Flyers captain Mike Richards clears the air about his role as captain and more

Flyers captain Mike Richards has already had a more than tumultuous offseason in Philadelphia. While the Flyers were swept out of the playoffs by Boston, Richards came under fire from many people upon the conclusion of the year. After all, when you’re the captain of a high profile team, these things will happen.

Richards was accused of having a rift with coach Peter Laviolette. He also had the finger pointed at him by some for not being a good enough captain for Philadelphia, a stunning accusation given what the Flyers have been able to do under his watch. With Richards having undergone surgery on his wrist this offseason, an injury that severely hampered his abilities against Boston, the slings and arrows have been sailing in from all directions, in particular some members of the media, CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio and Sun Media’s Steve Simmons, who Richards sounded off at on Twitter.

Richards took time out from vacationing in Cabo to talk with Flyers Files Chuck Gormley to clear the air about a few things. If you’re a Flyers fan or curious onlooker, it’s a must read but here’s a few key points Richards hits on.

On the captaincy:

Whenever things go wrong, there are always going to be people blamed and fingers pointed. That generally comes with the job of being the captain. The first person in line is usually me. It sucks more that we lost and we’re in this situation than what’s being written. You just learn from your mistakes and try to do better in the future.

On what the Flyers need to do with goaltending next year:

I have full confidence in Bob (Sergei Bobrovsky) coming in and playing well. If you look at what he was accustomed to before coming to the NHL, that’s a lot of games for a goaltender who switches over. You saw how well he played in the beginning of the year when he was rested, strong and feeling good about himself. It’s a long season and sometimes you get tired out. As a player who has been there before you make adjustments, train differently and learn as you go and I think Bob is going to do that. He’s going to be a good goaltender in this league and hopefully I can go through it with him.

On his wrist injury in the playoffs:

I think so. I don’t want to make excuses by any means, but faceoffs were a big thing for me and, man, it’s frustrating. It’s a part of my game I pride myself in and we just didn’t get that, especially against (Boston Bruins center Patrice) Bergeron. To me, that was the flashing light that I didn’t have that strength to face him. My shot wasn’t as good as I would like to see, but at the same time, everybody plays with injuries. I wish I would have gotten (surgery) done at the beginning of the year when I had the opportunity to, but we didn’t know that it was going to keep getting worse instead of better throughout the year. It was unfortunate, but you live and you learn.

Such openness from an NHL player and team captain is refreshing and seeing him be as frank as he is about just about everything that came into question at the end of the season is honestly great to read. Richards will still have to do a lot on the ice next season to make people put the bitterness about the Flyers playoff failure this year behind them. As great as their run to the Stanley Cup final was in 2010, it’s just as disappointing for them to get bounced in the second round this year.

While Richards’ game comes with a certain edge and then some, how he comes back next year (and likely with a chip on his shoulder) should make the Flyers all the more dangerous next season.

Rangers make changes after loss in Anaheim

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The scuffling New York Rangers — coming off a 6-3 loss Sunday in Anaheim, and with just two wins in their last seven — are expected to have a slightly different lineup tonight in San Jose.

Up front, winger Matt Puempel is likely to replace rookie Pavel Buchnevich. And on the back end, Dan Girardi will come in for Kevin Klein.

The Girardi-for-Klein switch is no huge surprise. Both d-men have been battling injuries, with Klein only returning Sunday after an extended absence due to back spasms. Head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he “didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” so Klein gets the night off tonight.

As for the potential scratching of Buchnevich, that decision would be slightly more controversial. The 21-year-old has two goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but clearly has not gained the full trust of his coach.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a tough return to the net against the Ducks.

Canucks hint at shutting down injured Markstrom

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It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.

“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”

It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.

“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”

Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.

Oilers sign Walter Brown Award winner Gambardella

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Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.

Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.

Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.

Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.

An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.

 

 

Coyotes to honor Cunningham for his ‘tremendous courage’

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The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.

From the team press release:

Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.

Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.

The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.

True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.

“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”