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.”


“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.


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.

Rozsival to make season debut for Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks passes against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on December 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Sharks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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An injury to Trevor van Riemsdyk has paved the way for Michal Rozsival to make his season debut for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rozsival might’ve been scheduled to play anyway, as the veteran defenseman is expected to replace Michal Kempny when the ‘Hawks host the Flames tonight at United Center.

“We want to get everyone in at some point,” said head coach Joel Quenneville, per the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t want to wait too long to get him into the season here. He can be useful, gives us some experience and can play minutes against top guys.”

At 38, Rozsival is one of the oldest players in the NHL. When the ‘Hawks re-signed him for another year, it came as a surprise to many. And by the time training camp rolled around, even he wasn’t exactly sure what his role would be this season.

But not surprisingly, after last season, GM Stan Bowman would rather err on the side of too much depth on the back end.

“It’s funny, because we had these [interviews] a year ago and they were always saying, ‘Are you worried about your defense? Do you have enough depth there?'” Bowman said, per the Sun-Times. “And now you’re saying we have too much depth. I think no matter what the story is, there’s a story line to it. But I’d rather have more guys who can play. Are we going to be healthy all year long? I hope so. But I don’t know if we will. … The thing with Michal, even last year, he just played too much consecutively. He still has a lot of hockey left.”

Related: Blackhawks’ issues go beyond the penalty kill

Goalie nods: Slumping Flames go back to slumping Elliott

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 12:  Goalie Brian Elliott #1 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Edmonton Oilers on October 12, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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Calgary head coach Glen Gulutzan made a noteworthy decision over the weekend, opting to sit No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott against his former team, the St. Louis Blues, in favor of backup Chad Johnson.

The move didn’t pay off. Calgary lost 6-4, with Johnson allowing five goals on 39 shots.

So now, Elliott is back in goal was the Flames take on the ‘Hawks tonight at the United Center.

Acquired to fix the goaltending issues that plagued Calgary all of last season, Elliott has gone 0-3-0 with an .839 save percentage and 4.72 GAA.

Not good, obviously — especially for a 31-year-old pending UFA that’s looking to score a contract extension.

The Flames will hope that Elliott’s former goalie partner, Jake Allen, is something of a psychic. Over the weekend, Allen predicted that Elliott “will find his game very soon,” and tonight would be a good night for that to happen — Chicago’s offense has been firing over the last four games, finding the back of the net 16 times.

That said, the ‘Hawks are facing issues of their own.

They’ll give Corey Crawford the start tonight.


— Just one other game on the ledger, as the Flyers will take on the Habs in Montreal. Philly is going with Steve Mason, who allowed three goals on 30 shots in a win over Carolina on Saturday. The Canadiens are going with Carey Price, who allowed two goals on 21 shots in a win over Boston on Saturday.

Crosby skates in full-contact practice, but still no timetable for a return

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His official status hasn’t changed, but Sidney Crosby wasn’t wearing a no-contact jersey at Penguins practice today, and that’s progress.

“Sid is day-to-day, as he has been. We’ll take tomorrow as it comes,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club’s website. “It’s obviously a big step when he joins the group. To have him join the group in a full-contact practice like that is encouraging from our standpoint.”

Crosby has not played this season due to a concussion. There remains no timetable for his return, and the Pens aren’t going to rush their captain. But the way things have been progressing, don’t be surprised if he plays pretty soon. The Penguins host Florida tomorrow and the Islanders Thursday, then it’s off to Philadelphia for a game Saturday before embarking on a three-game trip to California.

“I got the OK to go out there and be in a full practice,” Crosby said. “It was just good to be back on the ice with the guys. It’s not easy watching. To be out there was nice and hopefully a good step.”

Budaj getting the job done, so far

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22:  Peter Budaj #31 of the Los Angeles Kings makes a save on Brandon Sutter #20 of the Vancouver Canucks for a 4-3 overtime shootout win at Staples Center on October 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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He hasn’t been perfect, but Peter Budaj has been good enough to give the Kings a two-game winning streak. Now the 34-year-old goalie is just hoping to keep it going, while Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff recover from their groin injuries.

“I just want to take it one game at a time,” Budaj said, per LA Kings Insider. “I know it’s a cliché and you guys probably hate it when players say that, but it is true. You just want to look up one game ahead, and that’s what you want to look at. We won today, we’re very happy, but we’ve just got to regroup, come back to work.”

Again, Budaj hasn’t been perfect. His save percentage is just .889, which isn’t very good at all.

But for a guy who’d started just one NHL game since the 2013-14 season, simply playing well enough to give his team a chance to win is about all that could be asked, and on that he’s delivered. He was a perfect three-for-three in Saturday’s shootout versus Vancouver, recovering nicely after allowing a late goal to send the game to overtime.

Next up for the Kings is a home game tomorrow against Columbus. After that comes a visit from Nashville, and then it’s off on a two-game trip to St. Louis and Chicago.

“There are a lot of tough games coming up for us, so we’ve got to just be ready and work hard and try to focus on the next game and don’t look too far ahead,” said Budaj, “because then you’re going to get caught in the moment and the present’s going to kind of slip away from you, so you’ve just got to focus on the present.”