Alex Nedeljkovic

Flyers continue ascension with eighth straight win

The Philadelphia Flyers have flown under the radar this season but now sit atop the Metropolitan Division alongside the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals lost in overtime to the New York Rangers but currently own the tiebreaker due to one additional victory in regulation and overtime. Each team has 87 points to date in 67 games this season.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Sean Couturier scored 26 seconds apart in the third period and the Flyers extended their winning streak to eight games after a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday.

Ivan Provorov and Michael Raffl also scored as Philadelphia swept a set of back-to-back games against divisional opponents.

Justin Williams netted the Hurricanes’ lone goal, but they fell for the fourth consecutive game. Carolina trails the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders for the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference.

Newly acquired Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei turned the puck over behind his own net and Aube-Kubel took advantage to expand the Flyers’ lead to 3-1 early in the third period. Shortly after, Couturier buried a rebound to put the game out of reach.

Alex Nedeljkovic made 28 saves in his second start of the season for the Hurricanes.

Provorov opened the scoring when he collected his own rebound and deposited a backhand 18:23 into the first period. Flyers defensemen have scored an NHL-best 44 goals this season.

Raffl doubled the Flyers’ advantage midway through the second period. Scott Laughton picked up his second assist of the night on the play.

Injuries piling up

Prior to the game, Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell announced Brett Pesce underwent surgery on his right shoulder. The defenseman is expected to be sidelined for the next four to six months.

He originally injured his shoulder against the Toronto Maple Leafs February 24.

In addition to Pesce, Sami Vatanen had a setback Thursday morning and is not expected to make his debut for Carolina in the near future.

“This is a tough injury. He came off (the ice early); that’s not good,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour told reporters this morning. “We were hoping to get him closer to playing. Now it looks like he’s further away.”


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.

PHT Face-Off: Konecny is flying; Can Hurricanes survive goalie injuries?

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It’s Monday, which means it’s time for the PHT Face-Off. We’ll break down some of the topics and trends around the NHL for the upcoming week and beyond.

• Will Stanley Cup Champions bring back Pietrangelo?

The St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins both have free-agent defensemen that they’d probably like to re-sign before July 1st.

For the Blues, that’s captain Alex Pietrangelo. The 30-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and he’s been a key cog for the defending Stanley Cup Champions. He has 13 goals and 49 points in 65 games this year, which puts him on pace for over 60 points.

The veteran also plays key minutes for the Blues, as he’s currently averaging just over 24 minutes per game. One interesting nugget about Pietrangelo is that he’s capable of playing with different partners throughout the season. He’s played at least 220 minutes with Justin Faulk, Carl Gunnarsson, Colton Parayko and Vince Dunn.

Whether they win the cup again or not, losing Pietrangelo to free agency for nothing would be devastating.

The Blues have almost $74 million committed to next year’s salary cap (assuming the upper limit stays at $81.5 million). They still need to fill out the rest of their roster, so that means they’ll have less than $7.5 million to give their captain to stay. Given the numbers he’s put up over the course of his career, it’ll take more than $7.5 million per year anyway.

General manager Doug Armstrong has an interesting problem on his hands. Last week, he mentioned that negotiations wouldn’t start until after the season. Can he make the numbers work?

• What will the Blackhawks do between the pipes? 

The Chicago Blackhawks traded Robin Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights last week, which left Corey Crawford and Malcolm Subban, who they got in the trade, on their roster.

Crawford has looked relatively good over the last few weeks. He’s managed to keep the opposition to two goals or fewer in four of his last five outings. It’s arguably the best he’s looked all season.

“He’s been excellent,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said, per NBC Sports Chicago. “He’s been good all year but another level the last month or two, and it’s good for our group.”

The fact that they traded Lehner away doesn’t really affect their long-term question marks between the pipes. Like Lehner, Crawford is scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st. With a good showing down the stretch, Subban could become the team’s backup goaltender on a full-time basis next year, but they still need an undisputed starter heading into 2020-21.

Even if Crawford continues rolling down the stretch, you’d have to think that GM Stan Bowman will look for another proven option outside the organization. Crawford is 35 and he’s struggled to stay healthy over the last few years.

Assuming Capitals netminder Braden Holtby makes it to free agency, could he be a fit with the Blackhawks? Could they bring back Lehner once he hits the market?

Bowman can bring Crawford back as a part-time starter if he wants to, but they can’t go into next season with him as an undisputed starter. It’s way too much of a risk for a Blackhawks team that needs to make the playoffs.

• Can inexperienced goalies keep Hurricanes in playoff hunt?

If the playoffs started today, the Carolina Hurricanes wouldn’t be in them. There’s no denying that the ‘Canes have a talented group, but they’re currently facing some adversity in goal. Both Petr Mrazek and James Reimer are out, and now that the Dave Ayres story has cooled off, they’re left with two inexperienced goalies in Anton Forsberg and Alex Nedeljkovic.

Carolina is three points behind Columbus for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes have three games in hand though. But they’re coming off a 4-3 OT loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. Forsberg got the start in the game, but he was given the hook after allowing three goals on 20 shots before the midway point of the game. They managed to mount a three-goal comeback after Forsberg got the hook, but still ended up falling short.

Since Ayres won that game against Toronto two Saturdays ago, the ‘Canes have gone 0-2-1 with Forsberg and Nedeljkovic.

Can head coach Rod Brind’Amour get enough out of his goaltenders to sneak his team back into the postseason? That’s the biggest question mark right now.

“They’re very capable goalies,” forward Justin Williams said after the loss to Montreal, per NHL.com. “It could easily have been 4-0, then we’d be out of it. So it was an important point, and we dug in the last half of the game.”

• Konecny is flying

The Philadelphia Flyers have rattled off six wins in a row dating back to Feb. 18. They’ve been so good that Money Puck has given them the best odds of hoisting the Stanley Cup:

The Flyers have jumped ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re now just three points ahead of Washington for the first place. Can they do what most of us thought was unthinkable just a few weeks ago?

There’s many reasons why the Flyers are rolling, but one of the key contributors has been Travis Konecny. During this winning streak, he’s picked up four goals and eight assists. The 22-year-old has 23 goals and 60 points in 62 games this season, which puts him on pace for almost 30 goals and more than 75 points.

Check out these five-on-five numbers (originally tweeted on Feb. 26):

That’s some elite company for Konecny to be in. The scary thing is that he’s probably only going to get better from here.

What’s coming up this week
Jean-Gabriel Pageau plays Sens for first time since trade to Isles – Thu. Mar. 5, 7 p.m. ET
• Panthers will retire Luongo’s No. 1 – Sat. Mar. 7, 7 p.m. ET

NHL on NBCSN
• Bruins vs. Lightning, Tue. Mar. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET
• Ducks vs. Avalanche, Wed. Mar. 4, 9:30 p.m. ET
• Hurricanes vs. Flyers, Thu. Mar. 5, 7 p.m. ET
• Blues vs. Blackhawks, Sun. Mar. 8, 7:30 p.m. ET
• Avalanche vs. Sharks, Sun. Mar. 8, 10 p.m. ET

Wednesday Night Hockey
• Flyers vs. Capitals, Wed. Mar. 4, 7 p.m. ET

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’ Reimer, Mrazek, Pesce all ‘longer term’ injuries

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce and goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek are all dealing with “longer term” injuries suffered in a weekend win at Toronto, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Monday.

Brind’Amour said it was unclear exactly how much time the players will miss. Reimer left with a lower-body injury, while Brind’Amour said Mrazek is dealing with a concussion and Pesce has a shoulder injury.

“Obviously nobody’s, I would say, short term,” Brind’Amour said. “Longer term for, really, all of them. That’s about all I can tell you.”

Later Monday, team president and general manager Don Waddell said the team has moved Pesce to the long-term injured reserve – aiding the team with salary-cap moves – but that he didn’t think the goaltenders would be out “long term.” He also said Mrazek is going through the concussion protocol and has “more of a neck injury,” though he hasn’t had a headache.

“It’s weeks at the most,” Waddell said of the goaltenders. “Petr might be less than that.”

The injuries to Reimer and Mrazek forced the Hurricanes to turn to 42-year-old emergency goaltender David Ayres in the 6-3 win.

Reimer’s injury occurred when Toronto’s Zach Hyman pushed Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin into Reimer’s left leg, sending both falling into the net. Mrazek was hurt in the second period on a collision with Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford, leading to Ayres’ entry.

The Hurricanes have since recalled goaltenders Anton Forsberg and Alex Nedeljkovic from Charlotte of the American Hockey League ahead of Tuesday’s home game against Dallas.

As for Pesce, Brind’Amour said the 25-year-old defenseman was scheduled to be evaluated again later Monday. But any extended absence would be another hit for a team that lost All-Star defenseman Dougie Hamilton indefinitely to a broken left leg in January and is jostling for position in the Eastern Conference playoff wild-card chase.

The Hurricanes acquired center Vincent Trocheck from Florida ahead of the NHL’s trade deadline Monday afternoon, parting with forwards Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark along with a pair of prospects. They also added defensemen Sami Vatanen from New Jersey and Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers, with Waddell saying the Skjei deal parts with what will be the lower of Carolina’s two first-round picks.

Hurricanes recall two goaltenders after losing Reimer, Mrazek

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes have recalled goaltenders Anton Forsberg and Alex Nedeljkovic from their American Hockey League affiliate after losing two goaltenders to injury and relying on an on-call emergency netminder Saturday night in a victory at Toronto.

The Hurricanes announced the move Sunday. That came after they lost James Reimer and Petr Mrazek to injuries the night before, forcing them to use 42-year-old David Ayres in net to finish the 6-3 win.

The 27-year-old Forsberg has posted a 15-9-2 record with a 2.95 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in 27 appearances with the Charlotte Checkers this year. The Hurricanes acquired Forsberg in a trade last June.

The 24-year-old Nedeljkovic has posted a 15-10-2 record, 2.51 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage with four shutouts in 28 appearances with the Checkers this year. The Hurricanes selected him in the second round of the 2014 draft.

Ayres will attend Carolina’s home game Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars.

”See you Tuesday, Davey!” the club said on its Twitter account. ”Ayres will be in the building on Tuesday and will be our (at)VectorSecurity Siren Sounder!”

”They’re flying me down to Carolina for their game on Tuesday so I’ll get to spend more time with the guys, which is good,” Ayres said Toronto on Sunday at the Leafs’ practice facility. ”They’re a great team, great organization.”

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin also announced Tuesday will be ”David Ayres Day” in the city.

The Hurricanes started selling shirts with Ayres’ name and No. 90 after the game. The team says Ayres will get royalties and a portion of the proceeds will go to a kidney foundation in honor of the goaltender, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2004.