Get your game notes: Flyers at Wild

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Minnesota Wild hosting the Philadelphia Flyers starting at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

— After scoring 10 goals in his first 15 games, Wild winger Jason Pominville has only three in his last 13 games, and none in his last five. In the Wild’s shootout loss to Colorado on Saturday, Pominville had no shots on goal for the first time this season.

— Minnesota is seventh in the Western Conference, and Philadelphia is tenth in the Eastern Conference. The Wild are 12-1-1 this season against teams that are currently ranked outside the top-eight of their respective conference (8-0-0 at home), while the Flyers are 2-8-0 against teams that are currently in the top-eight (1-3-0 on the road).

— The two captains, Flyers center Claude Giroux and Wild center Mikko Koivu, upped their games in November after struggling through the first month of the season. Giroux had 4 goals (2 game-winning) and 8 assists–12 points, while Koivu had 5 goals (2 game-winning) and 9 assists–14 points.

— Since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, Claude Giroux (159) has the third-most points in the NHL (Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos – both 177) and the third-most assists in the league (114, behind only Henrik Sedin – 121, and Joe Thornton – 117).

— Since the beginning of the 2005-06 season, Wild winger Zach Parise has scored at least one goal in 16 games vs. the Flyers (18 total in 40 games). During that span, only Sidney Crosby (21 games), Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin (19 apiece), and Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk (16) have as many.

—Flyers goaltender Steve Mason (26 regular-season games) and Wild goaltender Josh Harding (24) have the NHL’s two longest active streaks of holding their opponents to three or fewer goals. Among all NHL netminders, only Mason, Harding, Peter Budaj (17) and Ben Scrivens (15) have active streaks over 15.

— Dating back to April 3, 2013, the Flyers have zero points in their last 12 games in which they trailed at the second intermission. This season, only two NHL teams can match the Flyers’ (0-9-0) inability to come back in the third period to salvage a point: Buffalo (0-17-0) and Nashville (0-11-0).

— The Flyers are the most-penalized team in the NHL, in terms of number of penalties (151), penalty minutes (438) and penalty minutes/game (16.8). The Wild are middle of the pack in all three categories, but experienced a franchise-first in their most recent game, at Colorado (Nov. 30): a penalty-free game.

— The Wild have gone the longest of any NHL team since their last hat trick (Jan. 16, 2010 – Guillaume Latendresse). Since then, nine different Flyers players – past or present – have scored at least three goals in a game. Only Anaheim has as many unique hat tricks during that span. (Elias Sports Bureau)

— In head-to-head matchups this season, Western Conference teams are a combined 100-43-18 vs. Eastern Conference teams. (Minnesota is 8-3-2 vs. the East; Philadelphia is 3-3-1 vs. the West.)

— Since the Wild joined the NHL as an expansion team in 2000-01, they are 4-8-1 (.346) against the Flyers, their second-worst head-to-head record vs. any team (Toronto, 4-8-0, .333). In those 13 games, they have scored one goal or fewer in eight of them, and two goals or fewer in 11. In their last two meetings, the Flyers have outscored the Wild by a combined 11-2 margin.

It’s Carolina Hurricanes day at PHT

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The Carolina Hurricanes have been building up some buzz ever since Bill Peters helped transform a young core into an impressive possession machine.

Even so, whether you blame it on goaltending or some other factor, the Hurricanes haven’t made it to the playoffs since the 2009-10 season.

Management took measures to make some key upgrades in the off-season in order to break that slump.

Logically enough, Carolina searched for an answer in net, trading away Eddie Lack and boldly handing a four-year, $16.6 million contract to Scott Darling. With that, they’ll mix the future (Darling) with the past (Cam Ward) as their goalie duo.

Speaking of the past, the Hurricanes also brought back a vestige of their Stanley Cup victory, acquiring Justin Williams as a UFA. They added some additional championship experience by bringing Marcus Kruger into the mix, too.

Some of the biggest transactions come down to keeping players in the fold. The Hurricanes made it clear that, along with Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin figure into their long-term plans with substantial contract extensions.

Of course, the biggest decision may come off the ice, as the Hurricanes’ ownership situation remains fuzzy at the moment.

Switching gears, it’s easy to see why people are so excited about the Hurricanes. Aside from a Williams here and Lee Stempniak there, this roster is brimming with young talent, including players whose peak years are likely ahead of them.

Still, at some point, potential needs to make way for production. PHT will examine where the Hurricanes might be headed in 2017-18 on this fine day.

Lehtera: Trade from Blues to Flyers will be ‘good for me’

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Let’s be honest. Jori Lehtera felt like a bit of an afterthought in the trade that sent Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues and some significant picks to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Just consider the PHT headline: “Flyers send Schenn to Blues, take on Lehtera’s contract.”

That’s certainly a fair way to look at it, as the Flyers received the 27th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft and a conditional first-rounder in the deal. Would they have gotten such a haul for Schenn if they didn’t absord Lehtera’s $4.7 million cap hit, which expires after 2018-19?

Again, it’s easy to lose track of the human factor, as Lehtera was moved from the only NHL team he’s ever suited up for. While he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford that the news brought out both good and bad emotions, the 29-year-old believes that he’ll benefit on the ice.

“I have no idea why (the Blues traded me), but I think it’s better for me that I got traded, so I don’t really care why,” Lehtera said. “That’s the business part of hockey. It’s always tough to leave when you know all of the guys and the city. But hockey-wise, it’s going to be good for me. I didn’t play well at the end, but I think a new start will be really good for me.”

