Brendan Smith

Hayes Sanheim time
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WATCH LIVE: Flyers visit Rangers on NBC

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After the Flyers defeated the Rangers 5-2 on Friday night in Philadelphia, these Metro Division rivals meet again on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. It is the third of four regular-season matchups (season-series concludes on Apr. 1 at NYR – on NBCSN).

The Flyers currently sit in second place in the Metro, three points behind the division-leading Capitals. The Rangers sit just two points outside the second Wild Card in the East. If New York wins Sunday, they’ll be in a playoff spot (at least momentarily) for the first time since the morning of Oct. 12.

Philadelphia is now riding a five-game winning streak and are looking for their first six-game winning streak under Alain Vigneault. The Flyers have 81 points through 64 games this season.

With both Columbus and Carolina losing on Friday, the Rangers missed a key opportunity to make up some ground on their Metro rivals.

Chris Kreider suffered a fractured foot in Friday’s loss against the Flyers. Kreider, who was on pace for the first 30-goal season of his career, signed a seven-year, $45 million contract extension on trade deadline day.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12 P.M. ET ON NBC]

WHAT: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers
WHERE: Madison Square Garden
WHEN: Sunday, March 1, 12 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Flyers-Rangers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

FLYERS
Claude GirouxSean CouturierJakub Voracek
Scott LaughtonKevin HayesTravis Konecny
James van Riemdsyk – Derek GrantTyler Pitlick
Michael RafflNate ThompsonNicolas Aube-Kubel

Ivan ProvorovMatt Niskanen
Travis SanheimPhilippe Myers
Robert HaggJustin Braun

Starting goalie: Carter Hart

RANGERS
Phil Di GiuseppeMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Artemi PanarinRyan StromeJesper Fast
Brett HowdenFilip ChytilKaapo Kakko
Brendan LemieuxGreg McKegg – Julien Gauthier

Brendan SmithJacob Trouba
Ryan LindgrenAdam Fox
Marc StaalTony DeAngelo

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will have the call from Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. Sunday’s studio coverage on NBC will be hosted by Liam McHugh with analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.

The Buzzer: Voracek leads Flyers to fifth straight win; Wild remain in wild-card race

Kevin Hayes #13, Jakub Voracek #93, and Scott Laughton #21 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrate
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Three Stars

1) Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers

Voracek dished out four helpers in the Flyers’ 5-2 win against the New York Rangers Friday. Philadelphia picked up their NHL-leading 23rd home victory and improved its current winning streak to five games in addition. Voracek had several pretty passes throughout the evening to set up his teammates. In the opening period, he fed Sean Couturier while Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith broke his stick and was unable to break up the pass. Late in the second period and early in the third, Voracek helped Claude Giroux score twice to seal the victory in favor of Philadelphia. All of a sudden, the Flyers only trail the Washington Capitals by three points for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

2) Alex Stalock, Minnesota Wild

The odds were stacked against them, but the Wild are not giving up on their pursuit of a spot in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Stalock made 24 saves and picked up his fourth shutout of the season as Minnesota blanked the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-0. Stalock has quietly put together an impressive season with an 18-9-4 record, 2.60 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Only two points separate the Wild from the top wild card spot in the west.

3) Tyson Jost, Colorado Avalanche

With Mikko Rantanen sidelined, the Avalanche need more offensive production from everyone in the lineup. Jost stepped up with two goals as Colorado defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 and extended its winning streak to five games. The first-round pick from the 2016 NHL Draft opened the scoring 6:34 into the first period when his shot whizzed past Anton Forsberg. Jost took a bouncing puck away from Jake Gardiner prior to the goal. He gave the Avalanche a two-goal lead when he tucked a shot past Forsberg halfway through the middle frame. Colorado has two games in hand on the division-leading St. Louis Blues and only trail by three points. Home-ice advantage in the Western Conference will be awarded to the eventual winner of the Central Division.

Other notable performances from Friday

  • Pavel Francouz made 45 saves and would be in the Calder Trophy conversation if not for the outstanding play of defensemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes.
  • Teuvo Teravainen scored twice in the Hurricanes’ 3-2 loss and Sebastian Aho extended his point streak to 14 games.
  • Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala each recorded a goal and an assist as the Minnesota Wild won their third straight game.
  • Jason Zucker recorded two goals but the Penguins fell in regulation for the fifth consecutive game.

Highlights of the Night

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog delivered a pretty cross-ice pass to set up Samuel Girard for the third-period go-ahead goal.

Artemi Panarin extended his point streak to 12 games with this jaw-dropping stretch pass to set up Jesper Fast.

Golden Knights forward Nicolas Roy converted this slick deke to even the score at 1-1.

