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Another loss, and another bunch of discouraging quotes from the Avs

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The Avs lost 2-0 to Minnesota on Tuesday night — the sixth time this year they’ve been shut out — which put them at 11-19-1 on the year.

That’s the worst record in the NHL. Colorado is mired in the league basement, four points back of the 29th-place Coyotes, with the fewest goals scored (65) and the eighth-most goals allowed (99).

As Brough wrote two days ago, nothing is going right for this team.

“We’re still losing games, which is frustrating,” goaltender Semyon Varlamov said after the Wild loss, per the Denver Post. “We’ve lost four in a row. It’s embarrassing.”

Varlamov’s quote was telling, but hardly the only negative one. Matt Duchene said the Avs’ power play, which went 0-for-5 against Minnesota, was “awful.” Head coach Jared Bednar said it was just another example of a season-long issue — “we’ve been struggling all year to create offense.”

It’s really been a season of lowlights:

— The Avs’ longest winning streak of the season is two. It happened twice. Once at the start of the year (season-opening victories against the Stars and Penguins), and once in mid-November (wins over Minnesota and Columbus).

— They suffered one of the worst losses in franchise history two weeks ago, a 10-1 drubbing in Montreal that captain Gabriel Landeskog accurately summed up as an “ass-whooping.”

— Injuries haven’t helped. Landeskog missed a bunch of time with a lower-body ailment, and Erik Johnson is sidelined with a broken fibula.

— This isn’t the first time Duchene and Bednar have called out the group. The former said his team was “awful” in a shutout loss to Dallas on Dec. 3, and the latter has constantly harped on the Avs’ lack of intensity.

With a points percentage of 0.74, the Avs are in serious danger of eclipsing one of the worst teams in franchise history — Joe Sacco’s 2010-11 side, which finished with just 30 wins and 68 points. Colorado finished 29th in the league that year.

That finish, of course, netted the Avs the No. 2 overall pick, which they used to select Landeskog. And after winning the Calder trophy, Landeskog was named team captain, cementing him as a franchise cornerstone.

Now, though, Landeskog is the leader of a core group that’s come under heavy scrutiny (most notably by former head coach Patrick Roy). There have been rumblings of a potential shakeup for a while, though GM Joe Sakic has remained defiant, saying he has faith in the group.

“It’s not a core thing,” Sakic said. “It’s a team thing.”

Of course, Sakic said that back on Dec. 1, when the Avs were 9-11-1. Since then they’ve won just two of 10 games, and suffered that humiliating defeat in Montreal.

Which begs the question — how much longer can this go on without some kind of change?

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Los Angeles Kings

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Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Rangers; Penguins vs. Kings]

Los Angeles Kings

Adrian KempeAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tanner PearsonTrevor LewisTyler Toffoli

Alex IafalloNick ShoreMarian Gaborik

Kyle Clifford — Michael Amadio — Jonny Brodzinski

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Jake MuzzinAlec Martinez

Kevin Gravel — Christian Folin

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

Eric Lindros’ famed No. 88 retired in Philadelphia

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No. 88 has always hung from the rafters in the minds of Philadelphia Flyers fans.

The organization seemed to revere it as well. No one but Eric Lindros has ever worn the number.

And on Thursday night in the City of Brotherly Love, those fans could finally see it with their own eyes.

The Big E’s famous No. 88 in Flyers orange and black was retired at Wells Fargo Center, raised to hang next to the names of Bernie Parent, Mark Howe, Barry Ashbee, Bill Barber and Bobby Clarke.

“Without any doubt, this is the highest honor the organization can bestow on one of its members,” said Flyers president Paul Holmgren, who addressed the packed house. “Take a look at the rafters, only five players out of 600 to have ever worn the orange and black, and now that number will be six.

“When we raise your number in a few moments, know you’re back where you belong, and this time, it’s forever.”

Moments earlier, Lindros stood at center ice, waving at the standing ovation that engulfed the arena that encircled him.

