Jay Beagle

Top dog: Beagle to Caps first line, Penner down to fourth


Jay Beagle isn’t exactly a household name in the NHL, but now he’s Alex Ovechkin’s new first line center. At least according to what coach Adam Oates has done in practice recently that is.

As Katie Carrera of The Washington Post shares, injuries to Brooks Laich and Mikhail Grabovski are forcing Oates to make some moves, and moving Beagle up to the top line is a curious one, but an opportunity he’s looking to take advantage of.

“It’s obviously what every player wants. I want to take this opportunity and I want to run with it,” Beagle said.  “You want to do the best you can not only for yourself , but for your team. We’re making a playoff push every point is so important, everyone is important.”

For the record, Beagle has two goals and seven points this season and has been mostly a fourth line center averaging 10:29 of ice time.

The playoff push is the thing here (they’re two points behind the New York Rangers for the second wild card) and Beagle getting top line duty isn’t the only curious move. Check out the lines they used in practice yesterday.

Nicklas Backstrom working with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Troy Brouwer seems like a way to balance out scoring amongst the top lines, but what’s up with Dustin Penner on the fourth line?

We’ve seen him demoted like this before with the Los Angeles Kings, but when he was picked up by the Caps at the trade deadline it was expected he’d be the left wing on Ovechkin’s line. Now he’s riding with AHL call-up Casey Wellman and rookie Tom Wilson.

If the moves work and the Caps come away with wins against L.A. and Anaheim, Oates will look like a genius. If not, this starts to look like a throwback to when Dale Hunter was running the show.

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.