Giroux pushed the Flyers lead to two goals with this one-timer that clanked off the crossbar before finding the back of the net.

Stats of the Night

https://twitter.com/PR_NHL/status/1233588561666039809

Scores

Philadelphia Flyers 5, New York Rangers 2

Minnesota Wild 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 0

Colorado Avalanche 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2

Vegas Golden Knights 4, Buffalo Sabres 2

Anaheim Ducks 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Rangers bet on themselves at Trade Deadline

Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers
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The New York Rangers were prepared for any which direction the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline could have played out.

Instead of selling off expiring contracts such as Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo, the Blueshirts re-signed Chris Kreider to a seven-year deal and shipped Brady Skjei to the Carolina Hurricanes for a 2020 first-round draft pick.

“You have to keep your eye on what the big picture is,” Rangers president John Davidson said shortly after the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline. “You have to make decisions with that in mind. We have a plan, and that’s what we are trying to implement.”

New York has won seven of its past eight games and currently sits six points outside the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the 2020 postseason seems unlikely, the Rangers are looking to build a winning culture and did not want to trade influential players for the third straight season.

“He is a unique player and very hard to replace,” Henrik Lundqvist said of the Rangers alternate captain. “It’s definitely the right decision to lock him up. I think he is developing to an even better player, more consistent, the type of leader that you need in the locker room.”

From the moment Davidson came aboard last summer, he wanted to prioritize a winning locker room that would help young players mature at an optimal rate.

“We are young and getting younger, we need people that can lead the way,” Davidson said in reference to Kreider. “If it didn’t make sense to us (the dollars), we would have had to move in a different direction.”

The Rangers considered trade offers for Kreider over the last few weeks and NHL insider Bob McKenzie reported he was the No. 1 target for as many as eight teams.

“When you weigh all the options of having him leave vs. keeping him, it became more evident that we wanted to keep him,” general manager Jeff Gorton said.

In order to keep options open, the Rangers moved Skjei’s $5.25 million cap hit to the Carolina Hurricanes. In the short term, Brendan Smith will slide back to his natural position on the blue line, but the organization has several internal options that are almost ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Where do the Rangers go from here?

The Blueshirts will try to compete for a playoff spot but more importantly, they are looking to cultivate a winning identity. That change does not happen overnight and trading significant pieces this time of year over and over again has a cumulative effect.

Losing is infectious and the front office felt this was the time to start turning the ship around.

Kreider has developed chemistry with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. Over the past 14 games, that line has recorded 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists).

While that combination has blossomed into a top unit, Artemi Panarin and Strome have created a strong secondary punch. New York has not reached its final destination, but the front office is installing their plan which will take them on the most direct route to sustained success.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

The Buzzer: Panarin’s 5-point night; Price, Samsonov stop them all

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THREE STARS

1. Artemi Panarin, Rangers: It was a pretty darn good night for the Rangers forward during a 6-2 win over the Islanders at MSG. Panarin scored twice and added three assists to become the second Rangers player in as many games to record a five-point night at home. In his last four games the Russian forward has four goals and 12 points.

2. Carey Price, Canadiens: Price made all 31 saves to help blank the Flames 2-0. The shutout was the 46th of his NHL career, tying him with Ken Dryden for third place on the Canadiens’ all-time list.

3. Ilya Samsonov, Capitals: Alex Ovechkin provided both goals in a 2-0 win over the Hurricanes. For Samsonov, he stopped all 23 shots he faced to pick up his first career NHL shutout. Ovechkin, meanwhile, tallied career goals No. 685 and 686 to pass Teemu Selanne for 11th place on the all-time list. More on that here.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NIGHT

• Here’s a look at Panarin’s five-point night:

Ivan Barbashev is thankful for this gift from the Ducks:

Brad Marchand continued the Bruins’ woes in the shootout with this unique failed attempt against the Flyers.

PREMATURE FIGHT OF THE NIGHT

It wouldn’t be an Islanders-Rangers game without a little edge to it. Ross Johnston and Micheal Haley dropped the mitts 2:33 into the game. Before the next face-off it was Matt Martin and Brendan Smith‘s turn to go at it. The only problem? You can’t have another fight before the puck drops after the first one. That meant Martin and Smith were assessed game misconducts and tossed from the game.

STATS OF THE NIGHT

SCORES
Canadiens 2, Flames 0
Rangers 6, Islanders 2
Capitals 2, Hurricanes 0
Flyers 6, Bruins 5 (SO)
Blues 4, Ducks 1

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Dual-role players? Defensemen as wingers show it can be done

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Brendan Smith caught his breath for a few seconds on the bench before New York Rangers coach David Quinn called his name again.

Smith had just skated a shift as a defenseman and was needed at forward, too. The natural defenseman hopped over the boards and got back on the ice at a different position.

