Jason Brough

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 05:  Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers is congratulated by teammate Steve Mason #35 after the win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center on January 5, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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There’s no ‘fixed plan’ for the Flyers’ goaltending future

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Flyers GM Ron Hextall will take the wait-and-see approach with his goaltending. Both Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth are pending unrestricted free agents, and Hextall can’t say for sure what’s going to happen as their contracts get closer to expiration.

“Maybe we sign them both,” he said, per the Courier-Post. “I can’t predict. They’re both very good goalies. They both proved it last year. They both should be in their prime/entering their prime. We’re excited about both of them and essentially don’t have a fixed plan moving forward.”

Both goalies are 28 years old. Mason made 53 starts last season and went 23-19-10 with a .918 save percentage, while Neuvirth started 29 times and finished 18-8-4 with a .924 save percentage.

Potentially complicating Hextall’s decision is the expansion draft in June, when each team will only be allowed to protect one netminder.

The Flyers also have a couple of decent goaltending prospects in Anthony Stolarz, a second-round draft pick in 2012, and Alex Lyon, the college free agent they signed in April. Stolarz, 22, has already spent two seasons in the AHL. It’s possible, if he continues to improve, that he could be ready for the NHL next season.

“We’re just going to play this season and see how things go,” Hextall added. “That doesn’t mean at some point…I don’t want to say something because I don’t know right now.”

Related: Flyers not looking to trade Mason or Neuvirth

Parise feels ‘reassured’ after testing his back in World Cup exhibitions

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 11:  Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on December 11, 2013 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Good news for the Minnesota Wild — the back injury that caused Zach Parise to sit out the playoffs is showing no signs of flaring up during the World Cup.

“I knew that I was OK, but I was still a little nervous for the first game,” Parise told the Star Tribune. “But after taking some hits and getting into some contact and not having any problem at all, it reassured me that everything is OK.”

The 32-year-old even managed to open the scoring in Team USA’s exhibition win over Team Canada Friday in Columbus, shaking off defenseman Jake Muzzin to tip home a point shot.

“I know it’s exhibition, but still mentally in my own mind, it was big to get one after what I went through,” he told the newspaper.

Parise opted to rehabilitate his back injury (a herniated disc) without surgery.

Even with the same defense, Neely expects improvement from Bruins

Boston Bruins President Cam Neely, left, and Bruins Chief Executive Officer Charlie Jacobs prepare to leave a news conference in Boston, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, regarding the hockey team's decision to fire general manager Peter Chiarelli days after missing the NHL playoffs for the first time in eight years. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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When the Boston Bruins began their offseason, team president Cam Neely made it a priority to upgrade the blue line.

“We know that it’s an area that we need to improve upon,” he said. “That’s probably at the top of the list.”

A month before the regular season, however, and the Bruins’ back end has not changed whatsoever, save for the deletion of Dennis Seidenberg via buyout.

So how does Neely explain it?

“Basically from April to now everybody is talking about our back end, and not being able to land a top-4 defenseman. We still have an opportunity as far as cap space goes if something shakes free, and I know [GM Don Sweeney] has been working hard trying to do something,” he said, per CSN New England. “But I feel like as a group we can do better than we did last year.

“I think Tuukka [Rask] can play better than he did last year. If that happens we should be a better club. It’s going to be a challenge and it’s going to be competitive. But I feel like the changes we’ve made through the organization, and not just in player personnel, that there’s opportunity for our group to improve.”

Granted, there’s still time for Sweeney to land a defenseman in a trade. The problem is the price. An established puck-mover like, say, Kevin Shattenkirk, will not be cheap to get. And in Shattenkirk’s case, nor will he be cheap to re-sign.

Up front, the B’s did land David Backes in free agency, but they also lost 30-goal man Loui Eriksson.

The Bruins open the regular season on Oct. 13 in Columbus.

Related: Blues might just keep Shattenkirk

Karlsson thinks Sweden’s blue line is ‘better’ than two years ago at the Olympics

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Erik Karlsson #65 of Sweden handles the puck against Finland during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Erik Karlsson thinks Team Sweden’s World Cup blue line is even better than the one that propelled it to the gold-medal game at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

“I just think we have a little bit more experience,” Karlsson said, per the Associated Press. “Most of the guys that are here played in the Olympics and that was two years ago, and everybody since then has gotten more mature and more experience and become better players, so I think that’s why we have a better blue line now than we did two years ago.”

Indeed, Sweden may have the best defense of all the teams at the World Cup. Yes, that includes Team Canada, which is without injured workhorse Duncan Keith and finds itself increasingly under the microscope after leaving the likes of P.K. Subban and Kris Letang off its roster.

In addition to Karlsson, a two-time Norris Trophy-winner, the Swedes boast Victor Hedman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Mattias Ekholm, Anton Stralman, and Hampus Lindholm. Those who failed to make the cut include John Klingberg, Adam Larsson, and Alex Edler.

“When they selected the team, I was absolutely disappointed,” Edler, a member of the Sochi squad, told The Province newspaper. “I obviously wanted to make the team, but at the same time if you look at the defense corps Sweden has right now, there are a lot of very good players, and even though there have been some injuries, there are still a few players that are not on there that could be on there.”

Related: Lindholm replaces injured Kronwall

Zetterberg admits he ‘ran out of gas’ the last couple of seasons

Steven Stamkos, Henrik Zetterberg
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Henrik Zetterberg turns 36 next month. The Red Wings’ captain has played over 1,000 games in the NHL, including the playoffs. Today in Detroit, he admitted it’s become a challenge to stay “fresh” for an entire season.

“That’s what’s gotten me the last two years, I ran out of gas,” he said, per the Free Press. “You can’t play hockey in this level when you run out of gas. So that’s one thing we’re going to play around with.”

One solution, according to Zetterberg, could be to play more wing, which takes less work than center. Another could be to play fewer minutes, or even take the odd night off and sit in the press box.

But that’s easier said than done, especially now without Pavel Datsyuk. Zetterberg led the Wings in scoring last year with 50 points in 82 games. Datysuk was second with 49 points, followed by Dylan Larkin and Tomas Tatar, each with 45.

Zetterberg, who’s sitting out the World Cup with a tweaked knee, expects to “be back 100 percent for the season starting.”

He also said he’s “thrilled” that Frans Nielsen decided to sign with the Wings, calling the 32-year-old center “one of the most underrated players in the league.”