Filppula makes immediate impact for Flyers

3 Comments

Perhaps when we look back, it’ll be one of those win-win trades.

In sending Valtteri Filppula to Philadelphia, and then flipping Mark Streit to Pittsburgh, the Tampa Bay Lightning certainly got what they wanted, and that was cap space to sign their pending restricted free agents, which include Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Jonathan Drouin.

For the Flyers, they got a veteran center in Filppula, with no commitment beyond next season.

“This kid gives us flexibility because centers are really hard to find,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “Most teams have four or five centermen. This kid gives up depth and options. He is highly competitive and competes on pucks. He makes plays.”

Filppula made an immediate impact last night in his Philadelphia debut, going hard to the net to tip home a Brayden Schenn pass. The 32-year-old’s goal tied the game halfway through the third period, and the Flyers went on to beat the Panthers, 2-1, in the shootout.

“He’s a very good player on the puck and he has a heavy stick,” linemate Jakub Voracek said of Filppula, per CSN Philly. “For me and Schenner, it’s important to have the puck on our stick most part of the game.”

The addition of Filppula also allows Sean Couturier to center the third line and focus on a shut-down role. It may even take some of the scoring pressure off Claude Giroux.

With only 19 games left, it’s going to take a strong push from the Flyers to book a spot in the playoffs. According to Sports Club Stats, they’ll have to go in the neighborhood of 12-4-3 to give themselves a good chance.

But this is a team that’s already shown it can get hot and string together a number of wins.

The Flyers kick off a four-game road trip tomorrow in Washington, so they’d better be ready for a test.

NHL players reflect on return of mumps

Getty
5 Comments

The return of the mumps has caught some NHL players by surprise and they are counting on the league being better equipped to deal with the second such outbreak in a little over two years.

“Well, it happened the one time, and guys were concerned about it and thought it was going to be kind of gone forever,” Buffalo Sabres veteran forward Kyle Okposo said Tuesday. “I just hope it doesn’t reach us. I feel for the guys that have it. Just want to make sure that it gets as contained as we can this time.”

The latest outbreak began in Vancouver, where the Canucks announced last weekend defenseman Troy Stecher had been diagnosed while six other players and a trainer were showing symptoms. On Monday, the Minnesota Wild announced forwards Zach Parise and Jason Pominville and assistant coach Scott Stevens were diagnosed with the highly contagious disease and must miss at least three games.

The developments raised concern after what occurred during the first half of the 2014-15 season: 24 players, including Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby, representing five teams and two on-ice officials either showed symptoms or were diagnosed with the mumps.

The Wild were also affected in 2014, when five defensemen contracted the virus.

“I don’t know what to say to that. It’s a lot for one team in a few years,” said Wild forward Mikael Granlund, whose brother, Markus Granlund, was among the Vancouver players showing symptoms.

There was enough worry in Minnesota that center Eric Staal wondered of the potential danger of players rubbing gloves against teammates’ faces during the celebration following a 5-4 overtime win against Los Angeles on Monday night.

“If someone had it in that pile, then we all got it,” Staal said. “So we’ll see what happens.”

Wild doctors recently provided players and staff with measles-mumps-rubella vaccination, as they did in 2014. The Wild equipment staff also uses a chemical spray on locker room cubicles each time players come off the ice. And Minnesota is one of 27 NHL teams using a Sani Sport machine to disinfect players’ equipment.

In Vancouver, public health officials have yet to determine where or how Canucks players contracted mumps, Vancouver Coastal Health spokesman Gavin Wilson said. Wilson added the Vancouver region is not showing any signs of a spike in the mumps virus, unlike neighboring Washington State, which had a reported 503 cases already in 2017, as opposed to just 48 last year.

There have been other pockets of outbreaks across the continent this year, including the University of Missouri, which reported more than 320 confirmed and probably cases earlier this month.

From Jan. 1-28, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said there have been 485 mumps infections reported in the United States, which already surpasses the 229 cases reported in 2012. Since 2000, there have been only two years – 2006 and 2016 – in which the number of mumps cases have topped 3,000.

Mumps can be spread by saliva or mucus. The virus has a 12- to 30-day incubation period. It’s typical symptoms are fever, headache, muscle aches and loss of appetite, followed by swollen salivary glands.

The CDC notes that while mumps are “no longer very common” in the U.S., outbreaks do occur particularly in places where people have had prolonged close contact with a person with the virus, such as school, dorms or sports teams.

In an email to The Associated Press, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly wrote it’s unclear what prompted the recurrence. As for how the league is attempting to contain the latest outbreak, Daly wrote: “Education, reinforcement of precautions and booster shots, where necessary.”

Though booster shots work, they are only considered effective 88 percent of the time.

In Buffalo, Sabres equipment manager Dave Williams said a protocol is put into place the moment a player shows any sign of sickness, even when involving what appears to be the common cold. The protocols include having players drink from their own water bottles, using hospital-strength disinfectant laundry detergent to wash the player’s uniform separately.

The first professional hockey-related case of mumps this year occurred last month, when three members of the New Jersey Devils’ AHL affiliate in Albany, New York, contracted the virus.

Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said there’s very little players can do to avoid getting mumps other than taking precautions.

“Professional sports is where all teams intertwine. We all touch every rink,” said Subban, noting the Predators played both the Wild and Canucks over the past three weeks. “We’ve just been told to make sure our shots are up to date and wash our hands. That’s it. That’s all you can do.”

—-

AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell and Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.

Hangovers are no fun

Getty
1 Comment

The Calgary Flames were the latest victims of the so-called bye week “hangover.”

There are 18 potential victims remaining.

