With most of the Flyers lineup set, who’s staying and who’s going?

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When it comes to the Flyers, you already know that guys like Jaromir Jagr, James van Riemsdyk, Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Maxime Talbot are sticking around to start the season. Hell,  the first six of those guys will make up who plays on the top two scoring lines for Philly.

What about the rest, though? Jody Shelley is sitting out to start the season thanks to being Shana-banned, but the competition for other spots on the bottom two lines is tight. With Simmonds and Talbot assuming two of those starting spots in the bottom six, the race to win a job is tight. Guys like Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Andreas Nodl, Blair Betts, and Zac Rinaldo are all in the mix.

Coach Peter Laviolette has his work cut out for him but Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi thinks he’s got an inside line on who has the edge to start the year in Philly. Apparently youth will lead the charge in Philadelphia.

Barring a trade, it’s likely two of the following three forwards will make the team: Schenn, Couturier and Matt Read.

This trio is interesting because Schenn has virtually been anointed the third line center job already. Couturier and Read are curious because Couturier will get nine games to show if he’s NHL ready now. If he shows rookie worries and a lack of poise, he can go back to the QMJHL and junior hockey. Read is a college free agent out of Bemidji State in Minnesota. He impressed in his run through the AHL briefly last season and has been doing the same again this year. Conceivably, if Couturier gets sent back to juniors, Read can come back from the AHL to take his spot.

Giving Couturier a shot in the kind of atmosphere surrounding the Flyers with sky high expectations means they think a lot of the kid, even more so if he stays. As for guys like Rinaldo, Betts, and Nodl you’d have to think that Betts will be the fourth line center while Nodl is essentially competing with Read. Rinaldo would be assuming Shelley’s role as an enforcer/agitator if he makes the team.

The Flyers’ forward lines look pretty simple when broken down:

van Riemsdyk – Giroux – Jagr

Hartnell – Briere – Voracek

Talbot – Schenn – Simmonds

Couturier/Rinaldo/Shelley – Betts – Nodl/Read

From this perspective, it would seem unwise to put an 18 year-old rookie on the fourth line where he’s just not going to get a lot of minutes, but then again we’re not coaching the Flyers either. It would be possible that Couturier gets to run on the third line, but having two rookies along with Simmonds would be an awful lot of fun to see work out there.

The choices aren’t going to be easy for Laviolette as he’s got some solid young talent here, but developing them into being better NHL players might take precedence here. Guys like Nodl and Betts are fine as role players and defenders and could be better served doing just that.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.