Michael Del Zotto

After ‘humbling summer,’ Del Zotto aims to bolster Flyers’ D

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The majority of Michael Del Zotto’s summer didn’t go very well.

But it ended on a positive note.

Del Zotto, the former first-round pick that fell out of favor with both the Rangers and Predators last season, was an unsigned UFA deep into the summer signing period. After Nashville cut ties with him entirely, no other NHL deals came to fruition — but on Aug. 5, everything changed.

Philadelphia lost the services of Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) and needed a replacement on defense, so Del Zotto was signed to a one-year, $1.3 million deal. It marked the end to the most tumultuous period of his young career.

“Yeah, it was a different summer for me,” Del Zotto said, per TSN. “Last season didn’t go as well as I would have liked but it’s been a very humbling summer but a very motivating summer.”

The 24-year-old needs all the motivation he can get to repair a reputation that, according to what one NHL club told the New York Post, was “in tatters.” Thankfully for Del Zotto, Philly will provide a pretty good opportunity to get his career back on track — the Flyers’ projected top-six defense is Mark Streit, Braydon Coburn, Andrew MacDonald, Nicklas Grossmann, Luke Schenn and Nick Schultz, a group laden with veteran presences but hardly the toughest nut to crack.

The biggest opportunity for Del Zotto might be the opening Timonen’s departure presents on the power play. The veteran Finn was a PP unit staple a season ago — he finished second on the team in PP TOI (3:25 per game) last season, and led all Flyer rearguards with 20 power play points — and if there’s one thing Del Zotto was known for in the early stages of his career, it was producing with the man advantage.

During his best season — the 2011-12 campaign in New York — Del Zotto finished tops among Rangers d-men and second in the team in power-play assists, with 13. For all of the question marks regarding his defensive awareness and commitment level, there’s no denying Del Zotto’s skill set and ability to move the puck, meaning he could audition for a chance to QB the Flyers’ power play.

It’s something head coach Craig Berube alluded to shortly after the Flyers signed Del Zotto.

“He has lots of skill, speed,” Berube said, per CSN Philly. “He gets up in the play offensively. [He] worked the power play before in New York. He has a lot of skill.”

As for Del Zotto, he’s not focusing on power play units or defensive pairings right now. He just wants to reclaim the form he showed earlier in his career.

“I know what I can bring to the Philadelphia Flyers and what I can do to help them out,” he said. “I’m confident in myself and confident I can get back to where I used to be.”

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand celebrates after scoring on a penalty shot during the overtime period of the Boston Bruins 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.