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.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson