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Flyers send Brayden Schenn to minors, waive role players

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While it may only be a temporary setback, oddsmakers might want to lower Brayden Schenn’s Calder Trophy chances a bit. CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio reports that the Philadelphia Flyers sent the injured rookie center down to the minors today. Schenn is dealing with a shoulder injury, although the severity is unclear (it kept him out for the final week of training camp).

The Flyers also put the following players on waivers: checking forward Blair Betts along with defensemen Oskars Bartulis and Matt Walker.

Schenn and Wayne Simmonds were the most noteworthy returns from a blockbuster trade that sent Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings. Philly hopes that Schenn and Sean Couturier can eventually close the gaps created by the Richards and Jeff Carter trades. That process looks to be delayed a bit more with this injury situation, although it was overly optimistic to expect them to plug that hole immediately anyway.

Update: Beyond injury concerns, the Flyers will enjoy considerable salary cap savings by demoting Schenn (even briefly), as commenter jsaq pointed out. Here’s the gist from TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Schenn’s contract, negotiated by the Los Angeles Kings will pay him $900,000 this year, plus $850,000 in entry level ‘A’ bonuses for a total of $1.75 million, however Schenn has substantial ‘B’ bonuses included in his deal that would be very cap unfriendly to the Flyers.

The ‘B’ bonuses in the first two years of his contract pay Schenn $1.265 million and $1.405 million if he plays 25 minutes in each of the 82 regular season games.

These are unlikely, if not impossible bonuses to achieve, although Philadelphia isn’t willing to take the chance and face the possibility of having to absorb a cap hit of just over $3 million, so to cut the cap hit to a reasonable $1.75 million for this season, Schenn will be assigned to the Philadelphia Phantoms for at least one game, therefore nullifying the ‘B’ bonus clause this season.

Trouble coming on the penalty kill?

The Betts move might not mean much to casual fans, but it raises a serious question about the Flyers’ penalty kill. Take a look at the team’s top penalty killing forwards (from an average time on ice standpoint) from 2010-11, with departed/waived players in italics.

Betts: 3:37 minutes per game
Darroll Powe: 3:10
Richards: 2:08
Claude Giroux: 2:06

The Flyers’ next two forwards (Jeff Carter and Kris Versteeg) averaged less than a minute per game, but it’s startling that they’re gone too. Now, it’s safe to assume that Maxime Talbot will take one of the top roles next season, but there are still some spots to fill. (Talbot was second among Pittsburgh forwards with 2:55 per game in 2010-11.)

Wayne Simmonds could be a candidate for PK time, even though he averaged a measly five seconds of shorthanded time per game with the Kings. The team certainly can’t expect Jaromir Jagr to play that role and his countryman Jakub Voracek averaged a measly one second time of SH time per game with Columbus in 10-11.

Considering that teams typically roll with four top penalty kill checkers, anywhere between one and three forward spots seem unclear. (One could even argue that they might not want Giroux playing as many minutes shorthanded now that he’ll carry more of the offensive workload.)

This situation reinforces my feeling that the Flyers were justified in trading Carter but are likely to rue the day they moved versatile former captain Richards. He’ll go to the Kings and make Anze Kopitar’s life significantly easier, while defenses can clamp down on Giroux, Danny Briere and the rest of Philly’s new top guns.

Don’t be surprised if the Flyers end up being a contender even despite their issues next season – especially if their new Czechs click – but their penalty kill could be a problem, unless Ilya Bryzgalov makes an even bigger difference than expected.

Flames dominate the Jets to take over top spot in the Pacific Division

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 10: Dougie Hamilton #27 of the Calgary Flames celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Is there a changing of the guard in the Pacific Division?

It’s the middle of December and the Calgary Flames, now with six straight wins, lead the same division dominated last season by the California powers in Anaheim, San Jose and L.A. The Edmonton Oilers have been inconsistent at times this season but they are right there, too, one point back. Same goes for the Ducks. The Sharks and Kings are definitely in contention.

There is plenty of hockey remaining in the season. Plenty of chances for change in the NHL’s division standings, including in the Pacific. But there’s no denying the Flames are on an impressive run.