”The more I do it, I get more comfortable,” he said.

Smith is one of a couple of throwback-style players bouncing between forward and defense this season. He and Florida’s Mark Pysyk are the latest to follow the lead of Hall of Famers Red Kelly and Mark Howe and present-day Brent Burns and Dustin Byfuglien, and their experience could open the door for more multiposition players in a sport that usually defines being a center, wing or defenseman very specifically.

”It’s definitely different,” Pysyk said. ”I think guys at this level probably could make the switch given enough time to get comfortable with their new position because everybody skates well.”

Kordell Stewart earned the nickname ”Slash” by playing quarterback and wide receiver in the NFL and slugger/pitcher Shohei Otani can star for the Los Angeles Angels in multiple ways in baseball. But specialization in hockey starts early as it does in other sports – forwards, defensemen and goalies all tend to be identified as such at a young age.

Smith as recently as Thursday shifted from his regular wing position back to defense to fill amid injuries, and the same night, Pysyk – back for another stint at forward – scored his third goal of the season. For one game in November, (almost) lifelong defenseman Tyler Lewington played a few shifts up front for the salary-cap strapped Washington Capitals when they could only dress 11 forwards.

”There’s a lot more to a forward’s game than I thought before,” said Lewington, 25, who hadn’t played forward since he was 10. ”It’s something that’s not easy.”

This kind of thing was more common in the 1920s and ’30s, Kelly played his first 12-plus seasons in Detroit as a defenseman and next eight-plus in Toronto as a forward, winning the Stanley Cup eight times – four at each position. Howe played his first three World Hockey Association seasons as a left winger alongside dad Gordie and brother Marty before switching to defense full-time.

Before video was more prevalent, Howe used to watch game replays late at night to figure out how to hone his game on the blue line. He made the Hall of Fame primarily for his time as a defenseman. Before and after his transition, he noticed differences like fewer scoring chances in practice as a defenseman – and more idle time on the bench as a forward biding his time for the next shift.

Now pro scouting director with the Detroit Red Wings, Howe called Smith the perfect example of a player who can adjust to the variations of playing forward and defense.

”(As a defenseman) it’s more of a game of you go when you can, but you have to be responsible defensively. You have to learn to read and when to jump up in the play,” Howe said. ”As a forward, you’re learning at key points of the game: ‘When do you try to make a play? When is it a smart play to dump the puck in the corner? When you definitely not want to turn a puck over?’ And with both (positions), you take different chances.”

While Pysyk hadn’t played defense since he was 6 or 7 until earlier this season, Quinn knew from recruiting Smith to Boston University that this dual role was possible. Quinn asked Smith last season to try it, and it worked so well that it has stuck, with Smith also killing penalties as a defenseman.

”You’ve got a guy who obviously plays forward 5-on-5 but he’s been one of our better (penalty) killing defensemen,” Quinn said. ”It gives you a little bit of flexibility on your roster, which is always nice game in and game out.”

Three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville trusts Pysyk the same way. He won the Cup in 2010 with Chicago moving Byfuglien back and forth and using the combination of his big frame, hard shot and smooth skating as an advantage.

”That versatility was a great asset to have in playoff series,” Quenneville recalled. ”Sometimes you could put him on a forward line to create space, I’d like to say, on power play (as a) net-front presence, but then you’ve got a big shot at the point. You could multitask with him in the course of the games.”

The same was possible for Burns when he played forward and defense with Minnesota earlier in his career. He became a full-time defenseman before a 2011 trade to San Jose and won the Norris Trophy as the best player at that position in 2017.

Quenneville likes having a defenseman at forward at times because they tend think of the game more conservatively.

”They usually have that mindset of being above the puck, so they keep themselves in the play, and defensively they have that responsibility,” Quenneville said. ”You get to handle the puck a little bit more, but I think they’re always in that position where offensively they’re complementing the guys they’re playing with, being either the safety guy or the extra guy that’s always going to be in the right spots.”

Pysyk, who’d prefer to play defense but can do both, is still getting used to the idea that he is not always the last guy back.

”It’s weird seeing a pass go past you and then chasing it from the other end,” he said.

Smith, who is in his 10th NHL season, is more comfortable on defense but thinks he could be a ”slash” player if need be.

”The biggest adjustment would be to change your mindset of defensive to offensive and knowing where to be at the right time because there’s so many moving parts,” Smith said. ”The hardest part is making sure that you can mentally prepare yourself for it.”

Vegas Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith sees his brother playing two different positions and knows he – and many others – wouldn’t be able to handle it.

”I can’t skate backward, can’t stop anyone,” Reilly Smith said. ”It takes a lot of versatility to be able to do that.”