Tale of the Tape: Flyers vs Devils

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On Sunday, the Philadelphia Flyers will host the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal (3:00 pm ET, NBC). Here’s a look at recent history between the two clubs.

Leading scorers

New Jersey: Travis Zajac (3G-3A-6PTS) | Philadelphia: Claude Giroux (6G-8A-14PTS)

Starting goalies

New Jersey: Martin Brodeur (4-2, 2.06 GAA) | Philadelphia: Ilya Bryzgalov (4-2, 3.89 GAA)

Oct. 8, 2011 – Philadelphia 3, New Jersey 0. Bryzgalov’s first shutout as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers came against the Devils. Philadelphia’s Matt Read, who went on to lead all rookies in goals, found the back of the net for the first time at 2:41 of the third period. Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds accounted for the Flyers’ other two goals.

Nov. 3, 2011 – New Jersey 4, Philadelphia 3 SO. When the two squads met again, it was rookie Adam Henrique’s turn to shine. Henrique scored his first NHL goal to give us an early indication of the kind of season he would have. As was the case in their last meeting, Claude Giroux scored against New Jersey. However, this time around Patrik Elias proved to be the hero with a shootout goal.

Jan. 21, 2012 – Phildelphia 4, New Jersey 1. Claude Giroux got two assists, but it was Scott Hartnell that led the Flyers to victory. Hartnell netted two power-play goals, including the game-winner. Wayne Simmonds chipped in an empty netter and also recorded two assists. On the Devils’ side, this would be the first of two games where they allowed less than 20 shots, but still lost the contest.

Feb. 4, 2012 – New Jersey 6, Philadelphia 4. This was a truly bizarre contest. The Devils scored three goals in each of the first and second periods to take a 6-0 lead. In that span, they got two power-play goals from Kurtis Foster and Zach Parise also scored with the man advantage. On top of that, Ilya Kovalchuk got a Gordie Howe hat trick.

The Philadelphia Flyers came back hard in the final period, outshooting the Devils by an unreal margin of 24-1. With 6:29 still remaining in the contest, the Flyers had reduced the Devils’ lead to two, but New Jersey managed to hold on after that.

March 11, 2012 – New Jersey 4, Philadelphia 1. Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t get into a fight this time, but he did score a goal and register two assists. As impressive as that is, the night belonged to Martin Brodeur, who became the first goaltender in the history of the league to win 650 regular season games. The next best goaltender, Patrick Roy, won 551 contests in his NHL career.

March 13, 2012 – Philadelphia 3, New Jersey 0. The Flyers bounced back in the second half of their home-and-home series. Ilya Bryzgalov, who was allowed to rest on March 11, earned his third straight shutout. Danny Briere netted a goal and an assist for Philadelphia while Sean Couturier accounted for the game-winning goal.

Injuries

Philadelphia: Marc-Andre Bourdon (upper body), Tom Sestito (groin), Andrej Meszaros (lower body), Chris Pronger (concussion), Blair Betts (knee), Ian Laperriere (concussion), Nicklas Grossmann (concussion)

New Jersey: Jacob Josefson (wrist), Henrik Tallinder (leg)

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

Rasmus Sandin
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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.

Back with Wild, Fleury welcomes big workload as clear No. 1

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — With his ever-present smile, tireless approach and long list of accomplishments in the net, Marc-Andre Fleury has always embraced a heavy workload.

The Minnesota Wild sure haven’t shied away from leaning hard on their new – and 37-year-old – goalie. After arriving in a deadline-day trade in March and re-signing with the Wild in July, the guy everyone calls “Flower” is still fully abloom as he begins his 19th season in the NHL.

“They say, `You play,’ I play, unless maybe I’m hurt or something,” Fleury said. “But other than that, I like playing.”

Wild general manager Bill Guerin initially planned to bring back both Fleury and Cam Talbot, who made the All-Star team and went 13-0-3 in his last 16 regular season starts before being benched in favor of Fleury for the first-round playoff series against St. Louis. The Wild lost in six games, after Talbot got the cold start in the elimination game and gave up four goals on 26 shots.

Guerin changed his mind, though, after signing Fleury to a two-year, $7 million contract. Realizing Talbot’s frustration from the lack of postseason action, he didn’t want to risk any tension or discontent. Talbot was traded to Ottawa for Filip Gustavsson, who will be the No. 2 goalie while top prospect Jesper Wallstedt gets more development in the AHL.

Gustavsson has only 23 career regular-season starts, nearly 200 fewer than Talbot, so it’s a good bet that Fleury will get the majority of the games.

“I was ready to share the load with him, but things didn’t work out and happy to be having the chance to play maybe a bit more. It’s fun to play. It’s more fun than sitting on the bench,” said Fleury, who went 28-23-5 in 56 combined starts for Chicago and Minnesota last season with a 2.90 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

The Wild reconvened for training camp last week, beginning their quest to recapture the mojo they enjoyed last season while setting franchise records for points (113), wins (53) and goals (305). The only team that finished ahead of them in the Western Conference was Colorado, which went on to win the Stanley Cup, but they never met the Avs in the playoffs because the Blues got to them first.

There’s a strong chemistry in place, at least, to build upon.

“We still have a lot of guys here who were here last year. We’re just trying to make it even better, just trying to listen to everybody,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said. “We want to set a standard and a way for how hard this team’s going to work.”

The Wild start the regular season by hosting the New York Rangers on Oct. 13.

COMINGS AND GOINGS

The most significant roster move of the summer amongst the skaters was the inevitable salary-cap-driven trade of second-leading scorer Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles. Fiala had a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists last season. Guerin otherwise dabbled mostly in two-way contracts in free agency for depth. Former Anaheim center Sam Steel signed with Minnesota last month, one day after defenseman Dimitry Kulikov was dealt to the Ducks.

MORE POWER

The Wild were done in during the playoffs by abysmal special teams. They went just 4 for 24 on the power play against the Blues, and head coach Dean Evason had the team working on that on the first day on the ice. The penalty kill that lagged last season was a focus of the second practice.

“It has to get better, no question,” Evason said.

BLUE LINE SHUFFLE

Captain Jared Spurgeon has been placed with Jonas Brodin on the first pair on defense, and Jake Middleton has joined Matt Dumba on the second unit. Dumba and Brodin are close friends who’ve been paired together for several seasons.

“Dumbs is a shooter too,” said Middleton, who re-signed for three years and $7.35 million. “It’s pretty exciting. I can get some cookies passing him the puck. That’d be a big plus. I think it’ll work well. He loves hitting guys too. He plays a gritty game as well so I think we’ll be a good combo.”

UP FRONT

With Jordan Greenway recovering from offseason surgeries, Tyson Jost will get the first chance to skate with Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. The departure of Fiala has opened at least one spot for a rookie to make the team, with 2020 first-round draft pick Marco Rossi in line for it.

ON THE SLATE

This is the first time in eight years the Wild will play their regular-season opener at home. After three more games at Xcel Energy Center, they don’t hit the road until a five-game trip that starts Oct. 22 at Boston. The Wild have a season-long nine-game homestand from Feb. 9-21.