Late last month, they had a particularly frustrating loss to Philadelphia and coach Glen Gulutzan voiced his displeasure about it. They followed that up the next day with an overtime loss to the Islanders. Prior to that weekend, there had been rumblings about the future of Gulutzan with the club, despite being only a few months into his tenure.

But since then, the Flames have yet to lose. They continued their winning streak with a convincing 6-2 victory over the visiting Jets on Saturday.

Dougie Hamilton — remember all that trade speculation surrounding the Flames defenseman and Brian Burke’s classic response? — had two goals for Calgary. Chad Johnson was solid in net again. It was a pretty dominant performance all around.

Frustrating night for the Jets and it showed when Dustin Byfuglien dropped the gloves with Garnet Hathaway late in the third period.

There are more difficult tests ahead for Calgary.

The Flames face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday and then the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

In previous seasons, a Friday night game between the Flames and Blue Jackets in the middle of December might not garner much interest. But they are both among the hottest teams in the league right now and it’s likely not many would’ve predicted that a short time ago.

Video: Perlini’s first NHL goal helps lift Coyotes over Predators

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 10:  Brendan Perlini #29 of the Arizona Coyotes reacts alongside Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators after Perlini scored his first career goal during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on December 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes have moved out of last place in the NHL’s overall standings, courtesy a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Minus forward Max Domi, placed on IR and expected to be out on a week-to-week basis, the Coyotes got a 44-save performance from goalie Mike Smith and recently recalled forward Brendan Perlini pitched in with his first career NHL goal.

That goal gave Arizona a 3-1 lead. Thanks to the play of Smith, the Coyotes wouldn’t relinquish the lead, snapping a six-game losing skid.

It wasn’t all good news for the Coyotes.

Defenseman Connor Murphy played only 4:12. He left the game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. Per reports, Murphy is considered day-to-day at this point.

The Blue Jackets just keep on winning

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets after scoring his first career NHL goal during the third period of the game against the San Jose Sharks on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. San Jose defeated Columbus 3-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift.

Saad, Sedlak and Jones scored in a 5-minute span to make it 6-2 with 5:37 to go.

New York’s third-string goalie Jean-Francois Berube then replaced Halak and stopped the one shot he faced in his season debut.

The Islanders came out quick and it took Columbus a while to get going. New York took a 1-0 lead 5:59 in when a defensive pass by the Blue Jackets’ Sam Gagner at the boards was deflected by Bailey, and the popup was bobbled by Bobrovsky into the net. Bailey was given credit for an unassisted goal.

The Blue Jackets tied it up on a power play with 6:01 left in the first when Johnson wound up from just inside the neutral zone and fired a bullet past Halak. It was Johnson’s first goal of the season.

Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky and New York’s Travis Harmonic went to the penalty box for 5 minutes each when both threw down the gloves and threw punches near the end of the first quarter.

Columbus took a 2-1 lead when a speeding Atkinson took a pass from Johnson in the neutral zone and beat Halak on the breakaway 10:16 into the second. New York tied with 7:28 left in the period when Tavares lifted the puck over Bobrovsky’s pad from in front of the net.

The Blue Jackets took off in the third period.

After Anderson gave Columbus the lead for good, Saad made it 4-2 on a wrister from the high slot at 9:23.

Sedlak, who scored his first NHL goal on Friday night, scored another when he tapped in a loose puck with 7:21 to go. Jones capped it with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining.

NHL schedules hearings for Stars’ Oleksiak, Sens’ Borowiecki after separate incidents

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 10: Jamie Oleksiak #5 of the Dallas Stars in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Two NHL players will have disciplinary hearings Sunday with the league’s Department of Player Safety for separate incidents that occurred Saturday.

The league announced Saturday evening that Jamie Oleksiak of the Dallas Stars will have a hearing for an illegal hit to the head of Philly’s Chris VandeVelde during the third period of the Flyers’ win.

There was no penalty called on the play.

The league also announced that Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki will have a hearing Sunday for a boarding penalty he took against Kings forward Tyler Toffoli.

The incident occurred early in the first period. Borowiecki received a major penalty, but remained in the game. Toffoli left the game to undergo concussion protocol, but he did eventually return.