NHL on NBCSN: Flyers, Sharks battle to bury rough start

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the San Jose Sharks host the Philadelphia Flyers at the SAP Center at 10:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Flyers and Sharks are two of the league leaders in one category so far this season: frustration. Neither team is terrible, but they have struggled mightily lately.

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In some ways San Jose is the bigger offender because it arguably had higher expectations coming into this season. Sure, there was all that offseason talk about them becoming a “tomorrow team,” but that didn’t translate into them becoming a rebuilding club. With that in mind, the emphasis is still on this season and how they might respond to their historic first round collapse against the Los Angeles Kings.

So far the answer is ‘not well’ as the Sharks have been both inconsistent and largely mediocre. It led to Sharks coach Todd McLellan admitting that his job’s on the line and forward Joe Pavelski lamenting that things only seem to get worse when they try harder. At least the Sharks were able to earn a 6-4 victory over Anaheim on Saturday though, so they’re coming into this contest off of a high note.

“There haven’t been too many moments in our games so far this season where that we can be happy with and say, ‘let’s build on this,’” Sharks forward Tommy Wingels told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve given ourselves an opportunity. [Tuesday] night is an opportunity for us to string two wins together, and that’s how you start a streak.”

In the Flyers’ case, a winning streak would be a nice change of pace, but before they can start thinking about that they need to end their current four-game slide. There’s been a lot of different problems in Philadelphia, but the biggest issue right now is its lack of secondary scoring. Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux have been two of the best forwards in the league this season, but they need more support if the Flyers are to dig themselves out of their current hole.

“Never seen anything like it in all the years I’ve been in hockey,” Flyers owner Ed Snider said, referring to the team’s lack of secondary scoring. “Even when we were an expansion team, somebody chipped in here and there.”

If the postseason started today, neither squad would be a part of it, but fortunately there’s still plenty of hockey left to play. There’s talent on both of these teams, they just need to put it to better use.

‘Never seen anything like it’: Snider rips Philly’s lack of secondary scoring

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The Flyers have two of the NHL’s top six scorers at the moment — Jakub Voracek (2nd, 32 points) and Claude Giroux (6th, 27) — yet sit just sixth in the Metropolitan Division with an ugly 8-12-3 record.

One big reason why? Not enough points from forwards not named Voracek or Giroux. And that’s got owner Ed Snider miffed.

“Never seen anything like it in all the years I’ve been in hockey,” Snider said of his club’s lack of secondary scoring, per the Philly Inquirer. “Even when we were an expansion team, somebody chipped in here and there.”

Consider the following:

— Matt Read, a two-time 20 goal scorer, has one goal in his last 16 games.

— Sean Couturier, who scored a career-high 39 points last year, has one point in his last 10.

— Wayne Simmonds, who scored six goals in his first 10 games of the year, has two in his last 13.

The slumps are out there for all to see, including Snider. Which probably explains why he called out each of these guys individually.

“We have two of the best forwards in the league, but two players can’t turn around a team,” he explained. “What’s going on with everybody else? What’s going on with Couturier, Read, Simmonds, and the other guys? They should be chipping in with some goals.

“It’s weird. I’m not going to give up on those guys. Even [Vinny] Lecavalier got 20 goals last year. What happened?”

As Snider’s words suggest, these are not good times for the Flyers. The club is 1-7-1 over its last nine and now begins a difficult stretch of road games, with four games in seven nights in San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Columbus.

If someone can’t step up and provide some offense behind the big two of Voracek and Giroux on this trip, Philly could be in danger of falling behind the ‘Canes and Blue Jackets in the Metro — not a good place to be for a team intent on making the postseason.

Columnist calls the Oilers ‘soft’

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There are a lot of theories regarding the Edmonton Oilers’ perpetual poorness.

They haven’t drafted well, especially beyond obvious high first-round picks. Despite year after year of ineptitude, the front office seems fairly protected, especially Kevin Lowe (sure, they changed GMs … but some wonder if Lowe’s voice still rings the loudest, anyway). Most directly, they are pretty lousy at keeping the puck out of their own net, whether that falls heaviest on their goalies or defensemen.

If you ask the Edmonton Sun’s Robert Tychkowski, the real problem is that the Oilers are “soft.”

It’s been nine years since the Edmonton Oilers were last described as a gritty, hard-working team that nobody wants to play against, which is probably why it’s been nine years since they last made the playoffs.

Any coach or GM worth his weight in lottery balls knows you need some mongrels mixed in with your purebreds if you’re ever going to win.

Granted, it’s also been nine years since the Oilers employed an elite defenseman, as Chris Pronger was traded to the Anaheim Ducks after Edmonton’s memorable run.

Anyway, Tychkowski believes that a recent roster move implies that the front office is acknowledging his perceived lack of sand paper. By calling up Tyler Pitlick and keeping Steve Pinizzotto while demoting Jesse Joensuu, he thinks that Edmonton’s addressing a deficit.

Is it really about grit and intangibles for Edmonton? Maybe, maybe not … but it seems like the Oilers still have a long way to go, which has basically been a refrain since that playoff run many moons ago.

Flyers players stand behind Berube; could an Oilers trade be brewing?

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There are times when watching the free-falling Philadelphia Flyers feels like witnessing years of poor decisions in action, but it’s tough to say how much of it is head coach Craig Berube’s fault.

Wayne Simmonds seemed to rally the troops behind his coach after another dispiriting loss to the New York Rangers, as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports.

“This has nothing to do with the coach,” Simmonds said.

Berube wasn’t shy about pointing out individual disappointments among his players, however.

That feeling seemed most obvious with Vincent Lecavalier (who received less than six minutes of ice time on Saturday) and Andrew MacDonald (who didn’t even play against the Rangers today). Berube called out each player for their lack of effort, as Carchidi notes.

“He has to play better; he hasn’t moved the puck as well as he has, his intensity dropped off,” Berube said of MacDonald.

His comments about Lecavalier were pretty similar:

Lecavalier, 34, admitted that it was “frustrating” to gete benched like he was this afternoon, yet it’s easy to see why. He hasn’t scored a point in five straight games and only has an assist in his last nine.

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Whoever’s at fault, rumors are swirling that two wayward teams often found in the headlines might just find a way to make a deal.

At least two reporters indicate that something could be brewing between the Flyers and the Edmonton Oilers.

TSN’s Darren Dreger noted that Mark Messier was on hand to scout for Edmonton:

Meanwhile, the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson goes as far as to propose a hypothetical trade involving Braydon Coburn and David Perron:

Interesting.

Flyers drop fourth straight and third to the Rangers

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Following Friday afternoon’s 3-0 loss to the New York Rangers, Flyers’ GM Ron Hextall said there was no short-term fixes for his hockey club.

On Saturday, his team dropped a second straight game to the Rangers losing 5-2.

The  Flyers have now lost four straight for the third time this season.

Derick Brassard opened the scoring with his seventh of the season; however, the Flyers scored twice to take a 2-1 lead midway through the second on goals from Nicklas Grossmann and Jakub Voracek.

Brassard’s second was part of four unanswered for the Rangers, who won for the fourth time in five games.

Jesper Fast’s first career NHL goal tied the game 2-2in the middle period.

J.T. Miller had his first of the season and Lee Stempniak scored into an empty net rounding out the scoring for New York.

Philadelphia has now been outscored 10-2 in three losses this month to the Rangers.

New York out-shot Philadelphia 15-7 in the first period and 14-4 in the second.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for the win while Ray Emery stopped 30 shots in the loss.

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