James O'Brien

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils
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Flyers’ Umberger: ‘I feel like a different person’

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Vincent Lecavalier isn’t the only Philadelphia Flyers forward who treasures a clean slate, as R.J. Umberger must want to run far away from his 2014-15 season.

He told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he feels “like a different person” coming into next season, and it sounds like that ultimately points to being a healthier player.

Apparently hip and abdominal surgery did that for Umberger, and he’s feeling more spry than he has in some time.

“It was bothering me so bad, I wasn’t able to train as intensely or as hard as I normally would,” Umberger said. “And from the start of the season, I wasn’t up to par or where I needed to be – and it continued to get worse as the season went on …”

“I was basically skating on one leg.”

In defense of Umberger, his numbers really do give the impression that he could improve quite a bit.

Umberger has been pretty reliable to score at or around 20 goals, yet he was way off the mark last season, only managing nine goals and 15 points.

A change of scenery must have been jarring, but it’s reasonable to expect at least a slight bump in production.

That’s certainly the hope, as every Scott Hartnell fall-and-goal digs the knife a little deeper for Flyers fans.

Krejci: Lining up without Lucic will be ‘weird’

Florida Panthers v Boston Bruins
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Amid the many, many changes for the Boston Bruins, the most jarring alteration for David Krejci must be playing on a line without Milan Lucic.

Since the two players really got their careers off the ground in 2007-08, they’ve been almost inseparable, especially when you consider how often coaches juggle lines in the modern NHL.

Krejci admitted that it will be odd to suit up without the towering winger, as CSNNE.com notes.

“It’s gonna be weird,” Krejci said. “We’ve been together for a long time, and now he’s gone. So that was obviously a really sad day.”

Sad days have been a bit too common for Krejci as of late, even with that hefty contract extension in tow.

He’s seen other linemate changes as Nathan Horton transitioned to Jarome Iginla and then a revolving cast of partners in 2014-15. Really, last season almost demands a mulligan, as he dealt with recurring injury headaches.

The 29-year-old expects to be fully healthy heading into 2015-16, and that’s important, as he’ll skate with two wingers who are far less familiar.

So, who would you put on Krejci’s wings, maybe Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak?

PHT Morning Skate: Protecting Connor McDavid

Connor McDavid
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

So, how should the Edmonton Oilers protect Connor McDavid? (Sportsnet)

Another one from Sportsnet, because seriously, this article about Drew Doughty‘s Toronto Blue Jays hat collection is just too good. (Sportsnet)

University of Virginia goalie Jake Anderson learned that you can’t celebrate a hockey win as if you’re “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. (Puck Daddy)

Derek Roy might have a real shot to make the Washington Capitals, even if Nicklas Backstrom‘s injury issues do not linger. (Monumental Network)

A chunky look back at Kyle Wellwood’s career. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Finally, the St. Louis Blues pull back the curtain and share Ken Hitchcock (plus his coaching staff) trying to wrap their heads around 3-on-3 OT.

Report: Canes, Eric Staal aren’t close to deal

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With one year left on his current contract, Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes aren’t close to hashing out a new one, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Here’s what Friedman told The FAN 960 on Monday:

“I don’t think anybody is going to come out and say that, but I have heard they’re not really that close in negotiations,” Friedman said. “He has control. He has a no-move clause, just like Cam Ward does. Carolina can’t do anything without his approval.”

Staal has control … and he’s also “very comfortable” in Carolina. And, really, the “comfortable” thing to do would be to extend their captain.

Diminishing returns

Success in sports and “comfort” don’t always mix so well – competition tends to make you leave that security blanket behind, after all – so one has to wonder if it’s really the right decision for Staal or the Hurricanes.

Ever since the Hurricanes’ unexpected Stanley Cup win in 2005-06, this team has been sinking or swimming based on the play of Staal and Ward.

Let’s be honest: that hasn’t worked out all that often. Yes, there was a deep postseason run in 2008-09, but that was Carolina’s only playoff appearance since that title run.

Is that all Staal’s fault? Of course not, but the Hurricanes might just be better off passing the torch … and Staal could benefit in going from the guy in Carolina to just one of the guys on another team.

Junior hockey is last resort for Jets’ Ehlers

Nikolaj Ehlers
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If Nikolaj Ehlers has his way, he’ll make the Winnipeg Jets’ roster in 2015-16.

The situation gets more complicated if the ideal scenario doesn’t play out. During TSN’s Insider Trading segment on Monday, Bob McKenzie noted the avenues Ehlers and the Jets would prefer to explore if he doesn’t make the Jets:

  • The AHL, after “reading the fine print” of the transfer agreement.
  • Developing overseas.

At the bottom of the list: returning to the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads.

It’s not meant to be an insult to the wonderfully named Mooseheads; it’s just a matter of Ehlers having very little room to improve at the junior level, generating a little more than two points per game during the past two seasons.

Just recently, Ehlers told the CBC he sees “an opportunity” to make the Jets, especially since some veterans weren’t re-signed this summer.

“I don’t have any other plans than playing in the NHL this year,” Ehlers said. “It’s what my focus is on and it’s going to stay like that until they say otherwise. I’m excited to start this season and looking forward to it.”

What a better idea of Ehlers’ chances of landing a roster spot? Check out his making the leap post here.