Can both Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier crack the Flyers lineup?

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When the Flyers sent Mike Richards to Los Angeles and Jeff Carter to Columbus in separate trades this summer, it shook the Flyers and their fans to the core. After all, both Carter and Richards were drafted in the first round in the same year back in 2003 and grew up together on the Flyers poised to be the center duo that would lead them to the Stanley Cup. While those two were able to take them to the finals in 2010, they couldn’t bring the big prize home. Seeing them both sent packing to new teams was a shock.

In their place came Brayden Schenn, acquired in the Mike Richards trade, and 2011 first round pick Sean Couturier, taken with the pick the Blue Jackets gave up to get Carter. Schenn was viewed as being one of the top prospects in all of hockey and Couturier was viewed before the draft as being one of the top five prospects in the 2011 draft.

The Flyers have both of their potential future stars on display during their rookies game in Philadelphia between the Flyers and Washington Capitals today at Wells Fargo Center. Could it be a preview of what’s to come as soon as this year? Some think it could be.

Brayden Schenn got a taste of NHL life last year with the Kings playing in eight games and getting to stick around with the team for a while as a healthy scratch. This time around, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has very high hopes for Schenn. Sam Carchidi of Philly.com gives his take.

Based on general manager Paul Holmgren’s comments earlier this summer, the hardworking Schenn is the leading candidate to start the season as the team’s third-line center. Scouts say Schenn, who turned 20 last month, is a budding star.

As for Couturier, being an 18 year-old going into his first professional camp is a daunting task. After being one of the top rated prospects in the 2011 draft, the thought was already around heading into draft weekend that he could be one of the few that makes it to the NHL right away. Joining Philadelphia doesn’t necessarily mean that though as the Flyers do have enough talent up the middle to make it work.

For Couturier, that might only serve to motivate him to force the issue in training camp and make a spot available for him on the Flyers roster right away. Sarah Baicker of CSNPhilly.com looks at Couturier’s chances of cracking the Flyers roster as an 18 year-old.

Couturier, one of the participants in rookie camp, which kicked off Monday, is sure to get a lot of good looks from Flyers coaches and management over the coming days. And they will extend well into next week; the team’s full training camp begins Saturday. Couturier has already earned an invite.

“My main goal is to make the team, but I’m taking it one day at a time, working hard every day,” Couturier said. “Just trying to get better every day. It’s going to be up to the staff to decide whether they keep me or not.”

“I’m just hoping to make a good first impression,” he added.

If he can make that impression today against the Capitals and throughout training camp, there’s a chance he can make the Flyers and not get a ticket back to junior hockey. At 6’3″ 200 pounds, he’s got NHL size but whether his skills can keep up at an NHL level is another question.

One thing is for sure, coach Peter Laviolette will have a lot to look out for in training camp as both Schenn and Couturier are part of the Flyers future and will be good players. If they can both bring it to the NHL now, however, the Flyers’ deals this summer will start to look like genius moves from Paul Holmgren. If they can’t cut it though… Look out.

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.