Is Michael Nylander’s training camp tryout a sign that the Flyers are worried about Jaromir Jagr?

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While his $3.3 million salary is a bit bloated, the Philadelphia Flyers might get more from Jaromir Jagr than many critics expect. If nothing else, he’ll be inspired in a big chunk of Atlantic Division contests. Beyond sticking it to the Pittsburgh Penguins, many overlook the fact that Jagr will also have added motivation to get on-ice “revenge” against the New York Rangers, a team he spent parts of four seasons with. The deal would have been worthy of more ridicule if the term wasn’t right, but since it’s just a one-year deal, their risks are isolated to that hefty price alone.

Of course, the $3.3 million question is whether or not the future Hall of Famer will be an effective NHL player after spending the last three seasons in the KHL. His final season with the Rangers was a relative disappointment; after scoring 123 points in 2005-06 and 96 in 06-07, Jagr fell short of earning the right to extend his contract in New York by scoring “just” 71 points.

Jagr put up those impressive 05-06 and 06-07 numbers skating alongside fellow aging forward Michael Nylander and both forwards seemed to decline once they parted ways. Nylander’s post-Jagr path has been downright disastrous; he began that 2007 off-season by messily spurning the Edmonton Oilers to sign an ill-fated deal with the Washington Capitals. His price was a big issue, but his style wasn’t very cohesive with the Capitals’ style either, prompting the team to bury him in the minors. Things got even worse for Nylander last season, as a season-ending injury kicked him while he was down and put his career in serious jeopardy.

After navigating some serious bumps in the road over the last few years, the two forwards will be reunited – at least briefly – in Flyers’ training camp. While Jagr received that handsome one-year deal, Nylander’s situation is more fluid: he must fight for a roster spot via a training camp tryout. That invitation makes Puck Update’s Steve Ovadia wonder if the Flyers are having some concerns about how Jagr might fit into their team.

In the frenzy of the NHL off-season, the Flyers might have thought signing Jagr seemed like a great idea. They got to stick it to the Penguins, who were also interested in Jagr. And they got people talking about something other than the Flyers trading away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

But when the excitement of signing Jagr cleared, I’m wondering if the Flyers suddenly found themselves with doubts about just how Jagr will fit into their team. Coach Peter Laviolette loves sending forwards to the net, while Jagr lives along the side boards. Will Laviolette have to run two different offenses depending upon who’s on the ice?

I suspect the Nylander invitation is a bit of an insurance policy on Jagr. If Nylander can still play well enough, I think the Flyers like the idea of having a security blanket for Jagr. Jagr and Nylander could do their own east-west thing while the rest of the team can execute Laviolette’s north-south game plan.

Nylander centering Jagr’s line would be more than a bit comical considering the fact that Jagr cited the perks of skating alongside Claude Giroux and Danny Briere when explaining why he signed with the Flyers.

The next season will be an interesting test of Peter Laviolette’s strategic skills since the Flyers roster shifted from an overloaded offensive power to a team that is structured like many other NHL teams (a decent spread of talent on offense and defense with a high-priced goalie). Jagr’s greatest impact will probably come on the power play this season either way, so it might actually make some sense to pair him with Nylander in even strength situations and then throw him on one of the top PP units.

Ultimately, that’s for Laviolette (along with both Nylander and Jagr’s efforts in practices and training camp) to decide. Whether they resemble a Broadway play or a traveling circus, the Flyers should remain one of the NHL’s most dramatic and colorful teams next season – so stay tuned.

(H/T to Puck Daddy.)

Hjalmarsson says ‘Hawks are ‘too comfortable’ after rough trip through Florida

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When most people take trips to Florida, it’s to get away from the stress and struggle of everyday life. But it’s safe to say that this edition of the Chicago Blackhawks won’t want to remember their visit to the Sunshine State.

The ‘Hawks dropped an embarrassing 7-0 decision to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night before blowing a 4-1 lead in last night’s game against the Bolts (they eventually lost 5-4 in OT).

They still have a comfortable lead atop the Central Division (eight points up on the struggling Wild), but they aren’t satisfied with their play.

“It’s getting close to the end here and we’re getting a little bit too comfortable maybe,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said, per the Chicago Tribune. “As soon as you do that, you’re going to lose games … At the same time I’m glad that we were playing like this before the playoffs so we can make some adjustments.

“Eighty-two games is a long season. It’s a mental grind more than anything. As soon as you’re not there 100 percent, it’s going to show in the scoring.”

As Hjalmarsson said, six games is still enough time to figure things out for Chicago. They just won’t have the luxury of facing easy opponents when they do try to sort out their struggles.

They’ll play the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday before returning home to play Columbus and Boston. They’ll then head back on the road to close out the season in Denver, Anaheim and Los Angeles.

PHT Morning Skate: This season’s top five breakout performers

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Jake Allen wore a special U.S. Navy tribute mask during last night’s game against the Coyotes. It’s really a gorgeous mask. “The blue and yellow complements our colors well, and it’s a great tribute to the Blue Angel pilots who have the honor of flying and performing across the country.” (NHL.com/Blues)

–With every NHL season, there are surprises and disappointments. Rather than focus on the negatives, The Hockey News breaks down the top five breakout seasons in 2016-17. At the top of the list is Panthers forward Jonathan Marchesault, who is shockingly closing in on a 30-goal season. Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson and Boston’s David Pastrnak have also made names for themselves. (The Hockey News)

–It’s no secret that NHLers are forced to travel a lot, but each team makes the most of their road trips in different ways. For example, Kevin Shattenkirk and the Capitals enjoy fine dining when they’re away from home.  “It’s so easy to go to the top names or the ones that you hear of all the time, but when you go to a lot of these cities, the food scenes everywhere now are really starting to improve. A lot of my friends naturally are foodies. They bring me to some of their places. Even just a simple Google, most of the times, the first two things that come up are Yelp or TripAdvisor, and I usually go a couple down and look at a local newspaper, if they have the best spots to eat in 2017. I like to focus on those.” (Washington Post)

–The Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves down 4-1 in lasts night’s game against Chicago, but they were able to battle back and win in a thrilling overtime period. You can check out the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Tonight will mark the first time that Jordie and Jamie Benn play against each other since the trade that saw the older Benn head to Montreal. The Canadiens took the opportunity to ask their Benn some questions about what it was like growing up with his brother. Here’s a sample question: “Of the two of you, which one is Peyton and who is Eli?” (NHL.com/Canadiens)

–This year’s rookie class with Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Zach Werenski, Mitch Marner and Matt Murray is one of the best in recent memory, but which other freshmen classes stand out? BarDown takes a look at the top five rookie classes since 2000. (BarDown)

–Capitals forward Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky had some fun during picture day. The two players showed up to the rink with some pretty poofy hair. There’s no point in me trying to explain it when you can see the pictures for yourself. (NHL.com)

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP