Saku Maenalanen

Flyers re-sign Travis Konecny to 6-year, $33 million deal

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Another domino in the NHL’s restricted free agency saga has fallen.

The Philadelphia Flyers announced on Monday that they have re-signed forward Travis Konecny to a six-year contract that will pay him $5.5 million per year through the end of the 2023-24 season. Konecny was the last of the Flyers’ unsigned RFA’s, and his new deal means that general manager Chuck Fletcher’s offseason checklist is now complete.

“We are happy to have Travis under contract for the next six seasons,” said Fletcher in a statement released by the team. “Travis has shown progression in each of his three seasons and is an integral part of our group of young forwards. His speed, skill and tenacity sets him apart in today’s NHL.”

The 22-year-old Konecny is coming off a 24-goal, 49-point performance for the Flyers a year ago, a stat line that was almost identical to what he did the year before. He figures to be a significant part of the Flyers’ core in the coming seasons and is one of eight players the team has signed through at least 2022, joining Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, Ivan Provorov, and Shayne Gostisbehere.

Even if he never becomes anything more than a 25-goal, 50-point player that is still a pretty strong contract for the Flyers, and there is still a chance he is capable of more.

With Konecny now signed the list of remaining unsigned RFA’s throughout the league is down to Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Mathew Tkachuk, Brock Boeser, Mikko Rantanen, Brayden Point, Brandon Carlo, Julius Honka, Anthony DeAngelo, and Saku Maenalanen.

MORE:
Provorov signs 6-year, $40.5 million deal with Flyers
• 
ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

McAvoy’s back for Bruins, and now comes the easy part

BOSTON (AP) — When he’s playing, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said, it’s easy for him to maintain his composure and concentrate on the game in front of him.

Up in the press box, that’s the hard part.

”I’m not a very good hockey watcher,” McAvoy said as he prepared to return from his one-game suspension for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. ”The game seems like it’s much longer.”

McAvoy was suspended for a shoulder to the head of Columbus forward Josh Anderson in the second-round finale. So instead of taking the ice in his usual pairing with Zdeno Chara, McAvoy was wandering around the media dining area before Game 1, wondering if he had to pay or not. (He didn’t.)

And while his teammates were beating the Hurricanes 5-2 in the conference final opener, McAvoy was in street clothes on the very top level of the TD Garden, trying to keep his emotions under control.

”Here on this level, I’m like this,” McAvoy said, holding out his hand, palm down, and moving it in a steady and straight line in front of his face.

”But up there,” he said, pumping his fist and bouncing out of his imaginary seat. ”I’m glad I get to play tomorrow.”

A 21-year-old first-round draft choice from Boston University, McAvoy had seven goals and 21 assists from the blue line this year, his second full season in the NHL. He missed six weeks early in the season with a concussion and another two over Christmas because of a foot injury.

But he hadn’t had to sit out healthy, for just one game.

McAvoy said he would try to use the forced break to his advantage.

”Whenever you’re out, you can use it as an opportunity to get other things feeling right,” he said, adding that watching the game from above game him a perspective that would be beneficial. ”I feel like I picked up on some things.”

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said McAvoy was missed for his physical play and his ability to start the transition to offense.

”Those up-the-middle passes that maybe the other guys just don’t have the vision or confidence, or both, to make,” he said. ”Those quick-strike plays where forwards are getting the pucks in their hands in good spots with a better chance to attack.”

Steven Kampfer, who replaced McAvoy in the lineup, had Boston’s first goal, and the Bruins scored four times in the third period on Thursday night to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is Sunday at the TD Garden, with the series moving to Carolina for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday.

The Hurricanes fell behind 2-0 in their first-round series against the Washington Capitals before eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champions in seven games. In the second round, they swept the New York Islanders.

”We don’t want to get down 2-0,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. ”If we get to that point, that’s what everyone will be saying. We have some things to draw on, no matter what, no matter which way this thing goes.”

INJURY UPDATE

Cassidy said forward Noel Acciari won’t play in Game 2 but may be on track to return for Tuesday’s Game 3 in Carolina. Acciari (undisclosed injury) returned to non-contact practice on Saturday and was expected to be cleared for full practice on Monday, Cassidy said.

Saku Maenalanen is skating, but he still can’t shoot because of his hand injury, Brind’Amour said. Forward Jordan Martinook ”is going to play,” Brind’Amour said. ”He’s banged up, a little gimpy out there. But we want him in the lineup.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Hurricanes aiming to close out Islanders as quick as possible

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The Carolina Hurricanes really make it count when they get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Since the franchise moved from Hartford in 1996, the Hurricanes have made the postseason six times. Three times they’ve advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Final (and twice making the Stanley Cup Final in 2002 and 2006). On Friday night, it could be a fourth conference final appearance should they managed to finish the sweep against the New York Islanders in Game 4 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream).

According to the NHL, teams that take 3-0 leads in a best-of-seven series are 188-4 all-time. Only four teams, including the 1974-75 Islanders, have overcome such a deficit.

This is a new playoff experience for head coach Rod Brind’Amour with the Hurricanes. Those three conference final appearances featured him as player — twice as team captain — so he understands just how important it is to get that fourth win and not allow the slightest bit of hope to enter your opponents’ minds.

“You never look at the big picture. You’re always focused on your next game,” Brind’Amour said. “Whether we’re up three or down three, you want to be desperate to win that game. That’s the approach we have to take. You know the other team is going to be that way. They don’t have a choice. Sometimes having that tomorrow is not a good thing because when your back’s against the wall, you give it everything you can. We have to come with that mindset, as well, otherwise it’s going to be tough.”

 [NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Closing out the Islanders as soon as possible will be a huge benefit to the beat up Hurricanes. Petr Mrazek will not play in Game 4, giving Curtis McElhinney another opportunity in net. Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Martinook returned for Game 3, but the team is still waiting on Micheal Ferland, who is still day-to-day. Trevor van Riemsdyk remains out indefinitely with an upper-body injury, while Saku Maenalanen (hand) could be healed up in time for Round 3, if Carolina does advance.

The Hurricanes have won five in a row and are undefeated (4-0) at PNC Arena this postseason. Friday night they have the opportunity to complete their first ever best-of-seven series sweep, a decade after they were swept out of the 2009 playoffs, the last time they made the postseason.

It wasn’t long ago the Hurricanes were fighting for their playoff lives and here they are on the brink of an achievement many didn’t think possible just a few weeks ago. The “bunch of jerks” have bucked the trends all season long and not allowing anything — injuries, series deficits, higher seeds — to stand in their way.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice,” said captain Justin Williams. “You don’t wait for it, you achieve it. We’re not waiting around to see what happens. We’re going to try to go get it.”

MORE: Should Isles turn to Greiss in Game 4?

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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.

The Wraparound: Islanders still believe they ‘can turn this around’

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

It’s not an ideal spot to be in, but the Islanders still believe they can come back to win their second-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Isles have their work cut out for them starting in Game 3 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN), as they dropped the first two games on home ice. But the margin between winning and losing in this series has been slim. In Game 1, they lost 1-0 in overtime. In Game 2, they had a 1-0 lead for most of the game but they allowed the Hurricanes to score twice in the third frame.

“That’s the way it goes sometimes,” forward Josh Bailey said. “It could be 2-0 us, but it’s 0-2. We can’t get down. We still feel good about our group and have confidence that we can turn this around… They play very structured. I feel like it’s similar to the way we play. You can’t let frustration set in. We’ve found ways to frustrate teams throughout the year and in the playoffs. You can’t let them reverse it back on you. You’ve got to just stick with it, and we will.”

As Bailey points out, why wouldn’t the Islanders be confident?

Under head coach Barry Trotz, they put together a 103-point season and they totally revamped the way they defended as a team. They’ve received some really good goaltending from Robin Lehner and their better offensive players have chipped in at opportune times (before this series).

Assuming they can extend this series, they’ll have to find a way to use home-ice as an advantage again. In the first round, Nassau Coliseum was rocking and intimidating. It looked like the Isles were invincible there. Unfortunately for them, they’ve moved to Barclays Center in Round 2 and that feeling of invincibility is gone.

But before they can return home, they have to win at least one of these two upcoming games in Raleigh.

“I said to them, ‘Hey, we’re going to Carolina to win two games, plain and simple.’ You can’t win two unless you focus on the first, so we’ll focus on the first and go from there,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

Of course, the fact that the Hurricanes are so banged up should play into the Islanders’ favor. Goalie Curtis McElhinney made a few great stops when he entered Game 2 in relief of Petr Mrazek, but it’ll be interesting to see if the veteran can keep that up for an entire game or multiple games. Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Martinook and Micheal Ferland have also missed extended periods of time, while Trevor van Riemsdyk and Saku Maenalanen are expected to miss the rest of the series.

