NHL on NBCSN: Flyers, Rangers aim to bury disappointments

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET.

This game is a battle for the eighth seed, with the Philadelphia Flyers holding onto it by just one point despite having played in three more games than the New York Rangers — and few people would have predicted that statement would be true close to the halfway point of the 2013 campaign.

It’s safe to say that the Flyers and Rangers starts rank among the most disappointing, but they’ve both enjoyed some recent success that might mark the turn of their respective campaigns.

For Philadelphia, it helps that they’ve gotten one of its key contributors last season, Scott Hartnell, back now that he’s recovered from a broken foot. The recent acquisition of Simon Gagne has also bolstered their depth.

Combined that with captain Claude Giroux heating up and finding the back of the net hasn’t been a serious issue for the Flyers lately.

The New York Rangers can’t say the same. So far Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik, and Brad Richards have combined to miss just four games (although Richards missed Monday’s practice), but despite the relatively good health of their three elite forwards, the Rangers have been among the worst teams offensively this season.

As a result, they’ve only won twice this season when Henrik Lundqvist or Martin Biron has allowed three or more goals. Fortunately for the Rangers, Lundqvist is having another great year after a shaky start and has dominated the Flyers over the last couple seasons.

He’ll try to force that trend’s continuation, but that will be a serious challenge now that the Flyers offense has heated up.

Probable goaltenders: NYR – Lundqvist (9-7-1, 2.28 GAA, .918 SV%) | PHI – Ilya Bryzgalov (11-9-1, 2.61 GAA, .907 SV%)

Top scorers: NYR – Nash (5-11-16, 16 GP) | PHI – Jakub Voracek (9-16-25, 23 GP)

Notable Injuries:
New York – Forwards: Brad Richards (undisclosed), Arron Asham (back) Defensemen: Michael Sauer (concussion)
Philadelphia – Forwards: Tye McGinn (eye), Matt Read (ribs), Jody Shelley (hip) Defensemen: Andrej Meszaros (shoulder), Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion), Chris Pronger (concussion)

Red Wings are ‘excited’ about Michael Rasmussen’s offensive upside

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The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years, but there appears to be something good that came from that.

Instead of drafting in the back half of the first round, the Wings were able to get a top 10 selection in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. With the ninth overall pick, they chose power forward Michael Rasmussen.

Rasmussen is listed at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. NHLers of that size are a rare breed. Add the fact that he’s gifted offensively, and it looks like the Red Wings may have a gem coming through the pipeline.

In his first three career preseason games, the 18-year-old has already picked up two goals. His play hasn’t gone unnoticed by the organization.

“I’m excited about him as a prospect,” head coach Jeff Blashill said, per MLive.com. “He’s big, he’s smooth, he’s got good hands, he’s got good offensive sense.”

With all big forwards, a lot of their success will be determined by their skating ability. In today’s NHL, it’s pretty clear that you need to be able to move if you’re going to have a long and productive career. But according to Blashill, skating isn’t a big issue with Rasmussen.

“I think he skates well. People have questioned that, but I don’t see that at all. I think he covers lots of ground in a hurry. I think he needs to move his feet a little bit more at times in the D-zone, but overall I’ve been happy with his play.”

No matter what he does between now and the end of training camp, it sounds like Rasmussen will be heading back to the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, where he’ll look to improve his numbers from last year (32 goals, 55 points in 50 games).

Luongo pushes through ‘mental, physical grind’ in comeback from hip injury

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Roberto Luongo is back, taking part in the preseason for the Florida Panthers, in preparation for when the games begin to count in the standings.

However, his latest comments suggest he didn’t know if that would indeed be the case, after suffering a hip injury that resulted in surgery following the 2015-16 season and then shut him down in March last season.

“For a good two- to three-month period it was a battle mentally to just figure out if I could be able to ever come back,” Luongo told NHL.com. “I didn’t feel like I was getting better and it was constantly bothering me, so it was as much a mental grind as a physical grind from March until almost June if I could ever fully recover and feel good on the ice.”

Luongo is now 38 years old and the rigorous demands of playing that position for more than 960 career regular season games — not to mention playoffs or international duty — can surely take a toll on the body. The Panthers have a good tandem in net with Luongo and James Reimer, but what will be intriguing as the season progresses is how head coach Bob Boughner divvies up playing time between the two, with Luongo appearing to be healthier and as Florida looks to get back into the postseason.

The past several weeks, though, have been encouraging for Luongo. He returned to the ice well ahead of training camp and gave an optimistic report, saying there weren’t “any issues.” That was just over a month ago. He stopped all eight shots he faced during 31:26 of ice time in his preseason debut last week, which was a good start.

Auston Matthews puts on a show in preseason tilt vs. Habs

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Auston Matthews and William Nylander are showing no signs of any sophomore slump so far through the pre-season.

Matthews had a hat trick and an assist and Nylander had a goal and two assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 in an NHL preseason game on Monday night.

Matthews scored his first goal of the game 47 seconds into the first period. His wrist shot from just inside the blue line went over the right shoulder of Canadiens goaltender Al Montoya.

Matthews made it 2-0 at 4:56. Nylander’s initial shot went high, and Matthews batted down the rebound and into an open side of the net.

He scored his third goal in the third period. While on a breakaway, Matthews shot the puck between the legs of Montoya at 3:46.

Matthews has four goals and two assists in three preseason games.

Jeff Petry scored for Montreal while on the power play at 11:37 of the second period.

Nylander scored at 6:03 of the third period to give Toronto a 5-1 lead.

Patrick Marleau also had a goal for Toronto while Frederik Andersen made 20 saves.

 

Video: Trouba receives match penalty for hit on Flames’ Hrivik

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Tempers flared during the third period of Monday’s preseason game between the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.

Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba received a match penalty for a hit at the blue line on Flames forward Marek Hrivik, leading to a melee along the boards.

Garnet Hathaway took exception to the hit, immediately jumping in and dropping the gloves with Trouba. Hathaway was also assessed an instigator penalty.

The hit occurred just after Hrivik dumped the puck into the Jets zone. Trouba stepped up at the line and delivered the hit, sending Hrivik hard to the ice.

Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice commented on the hit after the game:

The league’s Department of Player Safety has been busy over the past few days, handing out preseason suspensions to Capitals forward Tom Wilson and, on Monday, Rangers forward Andrew Desjardins.