Joe Yerdon

Kronwall says he’ll miss having Filppula around

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When Valtteri Filppula signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning this summer one thing it did for the Detroit Red Wings was take away one player’s best friend.

Filppula went for a final pre-training camp skate in Detroit before heading to Florida with his old Wings teammates and Niklas Kronwall tells Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press he’s going to miss his buddy Filppula.

“You lose some friends each and every year, but it’s just how it goes. Fil, I’m going to miss him. We spent a lot of time together over these seven years. I’d say, 90% of the time we’re on the road, we go to dinner together. We’ve just spent a lot of time together. So I’ll miss having him around.”

It’s like having the credits roll at the end of a buddy comedy.

When it comes to hockey, however, the Red Wings were able to replace Filppula just fine after signing former Panthers center Stephen

Weiss. As for Filppula, he’s excited to get started in Tampa and who wouldn’t when you’ve got Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis there waiting for you.

Carolina’s Skinner cool playing center or wing

Carolina’s Jeff Skinner arrived on the scene back in 2010 as a center. He’s also made some noise since then as a winger. So which will he play this season? It doesn’t matter to him.

Skinner spoke with Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer about what his role with the team will be this year and he’s willing to do whatever coach Kirk Muller wants.

“It’s up to them,” Skinner said of the coaching staff. “I don’t have to worry about that, which could be a good thing. They’ll put together the whole thing to everyone’s benefit and the team’s.

“I don’t have any bias as far as playing on this line or at wing. Once the season gets going things will fall into place.”

That’s probably good news considering Eric Staal and Jordan Staal shape up to be their top two centers and playing the skillful Skinner on the third line seems like a waste of time.

If he does wind up on the wing, figuring out if he should play on Eric’s side or Jordan’s would be Muller’s big question.

Marc-Andre Fleury is Pittsburgh’s X-factor

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Marc-Andre Fleury is perhaps the most enigmatic goalie in the league.

That sounds crazy to say something like that about a player who’s not from a particular location in Europe, but if you can figure out how a guy who can play so well can look so bad in certain situations, the Pittsburgh Penguins may want to talk to you.

The Penguins didn’t figure goaltending would be an issue for them last season. After all, they had Fleury to start and Tomas Vokoun to back him up when he needed a break. It turned out he needed a break the most during the postseason as the New York Islanders found ways to continually beat him. Even GM Ray Shero wasn’t sure what would’ve happened had they not turned to Vokoun.

After the Pens were ousted by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals, coach Dan Bylsma made it clear to say Fleury is their No. 1 goalie for this season. For both Fleury’s sake and the team’s sake, they have to hope he can find consistency and at the very least, he’s doing what he can off the ice to do it.

He’s started seeing a sports psychologist. He’ll have a new goalie coach in Mike Bales to work with. As far as how it plays out on the ice, the Pens are hoping it translates into raises in his save percentage.

source: APWhile his goals-against average has been OK, Fleury isn’t breaking any records with the percentage of shots he’s stopping as he hasn’t cracked .920 since the 2007-08 season. That points towards consistency and that’s exactly what the Penguins have desperately needed in goal in the playoffs.

If Fleury can get his head and his play turned in the right direction, the Penguins will be incredibly tough to handle. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz provide plenty of offense as it is, but keeping opponents off the board is their bugaboo.

If Fleury can’t get right and Vokoun has to pick up the pieces in the regular season, can they go into another offseason wondering if he can get his act together? The Penguins having compliance buyouts to use might provide him with any motivation he needs to improve as soon as possible.

Report: Kaberle close to deal in KHL

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After Tomas Kaberle was bought out by the Montreal Canadiens earlier this summer, many wondered where the veteran blue liner would wind up. Looks like the answer to that is Europe.

Czech website Sport.cz reports Kaberle is close to a deal with the KHL’s Dinamo Minsk.

Kaberle has spent the past 14 seasons in the NHL, mostly with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ever since being dealt by the Leafs to Boston in 2011, he’s been on a roller coaster of emotions.

While he didn’t play a lot in Boston, he helped them win a Stanley Cup that season. Following that he signed a four-year deal with Carolina that saw the Hurricanes deal him to Montreal soon into it after not blending in well with the team.

Now Kaberle appears set to join a new league where, perhaps, he can land back on his feet once again at age 35.

Lombardi signs one-year deal in Swiss league

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Matthew Lombardi won’t be taking to NHL ice next season.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports the veteran of nine NHL seasons has signed a one-year deal with Geneva-Servette of the Swiss National League.

Last season, Lombardi split time with the Phoenix Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks scoring four goals and four assists, all of which came with the Coyotes. Sorry about that lack of production, Anaheim.

Over his career in the NHL, he’s had 101 goals in 536 games played and has been a solid penalty killer in recent seasons with Toronto as well. In Geneva, he’ll team up with a small handful of players who once suited up here including former Oilers forward Lennart Petrell.