Evgeni Malkin, Brandon Sutter

Torts admits Canucks are ‘fragile’


Winless in their last five, the Vancouver Canucks are a “fragile” team.

Head coach John Tortorella didn’t hesitate to admit it last night after the Pittsburgh Penguins scored twice in the final 71 seconds to tie it, ultimately winning 5-4 in the shootout.

“But that’s part of growing as a team,” said Tortorella, notably calm and composed after such a tough loss. “That’s what’s on us. Yeah, I think it’s fragile. I think all teams get in this state; it’s how quickly you can get out of it. That’s the important thing for our club right now; it’s how to change the momentum.”

Last night’s blown lead wasn’t the first of the season for Vancouver. In fact, it wasn’t even the first in the last week. Sunday in Anaheim, the Ducks tied it with 87 seconds left and won in the final tick of overtime.

For the Canucks, it sure feels a long way from 2010-11, when, if anything, they were accused of overconfidence and arrogance.

It also won’t get any easier anytime soon. Friday, the Blues pay a visit to Rogers Arena. Then, it’s a three-game trip to Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix.

“The state of our team right now, we’ve gotta just try to get the positives and build off it,” said Tortorella, who seemed pleased with the overall performance versus the Penguins, save for the late collapse.

“There’s no sense in whining about it. There’s no sense in looking for excuses. We just have to continue to try and get better as a team.”

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.