It’s been an interesting few years for Lehtera.

His numbers have dropped from his nifty rookie season (14 goals, 44 points) to 2015-16 (34 points) and finally last season (22 points).

Context matters, naturally, as centering a line of Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko inflated his numbers, especially earlier on.

Still, that couldn’t have been a promising trend for both the player and the team.

The challenge will be to really make a mark with Philly. With Claude Giroux, Valtteri Filppula, Sean Couturier, and possibly even Nolan Patrick in the way, Lehtera would have plenty of competition down the middle. It wouldn’t be shocking if he was asked to move to the wing on occasion.

Lehtera certainly has plenty to prove, but he also gets a chance to make a positive first impression. If he can make an impact, then he’ll make Flyers GM Ron Hextall look that much brighter in the process.

Report: Avalanche will soon have AHL affiliate in Colorado

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There are upgrades that improve teams in dramatic ways, and then there are moves that improve quality of life.

Mike Chambers of The Denver Post reports that the Colorado Avalanche will make a tweak that would likely be a big plus in the quality of life category: starting in 2018-19, the Colorado Eagles will be their AHL affiliate. The Eagles will be bumped from an ECHL team to the AHL.

At the moment, the Avs’ affiliate is the San Antonio Rampage (pictured). So, yeah, there will be a nice advantage in a) calling players up and b) management having more opportunities to keep an eye on prospects.

The Budweiser Events Center is about a one-hour drive to the Pepsi Center according to Google Maps, depending upon traffic. So yeah, that’s an easier situation than traveling from Texas.

The Avalanche haven’t made this news official; Chambers cites two anonymous sources. With the change coming for 2018-19, it’s possible that confirmation might not come for a while. More from Chambers:

The Avs, citing their contract with the Rampage, declined comment, but vice president Jean Martineau confirmed the team’s contract with San Antonio ends after the 2017-18 season. Eagles general manager Chris Stewart could not be reached for comment.

Will Rangers fans warm up to Vigneault this season?

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This post is part of Rangers Day on PHT…

From the way many New York Rangers fans discuss Alain Vigneault, you’d think he was presiding over the era of 1997-98 to 2003-04, when the Rangers missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons.

Impressive results

From a sheer win-loss standpoint, Vigneault’s been a success, even if the Rangers haven’t been able to win it all. The Rangers’ points percentage has been at .628, almost as strong as his .632 mark with the Canucks, when AV took Vancouver within one win of that elusive Stanley Cup title.

(Breaking: things haven’t gone so smoothly for Vancouver since he left town.)

The Rangers are 192-108-28 under Vigneault. They made an unexpected run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and also brought them to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.

Plenty of critics

Of course, Vigneault wasn’t on the ice winning those games, and many would (understandably) attribute the Rangers’ successes to the players, most notably Henrik Lundqvist. In the eyes of many, this team’s successes come despite Vigneault.

Again, the criticisms are often as harsh as they are widespread.

Sometimes people find his defensive pairing decisions maddening. If you want to make some Rangers fans wince, just utter the name Tanner Glass. SBNation Rangers blog Blueshirt Banter provides a portal into such angst, with headlines like “Rangers demise started at the top” and failing grades for his playoff maneuvering.

Twitter can honestly get a little weird with the AV vitriol, although … maybe that’s to be expected? Consider this a random example that’s on the more, well, SFW spectrum:

Not everyone is bashing Vigneault, mind you, but his critics can sometimes resemble a chorus.

Glass floor

Of course, any passionate fan base will have its qualms with coaches. People have been discussing “the pros and cons of Alain Vigneault” for ages.

It’s easy to get caught up in your favorite team and ignore the notion that virtually every coach has “their guys.”

In this case, “their guys” means marginal players whose elevated roles leaves fans shaking their heads. Jon Cooper seemingly favored Andrej Sustr and arguably never really trusted Jonathan Drouin. Maple Leafs fans weren’t always thrilled to see, say, Roman Polak getting serious minutes. The list goes on and on.

A turning point?

With that in mind, the 2017-18 season could be an especially fascinating chapter in the love-hate affair between Rangers fans and Vigneault.

Frankly, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton took measures to protect Vigneault from himself, and those changes might just leave fans begrudgingly agreeing with more AV moves than usual … or it might send some over the edge if old habits die hard.

As much as people criticize individual moves, Vigneault made a strong argument that he’s a versatile coach in 2016-17, taking a more modern approach with the Rangers. It mostly worked, and now this team has better tools to improve their transition game.

To an extent, it’s addition by subtraction, as Dan Girardi‘s time mercifully ends, and with it the motivation for AV to give him big minutes. This opens the door for more mobile defenders to get time, such as promising young blueliner Brady Skjei.

The actual additions are most important. Kevin Shattenkirk stands, on paper, as a massive upgrade, especially if he slides into a pairing with Ryan McDonagh (who some believe has been dragged down by Girardi for years).

Another key will be how Marc Staal is used. If the emphasis shifts from Staal to Shattenkirk, McDonagh, Skjei, Brendan Smith and maybe even Anthony DeAngelo, stats-minded Rangers fans might be pleased.

Maybe most importantly for the mental health of some fans, that lure to put Glass in the lineup is also gone.

***

To some extent, criticisms are just the nature of the beast for coaches in professional sports. Vigneault’s been around long enough to realize that.

Even so, the highs and lows of Vigneault can sometimes be quite dramatic, making him a polarizing subject for fans. This season should be especially interesting to watch from the perspective of Rangers fans, whether AV makes changes or continues to frustrate them in familiar ways.