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Flyers have high expectations in Czechs: Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek

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In a way, it’s hard not to wonder if the Philadelphia Flyers wish they could cross Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek into a single, super-Czech forward.

The general feeling is that Jagr (39) is too old to get it done at the NHL level, although it might all come down to your expectations. Meanwhile, on the other hand, some believe that Columbus Blue Jackets castoff Voracek (22) is still a few years from hitting his prime.

Peter Laviolette: “Jagr’s still got it”

If you’re a fan of the game as a whole – i.e. not a jilted Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals fan – then you’re probably rooting for Jagr to at least make things interesting. He’s been better than interesting in three preseason games, scoring four goals and creating plenty of other dangerous chances. It’s dangerous to weigh exhibition results too heavily, but Jagr still managed to impress teammates and coaches.

“I don’t think anyone expected him to come back and be as good as he has shown so far in camp,” said Danny Briere, who spent some preseason time on the power play with Jagr. “It’s very exciting for everyone. It’s exciting for me to have the chance to skate with him and to play with him.”

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“He’s clearly still got it,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.

Many will struggle to keep expectations in check with Jagr. After all, he was arguably the most unstoppable offensive force of his era – he won five Art Ross Trophies and ranks ninth all-time with 1,599 points. Expecting him to rekindle his 90-100 point form of yore isn’t fair, but 25 goals isn’t an outrageous request (if he stays healthy).

Could Voracek be the next Ville Leino in Philly?

Speaking of notching 25 goals, CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio reports that some within the Flyers organization believe that Voracek has that kind of potential. In a way, he strikes me as a likely candidate to be the “next” Ville Leino for the Flyers – a player who came into an organization with high expectations, only to realize them once he entered The City of Brotherly Love.

Voracek has been just OK in Columbus, scoring 46 points in 2010-11 and 50 in 09-10. Those aren’t horrendous numbers for a developing forward, but they probably disappointed the Blue Jackets’ brass who drafted him seventh overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

If there’s one reversible trend from his first three seasons in the league – beyond the possibility of playing with better linemates – it’s that Voracek needs to get more trigger-happy. Each season, his shot totals continue to rise (from 101 in 2008-09 to 154 in 09-10 and 183 in 10-11). Voracek’s increased shot volume didn’t really generate the goals he was hoping for last season, but the good news is that he’s firing away nonetheless – even if the results haven’t been there yet.

The good news: Voracek led the Flyers with 14 shots in preseason.

The bad news: He didn’t score a goal.

That said, Voracek had a half-dozen shots that kissed the post or crossbar. He even had a point-blank open net shot in New Jersey get deflected off a defenseman.

“I mean, I felt very good all preseason,” Voracek said. “I felt awesome every game. I think I could have one goal and a few more. It’s just preseason.”

Panaccio’s report indicates that the Flyers are trying to imprint a message upon Voracek: shoot and shoot some more. That’s the best way for any skilled winger to make a bigger impact on the game, and it’s reasonable to assume that his shooting percentage will climb higher that last year’s career-low 7.7 rate.

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The Flyers might hope that Jagr takes Voracek under his wing to whatever extent he can. Either way, Philly’s ceiling could change dramatically depending upon how well one aging Czech and one very young one play in 11-12.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.