Sergei Bobrovsky,  Steve Ott

Philadelphia Flyers clinch playoff berth with shootout win against Dallas Stars

For most of the 2010-11 season, the Philadelphia Flyers have been the best match the Eastern Conference could muster to the Vancouver Canucks. It only makes sense, then, that Philly became the second team in the NHL (behind Vancouver) to clinch a playoff berth tonight.

It didn’t come easily, though, as they rode a strong performance by Sergei Bobrovsky to a 3-2 shootout win against the Stars in Dallas.

Philadelphia 3, Dallas 2 (SO)

Much like their cousins in the West, the Flyers keep fighting hard against teams who have much more on the line than they do. The Stars will be glad that they at least earned a point considering the fact that they were down 2-0 in the second period.

Jeff Carter and Mike Richards scored the Flyers’ regulation goals, with both scores assisted by Andrei Meszaros and Matt Carle. The Stars’ defensemen were responsible for their tying goals, as Alex Goligoski and Stephane Robidas found the twine.

Claude Giroux and Ville Leino scored in the shootout for Philly, with Leino getting the winner. Mike Ribeiro scored the Stars’ only shootout goal.

Both Bobrovsky and Kari Lehtonen had matching 28 for 30 save performances, but Bobrovsky earned his 26th win of the season. While the Russian rookie slowed down a bit after a hot start, he’s still been a boon for the Flyers. (The best part? He has two more entry-level years left after this season.)

The Flyers are the top team in the East with 96 points in 71 games played. They hold a six point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins (same games played) for the Atlantic Division and also lead the second place Washington Capitals by two points with two more games in hand. Wednesday could be a big game, as the Flyers host the Capitals.

Meanwhile, the Stars find themselves in sixth place at the moment, with 85 points in 72 games. Their schedule will be tough, but they can make the playoffs if they play well in their last 10 games.

Stepan to miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs

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Derek Stepan is out 4-6 weeks with broken ribs, the New York Rangers announced today.

Stepan was hurt Friday on a controversial hit by Boston’s Matt Beleskey. The Bruins’ forward did not receive any supplemental discipline for the check, despite admitting it was “maybe…a little bit late.”

It’s a big loss for the Rangers, who suddenly find themselves on a three-game losing streak. Considering the timeline, New York could be without one of its top centers for 12-18 games, give or take.

The Rangers host Carolina tonight.

Related: Yep, Alain Vigneault went there — ‘I remember Aaron Rome in this building’

Price to miss minimum six weeks, so no Winter Classic for him

Carey Price,
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Carey Price will miss a minimum of six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens announced today.

That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 30-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.

On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.

Related: The latest on Price’s injury

Report: Jets offered Byfuglien for Hamonic, Isles said no

Dustin Byfuglien

If Travis Hamonic could choose one team to be traded to, he’d probably choose Winnipeg. The 25-year-old Islanders defenseman wants to be closer to his family, and his family is from Manitoba. Hamonic already owns a condo in Winnipeg.

So far, though, the Jets and Islanders haven’t been able to work out a deal. The Jets have three right-shot defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers who could, theoretically, be swapped for Hamonic, also a right shot.

“I think the Islanders were offered Byfuglien and they said no,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said this morning on Sportsnet 960 (audio), per Today’s Slapshot. “And I understand why, because Byfuglien’s got no term left.

“I think they’d love to have Trouba, but the Jets aren’t really there to do it. Myers, if it’s happened – I can’t say for sure it has or hasn’t – I’m not sure that’s the deal either team really wants to make, to be perfectly honest.”

Byfuglien is a pending unrestricted free agent who’s expected to cash in big-time on his next deal. The 30-year-old may not be the most disciplined player, but at his best, he’s an absolute force on the back end.

That the Isles reportedly said no to Byfuglien shouldn’t really come as a surprise, given his contract uncertainty. However, it does make one wonder about his future in Winnipeg. Remember that the salary cap is not expected to go up by much, and the Jets have another pending UFA in captain Andrew Ladd, plus a couple of key RFAs in Trouba and Mark Scheifele.

While it’s never easy to tell what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is thinking, the big question with Byfuglien and the Jets may end up being when, not if, they part ways. Will it be after the season or before the Feb. 29 trade deadline?

Preds still haven’t found their scoring touch

Mike Fisher

The Nashville Predators got off to a relatively good start this season, but something seems to have happened to their offense over the last six games.

Prior to Nov. 20, the Preds had only been shut out once in their first 17 games. Since then, they’ve been blanked three times and have just six goals in their last six contests.

If you remove Mike Fisher from the equation, the numbers are even more dreadful.

Fisher’s scored three of those six goals, while Filip Forsberg, Shea Weber, James Neal and Mike Ribeiro have none.

After Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Buffalo , here’s what coach Peter Laviolette told the Tennessean: “I thought we could’ve had more gas, to be honest with you. The energy just wasn’t there; maybe the second period had something to do with that or the road trip, which was a long trip. I’m not making any excuses, but I think when we play at a higher tempo that’s when we’re at our best, and we had more to push in that area tonight.”

The first game back home after a long road trip is typically a difficult one for most teams, so we’ll see how the Predators respond on Tuesday night when they host Arizona.