NHL on NBCSN: Hungry Flyers set sights on rival Penguins


NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Consol Energy Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

If their 6-5 overtime victory on Saturday gave the Philadelphia Flyers reason to hope, then Chicago’s decisive 4-0 win over them last night was a bucket of cold water. The Flyers’ season is obviously far from over just because they’ve gotten off to a 1-3-2 start, but they have to work hard to right this ship and that task won’t get any easier tonight when they battle their fierce rivals in Pittsburgh.

“We got to stick together when it’s tough time and we just got to battle through it. We’ve done it before,” Claude Giroux said after the game, per the Flyers’ website.

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He’s right of course. The Flyers began the 2013-14 campaign with a 1-7-0 run and still managed to make the playoffs. However, the reason they slumped out of the gate last season was primarily because they couldn’t seem to click offensively. Although they were shutout last night, the Flyers’ main problem this season has been its defense.

That’s not an area you can afford to be deficient in when you’re playing against Pittsburgh. For years the Penguins have been known as one of the league’s best offensive teams and nothing has changed this season.

Sidney Crosby is playing as good as ever with four goals and nine points in just four games. Evgeni Malkin isn’t far behind with two goals and five assists. Even newcomer Patric Hornqvist, who never recorded more than 53 points in a single season with the Nashville Predators, has stepped up with four goals and eight points.

For any other squad, Pittsburgh would be one of the worst teams to face under these circumstances, but this might actually be just what the doctor ordered for Philadelphia. The Flyers are typically capable of stepping up when facing their Pennsylvania rival. They were 4-1-0 against Pittsburgh last season.

Philadelphia might also finally get defenseman Braydon Coburn after he missed his fifth straight game on Tuesday despite taking part in the pregame warmups. The Flyers could certainly use any help they can get on the blueline.

Regardless of the outcome, this promises to be a fun game. For forward Steve Downie, it’s his first chance to experience the rivalry from Pittsburgh’s perspective after his two stints with Philadelphia and this will also be new Penguins head coach Mike Johnston’s first contest against the Flyers.

““I’m excited,” Johnston told the Penguins’ website. “When you look at an 82-game schedule some games just blend into the other games and some games jump right out at you. Heading into the season and looking at games last year when Philly and Pittsburgh played, the intensity and emotion, both in the building and on the ice, I think it adds to the game.”

Tavares: I’ve ‘never seen anyone’ change gears like McDavid


Barring a trade, the New York Islanders don’t have a shot of getting top 2015 draft prospect Connor McDavid after dealing their first rounder to the Buffalo Sabres last season. Even if that wasn’t the case, Islanders captain John Tavares would much rather lead his team back into the playoffs than hope to win the draft lottery.

At the same time, Tavares has seen firsthand what McDavid can do and it’s impressed him.

“The way he changes gears, I’ve never seen anyone like that,” Tavares told the Toronto Star. “I skated with him a little bit this summer. You think he’s at top speed, and then he hits the neutral zone and he has the puck and he just turns it up another gear. You really never see the way he brings speed.

“And he’s got exceptional vision, a way of seeing the play before it actually happens. Those two things are really what make him such a special player.”

This isn’t the first time a current superstar has showered McDavid in praise. Even two years ago, McDavid was drawing comparisons to Sidney Crosby…from Sidney Crosby.

Tavares knows better than most what McDavid is going through as he also got “exceptional status” to play in the OHL at the age of 15 and received a ton of attention for years before he ultimately was taken with the first overall pick. McDavid is projected to enter the NHL next season amid high expectations. Already some fans of struggling teams are eyeing the 2015 draft, hoping their club gets him or Jack Eichel.


McDavid, Eichel top Central Scouting Futures list

Crosby picks up 500th assist as Pens halt Isles’ streak


The Pittsburgh Penguins scored three unanswered goals to erase an early 1-0 Islanders lead and pick up a 3-1 victory Saturday night.

Evgeni Malkin tallied on the power play while Patric Hornqvist scored twice in the win.

With his assist on Hornqvist’s second of the night, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby reached the 500 assist mark for his career.

According to NHL.com, Crosby became the sixth fastest player to reach 500 assists and joined Mario Lemieux (1,033) and Jaromir Jagr (640) as the only Penguins to have reached the milestone.

