Philadelphia Flyers' Richards celebrates his game-winning goal against Ottawa Senators with teammate Carter during their NHL hockey game in Philadelphia

Kings and Blue Jackets excited about their blockbuster trades with Flyers

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Former Flyers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were both shocked by the trades this afternoon. Richards said he first heard of his trade on the internet, while Carter’s agent explained that the Philadelphia organization repeatedly assured him his client would not be moved. Whether or not the star centers were prepared for change, one thing that’s for sure is their both of their new teams are ecstatic with their newest acquisitions.

Both of the teams that made trades with the Flyers on Thursday were singing the praises of their acquisitions.  Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson knew it was important for the Blue Jackets organization to make a splash this offseason. He said, “Anytime a franchise acquires a player of this status it energizes the franchise.” He continued by talking about how the trade could make the team more attractive for not only the fans in the market, but also for any potential free agents they would be interested in.

“I think the time has come for us to do something like this to try and bring an immediate impact on our team. I don’t take trading away a Jake Voracek, a 21-year-old player who’s got tremendous upside, or the eighth overall pick, lightly. But our fans have been very patient. It’s been 10 years now and we just had to do something that’s going to make us better right now.”

(snip)

“I think (the trade) shows people we made a statement. We’re trying to get better now and hopefully they’ll see us as a more attractive destination because we haven’t done enough winning in Columbus to let that sell itself.”

In Jeff Carter, Columbus may have finally found the center they’ve been looking to pair with Rick Nash. Ever since Nash was drafted first overall in 2002, the Blue Jackets have desperately needed a talented center on their #1 line. Carter has already racked up 181 goals and 162 assists over the course of his six-year career. The 26-year-old is actually younger than his new linemate as well. With both players locked into long-term deals, the Blue Jackets look like they’ll have some firepower for foreseeable future.

A mere 2,000 miles away, the Los Angeles Kings were celebrating their own acquisition via Philadelphia. GM Dean Lombardi has made no secret that he’s respected Mike Richards ever since his days as an assistant GM with the Flyers. Four weeks ago he learned that it may be possible to bring Richards to LA, but he admitted that only in the last two days did the deal really come together.

He explained on a conference call his excitement for Richards as well as helping fill a void on the Kings roster:

“I think it’s fair to say that when I found out this player was available, there was no doubt in my mind — given what I know about his character and his competitiveness — and the thought of having him and Kopitar down the middle, that allows us, I think, essentially, to match up to any team in the Western Conference. I think that was a big hole. So I think we’ve cleaned that up today.”

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren acknowledged that informing Richards and Carter of the trades was a “tough (call) for me to make and tough for them to receive.” For his part, Richards was saying the right things to the media in a conference call this afternoon. Even though he was shocked by the news of his trade, he expressed the positive things he’s heard about his new team:

“I was fortunate enough to go to L.A. where I’ve heard nothing but tremendous things about the city and how nice it is out there and how great the organization treats you. When I signed that extension I wanted to stay in Philadelphia for the rest of my career. That’s what I envisioned, up until probably about 2:00 or 3:00 this afternoon when I got the call.

“You don’t understand it’s a business until you’re traded. But it is. It’s the worst part about it.”

Much has been made about the Flyers and their excitement for Ilya Bryzgalov and their ability to jump into the 1st round of Friday’s draft. But in the midst of their transformation, they made two Western Conference teams better in the short-term. The Blue Jackets immediately have one of the most dynamic top-line pairings in the entire league; the Kings filled the biggest need on their roster with one of the most respected professionals in the game.

Hopefully they’re happy with their moves, because it certainly sounds like the Blue Jackets and Kings are happy with theirs.

Sharks defeat Hurricanes, but Vlasic exits game with lower-body injury

Marc-Edouard Vlasic
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Talk about the ideal start.

Patrick Marleau scored just 12 seconds into the first period and the San Jose Sharks had a 2-1 lead before Saturday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes was even four minutes old.

The Sharks held on for a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes, Kevin Labanc‘s goal late in the second period standing as the winner, as the two teams traded three goals in the span of just over three minutes.

It remains awfully crowded in the Pacific Division. The Flames lead with 34 points, while the Sharks, Ducks and Oilers are all one point back.

The victory came with bad news for the Sharks.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game in the second period and didn’t return. He’s now day-to-day with a lower-body injury, according to coach Pete DeBoer following the win.

Flames dominate the Jets to take over top spot in the Pacific Division

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 10: Dougie Hamilton #27 of the Calgary Flames celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Is there a changing of the guard in the Pacific Division?

It’s the middle of December and the Calgary Flames, now with six straight wins, lead the same division dominated last season by the California powers in Anaheim, San Jose and L.A. The Edmonton Oilers have been inconsistent at times this season but they are right there, too, one point back. Same goes for the Ducks. The Sharks and Kings are definitely in contention.

There is plenty of hockey remaining in the season. Plenty of chances for change in the NHL’s division standings, including in the Pacific. But there’s no denying the Flames are on an impressive run.

Late last month, they had a particularly frustrating loss to Philadelphia and coach Glen Gulutzan voiced his displeasure about it. They followed that up the next day with an overtime loss to the Islanders. Prior to that weekend, there had been rumblings about the future of Gulutzan with the club, despite being only a few months into his tenure.

But since then, the Flames have yet to lose. They continued their winning streak with a convincing 6-2 victory over the visiting Jets on Saturday.

Dougie Hamilton — remember all that trade speculation surrounding the Flames defenseman and Brian Burke’s classic response? — had two goals for Calgary. Chad Johnson was solid in net again. It was a pretty dominant performance all around.

Frustrating night for the Jets and it showed when Dustin Byfuglien dropped the gloves with Garnet Hathaway late in the third period.

There are more difficult tests ahead for Calgary.

The Flames face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday and then the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

In previous seasons, a Friday night game between the Flames and Blue Jackets in the middle of December might not garner much interest. But they are both among the hottest teams in the league right now and it’s likely not many would’ve predicted that a short time ago.

Video: Perlini’s first NHL goal helps lift Coyotes over Predators

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 10:  Brendan Perlini #29 of the Arizona Coyotes reacts alongside Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators after Perlini scored his first career goal during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on December 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes have moved out of last place in the NHL’s overall standings, courtesy a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Minus forward Max Domi, placed on IR and expected to be out on a week-to-week basis, the Coyotes got a 44-save performance from goalie Mike Smith and recently recalled forward Brendan Perlini pitched in with his first career NHL goal.

That goal gave Arizona a 3-1 lead. Thanks to the play of Smith, the Coyotes wouldn’t relinquish the lead, snapping a six-game losing skid.

It wasn’t all good news for the Coyotes.

Defenseman Connor Murphy played only 4:12. He left the game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. Per reports, Murphy is considered day-to-day at this point.

The Blue Jackets just keep on winning

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets after scoring his first career NHL goal during the third period of the game against the San Jose Sharks on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. San Jose defeated Columbus 3-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift.

Saad, Sedlak and Jones scored in a 5-minute span to make it 6-2 with 5:37 to go.

New York’s third-string goalie Jean-Francois Berube then replaced Halak and stopped the one shot he faced in his season debut.

The Islanders came out quick and it took Columbus a while to get going. New York took a 1-0 lead 5:59 in when a defensive pass by the Blue Jackets’ Sam Gagner at the boards was deflected by Bailey, and the popup was bobbled by Bobrovsky into the net. Bailey was given credit for an unassisted goal.

The Blue Jackets tied it up on a power play with 6:01 left in the first when Johnson wound up from just inside the neutral zone and fired a bullet past Halak. It was Johnson’s first goal of the season.

Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky and New York’s Travis Harmonic went to the penalty box for 5 minutes each when both threw down the gloves and threw punches near the end of the first quarter.

Columbus took a 2-1 lead when a speeding Atkinson took a pass from Johnson in the neutral zone and beat Halak on the breakaway 10:16 into the second. New York tied with 7:28 left in the period when Tavares lifted the puck over Bobrovsky’s pad from in front of the net.

The Blue Jackets took off in the third period.

After Anderson gave Columbus the lead for good, Saad made it 4-2 on a wrister from the high slot at 9:23.

Sedlak, who scored his first NHL goal on Friday night, scored another when he tapped in a loose puck with 7:21 to go. Jones capped it with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining.