Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins

Flyers’ management pleased with Zherdev’s recent play

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The Flyers have gone through a rough patch at the worst possible time, but not all of the news is bad news in the City of Brotherly Love. After sitting most of the second half of the season, Nikolay Zherdev is playing in his 3rd straight game tonight. Three straight games may not sound like much, but it’s the first time he’s completed the trifecta in about a month. Thus far, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

It’s no secret that the biggest problems the Flyers have had with Zherdev have been his bouts with inconsistency. The Rangers had the same concerns when they wouldn’t match his arbitration number after the 2008-09 season. They were also the reason he was even available for the Rangers in the first place when he was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets in a deal that gave them Fedor Tyutin. So when his GM says he’s been playing well with consistency, it means much more than if he were talking about the average healthy scratch. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren spoke about Zherdev and his strong play as of late:

“[Last time he played three straight] He played real good for half the game and then he ran out of gas. I think this time in the two games he’s played he’s looked fresh. He’s really worked hard and I’m proud of him.

“He spent a lot of time with the assistant coaches and a lot of time just by himself. He’s worked and it shows. We knew at some point that he’d come up as a pretty nice option for us to get in there. Credit to Nik, he worked out and he’s played good in the games he has played lately.”

When Philadelphia signed Zherdev as a free agent in the offseason, they signed him to a one-year deal because they wanted to see if they were getting a different player. He said all the right things as he was trying to return to the NHL (after a year in Russia). He knew there were questions about his character and work-ethic—questions that were of such concern that the former #4 overall pick was only able to ink that one-year deal worth $2 million.

Unlike many young players, there were no questions about his skill. Everyone agrees he’s a world-class talent; the only problem is that his employers have only seen the talent during stretches at a time. If he could play to his potential for 82 games straight, we’d have a player we could compare to Ilya Kovalchuk. Instead, he’s a player who’s oftentimes compared to Alexei Kovalev. No, that’s not a compliment.

If the Flyers can get some consistency down the stretch and in the playoffs from the enigmatic Russian, the offseason signing will look like a stroke of genius. Months of frustration can be wiped away with a couple of months of productivity. The talent is there—and over the last two games, the commitment has been there as well.

Just what the Eastern Conference contenders wanted to hear: the Flyers could have another talented scorer at their disposal.

Former NHLer LaCouture pleads not guilty to assaulting woman

PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 19: Dan LaCouture #28 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 19, 2006 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Bruins won 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) A former NHL player has pleaded not guilty to charges he assaulted a woman in Massachusetts over the weekend.

The Cape Cod Times reports Daniel LaCouture appeared Tuesday in Barnstable District Court on charges of assault and battery and vandalizing property.

Police responded just after 6 p.m. Saturday to a house in Centerville, where they say the 39-year-old LaCouture hid underneath a vehicle in the home’s driveway before confronting the victim and striking her in the collarbone.

LaCouture is due back in court July 15.

A phone number listed for LaCouture in online public records was disconnected.

LaCouture made his NHL debut with Edmonton in 1999. The forward had 20 goals and 25 assists in 337 career games with six NHL teams.

He is one of dozens of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the NHL over concussion-related injuries.

A better start is key for Sharks in Game 2

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It’s easy to suggest that perhaps the San Jose Sharks got caught up with some nerves during the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After all, this is a franchise that, after well-documented playoff shortfalls, is playing in the championship series for the first time. The Pittsburgh Penguins, on the other hand, well they’ve been here before — seven years ago.

Sharks’ defenseman Brent Burns conceded that his team may have been overwhelmed at first, outshot 15-4 in the opening 20 minutes, before eventually getting back on track in the middle of the game.

The result was a two-goal deficit, as the Penguins jumped into the lead. San Jose fought back, but ultimately lost on a late Nick Bonino goal.

The Sharks, of course, have stressed getting out to a better start, and that what happened Monday can be a learning experience, as they look to even the series in Game 2 on Wednesday.

“We were excited to play. We felt we were ready. Then at the start, we didn’t execute the way we needed to. We try to take that lesson and learn from it,” Joe Pavelski told reporters on Tuesday.

“Hopefully we can have a better start. Obviously it’s exciting to be here. I don’t know if it’s your first time or your fifth time, I’m sure it’s exciting every time. So we’ll learn from that game and hopefully have a better start.”

 

Bears face Monsters for the AHL’s Calder Cup

MILWAUKEE - JUNE 15:  Chris Bourque #17 of the Hershey Bears kisses the Calder Cup after the Hershey Bears defeated the Milwaukee Admirals in game six of the AHL Calder Cup Finals on June 15, 2006 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bears defeated the Admirals 5-1 in game six to win the AHL Calder Cup. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Hershey Bears and Lake Erie Monsters will play for the 2016 Calder Cup, as the American Hockey League’s championship series begins Wednesday.

The Bears, who start with home ice advantage, enter the series having won the Calder Cup 11 times — the most of any franchise in the league’s history. They also enter the final having dispatched the Toronto Marlies — Canada’s remaining hope for an AHL championship, right…? — in the third round.

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Meanwhile, the Monsters have been on a torrid run in the playoffs, losing only twice in 13 games so far. They’ve earned the sweep in two of three series, making quick work of the Rockford IceHogs and Ontario Reign.

Bears forward Carter Camper, a journeyman in the minors with three games of NHL experience with Boston in 2011-12, is second in AHL playoff scoring with 15 points in 17 games.

For the Monsters, Blue Jackets prospect Lukas Sedlak has been on a roll, offensively, and now has 13 points in 13 post-season games this year.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Sedlak was regarded as a smart two-way forward, but his offensive production was minimal, almost non-existent. Players like that tend to drift away after a few seasons, pushed aside by the next wave of young talent and high draft picks.

“I’d say right around Christmas I started wondering what was going to happen,” Sedlak said. “I was asking my agent what Columbus thought of me, and I was prepared for everything — maybe even going back to Europe.

“I knew my contract was up after the season. I thought I was playing pretty well … but you just don’t know.”

 

Stars sign Dowling, Ranford to one-year deals

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The Dallas Stars made a pair of depth moves on Tuesday, announcing the signings of forwards Justin Dowling and Brendan Ranford to one-year contracts.

Both players have put up good numbers in the American Hockey League with the Texas Stars.

This past season, the 24-year-old Ranford scored 19 goals and 59 points in 76 games — all career highs for him in the minors. He played once for Dallas last season, but didn’t register a point.

Initially undrafted and a Stars’ free agent signing from two years ago, the 25-year-old Dowling was also productive with 11 goals and 46 points in 52 games.