Thomas Hickey had the lone goal for the Islanders, who lost for the first time in five games.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves for the win. The Penguins have now won three of their first four games.

Video: Seguin scores with 2.9 seconds left to give Stars the win


The Dallas Stars were down a goal to the Pittsburgh Penguins with less than three minutes remaining in regulation. With less than three seconds remaining, the Stars found themselves up a goal.

Just like that. The Stars, when it was over, came away with a 3-2 win on the road.

Tyler Seguin scored the winning goal on a late power play with 2.9 seconds remaining in regulation, as he snapped a shot from his off wing. Pittsburgh’s goalie Marc-Andre Fleury couldn’t get across in time, and couldn’t squeeze the puck in his equipment.

The Stars evened the score with under three minutes remaining thanks to a goal from Jamie Benn.

The Seguin winner came with Sidney Crosby in the penalty box. The Penguins’ star was called for trip on Benn off a faceoff. Crosby lost the draw and allowed Benn to get around him, before lazily dragging Benn down to the ice.

There was a scary moment in this one, as Penguins’ forward Pascal Dupuis was taken off the ice on a stretcher after getting hit by a puck.

Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported afterward that Dupuis had numbness in his arm, but the feeling was returning.

Pens’ Ehrhoff ‘frustrated’ with time in Buffalo


In 2011 defenseman Christian Ehrhoff came one win shy of capturing his first Stanley Cup with the Vancouver Canucks.

Following the deep playoff run Ehrhoff decided to sign a 10-year, $40 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres as an unrestricted free agent.

After being bought out of the deal just three years in, Ehrhoff, now a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, all but calls his decision to sign in Buffalo a mistake.

“I thought it was a team on the uprise,” he said. “They had a good roster and I felt, with a few additions, that they could take the next step to be a competitive team. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way and they went into full rebuild mode. That was obviously a little frustrating because that’s not the reason I (signed) there.”

Ehrhoff signed his deal with the Sabres after Buffalo finished the 2010-11 season with a 43-29-10 record. The Sabres were third in the Northeast Division that season and qualified for the playoffs.

After Ehrhoff joined the Sabres, they failed to make the playoffs in three seasons.

Ehrhoff, who had 28 goals and 94 points in 159 regular season games in two years with the Canucks, saw his numbers slowly dwindle in Buffalo scoring 16 goals and 87 points in 192 games with the Sabres.

On July 1 the 32-year-old signed a one-year $4 million deal with the Penguins.

“Last year was obviously very frustrating finishing last in Buffalo – not what I had hoped for when I signed there,” Ehrhoff said. “It’s a new opportunity (in Pittsburgh) and I’m excited to be on a very good team that has a good chance, all the tools, to compete for the cup.”

Under new head coach, Mike Johnston, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby notices the team’s defense more involved.

“Our D is probably more active than they’ve been in the past,” he said. “I think recognizing that as a forward, kind of on both sides of puck: offensively knowing that you might have an extra guy with you, but defensively understanding you might have to stay back more knowing the D is joining the play so I think that’s one major thing I notice here right away.”

It’s a system, which should benefit the offensively gifted Ehrhoff.

“A lot of experience, he’s played a long time,” said Crosby of the defenseman. “On the power play he’s got a big shot, sees the ice well and then defensively, he’s playing with Tanger (Kris Letang) and they’re going to see a lot of top guys so a lot of minutes. I think all the way around he’s a big acquisition for us.”

Ehrhoff struggled to point out where things went wrong with the Sabres.

“It’s tough to say,” he said. “The fact is, it didn’t work out and I’m happy with getting another shot at it here with Pittsburgh.”

The German native admitted the opportunity to play along side Crosby was a big selling point for him.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” said Ehrhoff. “You can see it every day in practice and every night out there, it’s pretty special and obviously that was one of the reasons why I signed (in Pittsburgh).”

Ehrhoff’s buyout from the Sabres will ensure he gets a check of roughly $860,000 each season until 2027-28, but doesn’t feel it leaves him needing to prove anything after failures in Buffalo.

“I don’t think I have to prove anything to myself,” he said,  “but obviously I want to be a big part of this team and help this team win.”

Ehrhoff is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent once again next summer.