Last night at Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames got pummeled, 5-0, by the Arizona Coyotes. With the loss, teams coming out of their bye weeks fell to a dismal 3-8-1.

Though the Flames outshot the Coyotes 19-9 in the first period, Arizona’s Martin Hanzal was the only one to score.

“We weren’t sharp,” Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan told reporters afterwards. “It was more execution. Some pucks missed the net, were shot over the net.”

Another word for that is rusty.

And as the Coyotes built their lead, the Flames seemed to get even worse.

“That’s as bad as it gets in the second and third,” said captain Mark Giordano, per Postmedia. “Guys were trying to do too much and giving them odd-man rushes and chances.”

On Saturday, it was the Flames’ neighbors to the north who fell flat after their mandatory time off. The Edmonton Oilers lost, 5-1, to a streaking Chicago Blackhawks team that had played the night before in Winnipeg.

“We didn’t have a lot of emotion,” said Edmonton coach Todd McLellan. “There wasn’t a single Blackhawk who was mad at an Oiler all night until the last two minutes. I was disappointed in the loss, the power play, the penalty kill but mostly in the emotional level of our team.”

The Blackhawks then entered their bye week. They don’t play again until Saturday against those very same Oilers, this time in Chicago.

Other teams currently on their bye weeks: the Kings, Predators, Bruins, Lightning, Canadiens, Hurricanes, and Capitals.

Vegas Golden Knights owner dishes on many subjects (including the Raiders)

Getty
10 Comments

Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley covered a wide array of interesting topics in his discussion with Sports Book Radio’s Brian Blessing on Monday, including a bit of a shot at their possible future neighbors, the NFL’s Raiders.

The most important discussions revolved around how Foley expects the Golden Knights to come together … but let’s start with the spicier bulletin board material, transcribed nicely by Sin Bin Vegas.

“Our hockey team is locally owned, locally operated,” Foley said. “We are going to be the local team, the Raiders will never be the local team.”

Interesting.

Coaching talk

Foley sort of waffled back and forth on the coaching issue, espousing the virtues of jumping on an opportunity for one of the big names available while also noting that even more options could potentially crop up if they wait until the end of the season.

It sounds like the Golden Knights may be cautious about how much they’d spend on any option, which might reduce their chances of going after a more established name such as Claude Julien.

Building the team, when to expect success

It’s true that the Golden Knights could hatch some deals at this very trade deadline, possibly not to take a player at the expansion draft. Foley indicated that it might be difficult to be particularly busy, however.

He believes the team could grab good defensemen and goalies, but admits that grabbing a goalie might be “tough.”

If all of this is too vague for your taste, consider these timetables laid out by Foley and GM George McPhee: playoffs in three seasons, the big one in seven.

Interesting stuff, huh? There are plenty of other tidbits to chew on in this interview, so feel free to read Blessing’s full bit with Foley.

As the Canucks fall out of the playoff picture…decisions, decisions

Getty

The Vancouver Canucks were on a nice little run for a while there.

But that run is over now  — and given their remaining schedule, it’s going to be very tough for them to get back into a playoff spot.

Vancouver never stood a chance last night against the San Jose Sharks, who rolled into Rogers Arena, dominated the first period, then coasted to a 4-1 win.

“We were a little bit sluggish in the first,” Canucks forward Daniel Sedin told reporters. “After that I thought we played a good-enough game.”

But with just three wins in their last 10 games, the Canucks have fallen three points back of the second wild-card spot in the West. Vancouver doesn’t hold any games in hand on the St. Louis Blues, who got a big win last night in Mike Yeo’s debut behind the bench.

standings

Next up for the Canucks? A home game Saturday against the Central Division leaders from Minnesota, followed by six straight on the road against Nashville, Columbus, Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.

Yikes.

According to Sports Club Stats, Vancouver’s chances of making the playoffs have slipped to just 7 percent. To make the cut, the Canucks will need to go in the neighborhood of 17-10-4 down the stretch.

Not likely.

As far as the March 1 trade deadline is concerned, management has called it a “fluid” situation. The Canucks will in no way be in the market for rental players, but they have not ruled out making moves. And with the expansion draft on the horizon, that’s not going to quell speculation about veterans like Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows.

Of course, Hansen and Burrows each have a no-trade clause, and GM Jim Benning vowed back in December that he wasn’t going to ask any of his players to waive their no-trades — even if the team is out of playoff contention at the deadline.

“There’s a couple reasons why I wanted to put it out there about not trading guys with no-trade contracts,” said Benning, per Canucks Army. “The first reason is I wanted to be honest with our players and fans about not asking players to waive their no-trade contracts. The other reason is I want to try to limit the unnecessary distractions so our players can focus on getting better and winning games.”

He added, “We’ve moved some no-trade contracts the last few years, but the players we have left are important veteran players who bring our team experience and leadership. We’re going to keep them.”

Benning did allow that if a player came to him and requested a trade to a contender, he’d try to facilitate a move. So that possibility remains. Burrows is a 35-year-old pending unrestricted free agent. He may relish a chance to win a Stanley Cup elsewhere.

Hansen, meanwhile, is signed through next season with an attractive cap hit of $2.5 million. The 30-year-old winger is an obvious trade candidate to many, given he’s on a team that can’t afford to lose assets for nothing in the expansion draft.

He wants to stay, though.

“I want to play here,” Hansen told The Province after Benning’s remarks in December. “I love being around the guys. I love the city and I want to win here. And I’ve been here for a very long time. It’s nice that you don’t have to speculate as to whether they’re going to come in five days or five weeks to ask you for a list of (trade) teams.”

So, it should be an interesting month. The Canucks had a disastrous deadline experience last year. The pressure’s on for management to avoid a repeat performance.