived by Montreal out of training camp and picked up by Pittsburgh, but only saw 20 minutes of action before the Sens acquired him.

His acquisition was necessary after news broke that Anderson’s wife, Nicholle, had been diagnosed with cancer. And as Anderson took leaves from the team to be with his wife, Condon got plenty of opportunities to play, and found his groove.

His first season in Ottawa featured several team records, including playing in a franchise-best 27 consecutive games between Dec. 1, 2016, and Feb. 4, 2017. He became the fastest goaltender in franchise history to record five shutouts, when he did so in his 32nd game on Feb. 16 versus the New Jersey Devils.

That performance led some to speculate Condon would test the market this summer, possibly for a No. 1 gig somewhere — or, the opportunity to compete for one.

That said, he and the Sens had started extension talks all the way back in February, suggesting both parties wanted to continue working together.

This means that another potential UFA goalie is now off the market. With reports that Ryan Miller is on his way to Anaheim, the pool of available guys is now led by Brian Elliott, Steve Mason, Jonathan Bernier, Chad Johnson, Anders Nilsson, Darcy Kuemper and Ondrej Pavelec.

Rangers reportedly on verge of re-signing Brendan Smith

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The New York Rangers are “close to finalizing” a contract extension with defenseman Brendan Smith, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

The deal is expected to be four years long with a cap hit of $4.35 million.

Smith, 28, was traded from Detroit on Feb. 28, and the Rangers clearly liked what they saw.

In the playoffs, Smith played all 12 games, averaging 19:41 of ice time while adding four assists and finishing a team-high plus-8.

It remains to be seen if signing Smith makes it less likely that the Rangers pursue Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency.

Don’t forget the Blueshirts got Anthony DeAngelo in the Derek Stepan trade, and DeAngelo’s game is quite similar to Shattenkirk’s — albeit far less proven at the NHL level.

Related: Smith, Rangers still talking

Report: Kings land Sabres goalie prospect Petersen

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Sounds like Cal Petersen is headed to Los Angeles.

Per LA Kings Insider, Petersen — the star Notre Dame goalie taken by Buffalo at the 2013 draft — has decided to sign with the Kings when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 16.

The decision comes just days after Petersen told the Sabres he wouldn’t be signing with them.

“I’ve spoken to Cal. At this time I think he’s going to probably move to free agency and we’ll go from there,” GM Jason Botterill said, per the Buffalo News. “Disappointed, but we’ll move on.”

Petersen, 22, is coming off a great junior year for the Fighting Irish. He went 23-12-5 with a .926 save percentage and 2.22 GAA, helping the club advance to the Frozen Four. Petersen was also named a finalist for this year’s Mike Richter Award, given annually to college hockey’s top goalie.

In April, he was named to the U.S. team at the World Hockey Championships in France and Germany. He was one of three goalies on the squad — along with Connor Hellebuyck and Jimmy Howard — but didn’t appear in any games.

In late May, Petersen announced he was forgoing his senior year at Notre Dame to turn pro, but declined to say which club he would be signing with. Buffalo’s rights to Petersen expire on Aug. 15.

With the Kings, Petersen finds himself in a good situation. Jonathan Quick is entrenched as the No. 1, but turns 32 next season and missed most of last year with a groin injury. The backup battle will be between 30-year-old Jeff Zatkoff and 25-year-old Jack Campbell.

Organizationally, the club doesn’t have a ton of depth. L.A. cut ties with Czech goalie Patrik Bartosak following his assault charges in a domestic violence case in 2015. Jack Flinn, 21, saw a bit of time with AHL Ontario last year, and the club has used draft picks on the likes of Alec Dillon and Matthew Villalta.