Reasons for the Flyers recent struggles? Laviolette takes the blame

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Times have been tough for Philadelphia lately. The once dominant team at the top of the Eastern Conference standings is now just two points ahead of Pittsburgh for the lead in the Atlantic Division and also just two points ahead of Boston for the top spot in the East overall. A four game losing streak will always help do its part to bring about the worries and fretting from the fans and media alike but coach Peter Laviolette has an idea of what’s wrong.

Laviolette says that the Flyers’ lethargic play of late is his own fault thanks to working the team too hard in practice before playing three games in four days. After yesterday’s 7-0 humbling at the hands of the rival Rangers on NBC’s Game of the Week, it’s hard to argue with Laviolette as Chuck Gormley of The Courier-Post shares from Flyers practice.

“The two games prior to [yesterday] we had energy but we got beat. The bounces that were going our way, aren’t going our way, like the shots that are going in from behind the goal line. Things didn’t click and you could have come out on the other side of those two games. We still could play better, don’t get me wrong. Yesterday they didn’t have the pop we needed. It was like we were moving slow out there.

“If I am being honest, I have to take one hundred percent responsibility for what happened yesterday. We came into the month of March and we wanted to push. We pushed hard for three days and will continue to push hard, but yesterday I think we felt the effects of that. We came in and we didn’t have the jam that we needed to play a team that had plenty of it. I think it’s an isolated [incident]. That type of game is really tough to take, and it’s one of those losses that makes you want to get sick over, but it’s one game. We need to move on. We need to get that energy back up to a really high level and prepare ourselves for the next game and not dwell on that game. There was no pop out there.”

There was no pop, there was no defensive coverage, there was no offense, and there was no goaltending. One thing the Flyers have had a lot of is the flu. Jeff Carter missed their games against Toronto and New York with sickness as have a handful of other players. Illness combined with getting worked hard at practice leads to getting demolished on the road by a team that hasn’t been able to throw the puck in the ocean, never mind in the goal.

The Flyers have played all season long without so much as a minor disturbance along the way. Now that they’re meeting adversity head on it seems to be that the sky is falling for some Flyers faithful. Provided that Laviolette is right and that some rest for his team will get their legs back under them, this will be just a bump in the road when it gets looked back upon later on. What’s changing the landscape for them is the much better play out of Boston, Pittsburgh, and Washington in the East. It’s been almost too easy for the Flyers this year, but if they can avoid cracking under the pursuit of their rivals they’ll be just fine.

Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

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Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

It’s easy to see why.

He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

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Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.