 [NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TODAY’S SCHEDULE: 

Game 4: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars, 9:30 p.m. ET, Blues lead 2-1: The Stars were able to battle back from three one-goal deficits in Game 3, but they ultimately fell on a late goal by Blues forward Patrick Maroon. As much as they traded punches with St. Louis in that game, they need to find a way to stop chasing the game and they have to get off to a better start. Ben Bishop didn’t have his best game either, so getting him back to Vezina Trophy form will be a key if the Stars are going to head back to St. Louis tied, 2-2. (NBCSN; 9:30 p.m. ET)

TUESDAY’S SCORES:
Blue Jackets 2, Bruins 1
Sharks 4, Avalanche 2

PHT’s Round 2 previews
Round 2 schedule, TV info
Questions for the final eight teams
PHT Roundtable
Blue Jackets vs. Bruins
Hurricanes vs. Islanders
Blues vs. Stars
Avalanche vs. Sharks

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Hurricanes rally around injuries, take 2-0 series lead vs. Islanders

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It’s almost as if adversity galvanizes the Carolina Hurricanes, with every blow bringing the team closer together in their fight for the Stanley Cup.

These particular playoffs — their first in a decade — haven’t been kind to the Hurricanes, who entered the game already without Andrei Svechnikov, Micheal Ferland and Jordan Martinook. Injuries didn’t halt their progress in Round 1, winning a seven-game series against the Washington Capitals despite missing some key pieces.

And while three more names were added to that growing list — queue up that one Drowning Pool song — Carolina banded together to come from behind as they took a 2-0 Round 2 series lead against the New York Islanders after a 2-1 win on Sunday.

“It’s not easy, that’s for sure, because you’re asking a lot of guys that are out of their comfort zone and doing things they don’t normally do,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’amour said following the game. “But that’s playoffs, that’s part of it. It is a war of attrition a lot of times in the playoffs. We’ve just got to figure it out.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk was gone just 36 seconds into the game and Petr Mrazek followed suit in the second period as he slid from across his crease on an apparent non-contact injury. Saku Maenalanen was the third body to hit the trainer’s table, with his injury happening in the third period after providing a big assist.

“That’s tough, but hopefully those guys will heal up quickly,” Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin said. “But we’ve got a lot of guys that haven’t been playing that are ready to step in and do their job.”

That’s six injuries and a 2-0 series lead heading back to Raleigh, with a much needed extra day off in between.

Carolina’s ability to deal with the ebbs and flows of a game is remarkable at this point.

Sunday’s game was tight through two periods the Islanders took a 1-0 lead from Mathew Barzal on the power play, New York’s first goal on the man-advantage in their past 10 tries.

In the second, before Mrazek was replaced by Curtis McElhinney, the Hurricanes failed to produce on an extended 5-on-3. Mrazek’s injury soon after must have felt like a kick to the ribs while they were already lying on the floor.

But somewhere between there and the beginning of the third, Carolina regrouped.

Warren Foegele‘s fifth came just 17 seconds into the period to tie the game and the Hurricanes had a 2-1 lead just 48 seconds later when Nino Niederreiter put the perfect tip on a point shot for his first of the playoffs.

“Leadership in that room,” Brind’amour said. “It’s simple. Jordan Staal. Justin Williams. Jaccob Slavin. Those are our best players every night. They’re leading a group and they don’t have a choice but to follow these guys.”

Brind’Amour figured Mrazek’s injury was similar to the one he picked up back in November, one that forced him to miss a month of action. Yikes.

McElhinney proved to be a formidable backup. He had just 82 minutes of playoff experience heading into this game but he was up to the task, making 17 saves in relief.

One wonders how long the Hurricanes can be without such a large contingent of their roster. Game 3 could conceivably look like the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina’s Amerian Hockey League affiliate) are getting a game in the playoffs depending on the severity of the ailments. And the Islanders had their chances in the third, with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Pulock both hitting he crossbar and Anders Lee narrowly missing an open net on Pulock’s rebound.

For now, however, we’ll continue to believe that the Hurricanes can manage in some of the most unappealing situations. They’ve done it so far. Why doubt them?

Game 3 goes Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN from PNC Arena. 


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