“Wow. Haha. This is crazy,” Lindros said, peering out into the sea of orange and black as he followed Holmgren at the center-ice podium. 

“It’s no secret that when I left Philadelphia, it was under less than ideal circumstances,” Lindros said, crediting Holmgren and his wife Kina with helping him move.

Lindros sat out the entire 2000-01 season due to a contract dispute with Clarke and the organization.

Lindros was crushed by Scott Stevens in the playoffs in the previous season and was only cleared to play the following December. The Flyers had offered, and Lindros refused a two-way qualifying offer. Lindros, instead, wanted to be traded, with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs the preferred destination after his once-strong relationship with Clarke had deteriorated. Clarke refused to trade him at first, but finally did so in the following offseason, not to Toronto, but to the New York Rangers in the summer of 2001.

“Both, in their own ways, have taught me to move on, put in the past any differences of opinion, any hard feelings,” Lindros said. “It was time to remember the great moments I experienced here in Philadelphia, the friendships I’ve built in this great city and the respect I have for the fans of this team.”

Lindros was a member of the ‘Legion of Doom,’ a line that consisted of John LeClair and Mikael Renberg that dominated opponents and altered the game of hockey in the 1990s. Lindros acknowledged several people, including former general manager Russ Farwell, who brought Lindros, Mark Recchi and Rob Brind’Amour into the team and drafted Mikael Renberg.

Lindros also thanked Clarke, and said LeClair should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Lindros was one of the most physically gifted and dominating players to ever play in the NHL, a man who towered over most, skated better than most and score better than most.

Lindros won the Hart Trophy during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. He played 486 games in Flyers threads, scoring 290 goals and amassing 659 points.

In 2016, Lindros was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Roberto Luongo could return to practice soon

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The mandatory off week for the Florida Panthers appears to have done wonders for injured goaltender Roberto Luongo.

The Panthers No. 1 netminder has “turned a corner” as he continues to rehab a lower-body injury, Panthers head coach Bob Boughner said on Thursday.

The Panthers practiced for the first time since their mandatory break on Thursday, and although Luongo is still on pace for a return early next month, the news was good to hear for a team nine points adrift of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I think he’s turned a corner a little bit,” Boughner told reporters after the team’s practice. “He’s showing some good improvement here in the last few days. We’re excited to hopefully get him back out on the ice during a practice at some upcoming point.”

Luongo hasn’t played since Dec. 4, when he was injured in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.

The news of Luongo’s pending return was probably a little music to the ears of James Reimer.

Reimer has started Florida’s past 16 games, posting an 8-6-2 record with .924 save percentage during that span, but ran into the break losing four of his previous five starts.

Still, Reimer has performed admirably in Luongo’s absence, as he bounced back from an unfavorable start to the season that saw Luongo regain the starter’s reins.

The Panthers will have five games in-hand on Pittsburgh Penguins, who entered Thursday occupying the final spot. They play the Los Angeles Kings live on NBCSN at 10 p.m. ET.

The Panthers return to action on Friday when they host the visiting Vegas Golden Knights.

Reimer is expected to start No. 17.

WATCH LIVE: Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers

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Buffalo Sabres

Benoit PouliotJack EichelKyle Okposo

Evander KaneRyan O'ReillyJason Pominville

Zemgus GirgensonsEvan RodriguesSam Reinhart

Scott WilsonJohan LarssonJordan Nolan

Marco ScandellaRasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabeJustin Falk

Josh Gorges — Casey Nelson

Starting goalie: Robin Lehner

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Rangers; Penguins vs. Kings]

New York Rangers

Rick NashMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich

Mats ZuccarelloJ.T. Miller — Vinni Lettieri

Jimmy VeseyDavid DesharnaisPaul Carey

Michael Grabner — Peter Holland — Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonaghNick Holden

Brady SkjeiKevin Shattenkirk

Brendan SmithSteven Kampfer

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist