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Some Flyers nervous after beating Boston

Wednesday, 03.04.2009 / 9:00 AM / Game-Day Skate

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

A few thoughts while the clock ticks toward 3 p.m. ET:

Strong showing -- Whether or not the Philadelphia Flyers have a different look when they return to the ice Thursday night, they did their best to show General Manager Paul Holmgren that no changes are necessary in a 4-2 win against the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden.

"I'm sure tomorrow will be a little bit of a tense day for some of us,'' said Flyers forward Mike Knuble, who was traded from the Rangers to the Bruins at the 2000 deadline. ''This team has a chance to do something.''

The Flyers have won six of their last nine games to solidify their hold on fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Should they finish fourth, they would have home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Tuesday night marked just their second game since the return of Danny Briere, who missed the previous 36 contests due to injury. They also welcomed back Kimmo Timonen, who was out the previous four games with the flu.

''We're in a playoff spot now, and what we do is going to affect where we go,'' Philadelphia coach John Stevens said. ''I think our focus right now has to be on us.''

Canucks like their chances -- Fresh off signing a four-year extension, Vancouver Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows believes GM Mike Gillis doesn't need to have a busy day Wednesday as teams aim to make improvements prior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think we have a lot of good pieces in place," Burrows said before the Canucks' 4-2 win against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. "The core is good, we have some depth at a few positions. We like how we play. Once we get into the playoffs you never know what is going to happen."

Kevin Bieksa agreed. The Canucks are sitting fifth in the Western Conference with 74 points, and have won 11 of their last 13 games.

"I am confident with the team we have," Bieksa said. "If management thinks they have to improve in a certain area, that's up to them. I think we're a pretty confident group right now and we're playing our best game. We like our chances."

Getting 'funk'-y -- Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau is at a loss following another lackluster loss by his team on home ice. Washington was defeated for the fourth time in its last six games at the Verizon Center. This time, it was the Carolina Hurricanes who took it to the Caps in a 5-2 decision. Washington has been outscored 11-4 in its last two contests.

''We're going through this funk right now,'' Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''It looked like there was a complete lack of energy.''

Perhaps the Caps will receive a boost of energy via trade Wednesday. They've been rumored to be involved in several scenarios, but nothing went down Tuesday night.

Rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth allowed four goals in the second period en route to a 5-0 deficit a day before NHL teams' last chance to make deals.

''I wish I could put my finger on it right now," said Boudreau. "I don't know if it's because of tomorrow, and people are worried, they hear rumors. I don't know. 'I know poor Michal didn't know he was playing until he got here tonight. Maybe that had some bearing on his ineffectiveness.''

Bending, but not breaking -- The Atlanta Thrashers gave the Florida Panthers everything they could handle, but it was the latter who came out on top in a 4-3 victory at Philips Arena.

Michael Frolik had 2 goals and Stephen Weiss had 3 assists for the Panthers, who trailed 2-1 after the first period. However, they responded with three goals in the second. Florida has won three of its last four -- all on the road -- and now sits in sixth place in the East, two points ahead of the seventh-place New York Rangers.

''Atlanta is an offensively potent team, and you have to be real weary of them,'' Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said of the Thrashers, who have scored 33 times in their last eight games. ''We bent, but we didn't break and found a way to score some goals.''

The Thrashers took it to the Panthers in the third period, as Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 35th goal of the season with 2:59 remaining to make it a one-goal game. Atlanta outshot Florida 11-6 in the final 20 minutes.

''We were able to get that two-goal lead, which was enough for the two points, and definitely a turning point for us,'' Weiss said.

He's the Man-ny -- Manny Malhotra hadn't had three points or two goals in a game in almost a year -- a span of more than 70 games.

Until Tuesday night.

Malhotra had 2 goals and an assist, scoring the go-ahead goal midway through the third period to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 5-4 win against the Los Angeles Kings at Nationwide Arena.

The game featured teams battling for position in the West. The win gave Columbus 70 points and kept it in sixth place as the Blue Jackets aim to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

''The most important thing, and I think what we're happiest about in this room, is that we're playing good hockey,'' Malhotra said. ''We're in a playoff position and at this point, that's the best the franchise has ever done.''

Malhotra skated alongside Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius, and all the trio did was combine for six points. Certainly, Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock will keep the three together -- at least for now.

''That's what you need, you need your top line to take games over like that,'' Blue Jackets forward Raffi Torres said. ''They did that tonight. Manny from the get-go was flying. That's what we need, key goals from them at key moments. For our guys to step up like Nash and Manny did, it was just a special night for them.''

Another day at the office -- Martin Brodeur still is undefeated since returning to the New Jersey Devils' lineup.

Brodeur stopped 30 shots and moved within four wins of breaking Patrick Roy's all-time record as the Devils earned a 3-2 overtime victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

 
 
The future Hall of Fame goaltender is 4-0-0 since coming back from a biceps injury that sidelined him for 50 games. Tuesday's win was the 548th of his career.

''When I came back I was 100 percent healthy with my arm,'' Brodeur said. ''It's just a question of testing it right now. The last four games I've done everything I can in a lot of different situations and my arm has held up pretty good.''

You think? After all, two of his four wins have been shutouts. Toronto didn't score until John Mitchell beat Brodeur 2:32 into the third period. He scored again just over eight minutes later.

''I just want to win games and sometimes you just have to shut them down,'' Brodeur said when asked if shutouts are on his mind. ''It's never something in the back of my mind. It's all about winning.''

"Old" and the new
-- OK, so Jarome Iginla is far from old. After all, the Calgary Flames' captain did score his 401st and 402nd goals in a 6-3 win at Ottawa.

But the veteran forward wasn't the only one contributing. David Moss got his first career hat trick and Warren Peters added his first NHL goal to help the Flames maintain their lead atop the Northwest Division. Peters' goal erased a 2-1 deficit midway through the first period.

''We're very happy for them,'' Iginla said. ''First of all, Warren Peters' goal, not only to see him get his first but to see him get such a big goal, it was a big emotional lift for our team when we'd been up and they had some momentum. I thought from there we started to get a lot more energy.''

It sure did, as Calgary scored five of the game's six remaining goals. Four of them were unanswered before Nick Foligno finally beat Miikka Kiprusoff with 5:02 remaining in the game. Moss completed his hat trick with an empty-net goal at 19:43.

The Flames improved to 8-1-2 since a season-high four-game losing streak.

''To see him get his first hat trick was very exciting,'' Iginla said of the 25-year-old Moss. ''He's worked so hard and he's going to the net. He's a big part of our power play, which is improving, and it's good to see it pay off and nice to see him get his trick.''

Paying dividends -- It hasn't taken Chris Kunitz very long to get accustomed to his new team.

The power forward has been a godsend for the Pittsburgh Penguins since the team acquired his services from the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. Four nights after the trade, Kunitz scored his second and third goals with his new club, leading it to a 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum.

So far, Kunitz is very pleased with the urgency the Pens have played with, especially when you consider they are now 4-0-0 since captain Sidney Crosby went down with a groin injury. Crosby skated with the team Tuesday morning and could be close to returning.

"We just have to keep building off what we've been doing so far," Kunitz said. "I've only been here a few games, but we keep getting better and better every game. The systems keep getting more defined during the games. We have to take it two points at a time, one game at a time."

"I've only been here a few games, but we keep getting better and better every game. The systems keep getting more defined during the games. We have to take it two points at a time, one game at a time." -- Chris Kunitz
Kunitz is speaking as if he's been a Penguin for years. Instead, he's spent the past few days getting accustomed to his new teammates and helping the club climb back into a playoff spot in the East. He's certainly making the transition look easy.

"Just meeting the team, hanging out on the plane and in hotels right now," Kunitz said. "I'll probably enjoy Pittsburgh when I get there, I'm sure."

No doubt, the Steel City already is enjoying Kunitz.   

High five -- The Nashville Predators found themselves in a game that featured four lead changes and five ties. That didn't stop them from winning their fifth straight game.

Jason Arnott sealed the deal with a power-play goal at 2:31 of overtime, lifting the Preds to a wild 6-5 victory against the Edmonton Oilers at the Sommet Center. The win streak has allowed Nashville to move from 14th place in the Western Conference at the start of February into eighth.

''Guys have stayed with it and stayed persistent, which we talk about,'' Preds coach Barry Trotz said. ''Just stay persistent every night and good things can happen. You go up the ladder. As we said to the guys, you have to go up the ladder one rung at a time, and Edmonton was the one we had to get to. In getting the two points and them getting one, we're right with them now.''

Indeed they are. David Legwand is one of many players who heads to the rink with a smile on his face.

''This is an exciting time to play hockey, with the end of the season being in the mix," he said. "The teams that are out of it probably aren't having as much fun as we are.''

Feeling fine -- Now in his eighth season, it's no secret injuries often have hampered Chicago Blackhawks forward Martin Havlat.

After the club acquired the right wing from the Ottawa Senators in July 2006, a shoulder problem limited him to 56, then just 35 games in his first two seasons in the Windy City.

This season, however, Havlat has played in all of the resurgent Blackhawks' 62 games. Without a doubt, he's played a major role. He did again Tuesday.

After notching an assist earlier in the night, Havlat scored the game-winner at 1:40 of overtime in a 3-2 victory against the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center. The two points allowed Havlat to take over the Blackhawks' scoring lead with 57. He has a nine-game points streak, with 4 goals and 11 assists in that span.

''He's been unbelievable,'' Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. ''He's been a big part of our offense. I love playing with him out there. He's made everybody around him better.

While Havlat -- due to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 -- is happy to contribute, he's more concerned with helping the Blackhawks put a stranglehold on the No. 4 seed in the West. Finishing fourth would assure Chicago of having home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"I saw the puck was coming out of the zone and saw someone next to me. I thought he was more tired than I was, and I tried to beat him one-on-one," Havlat said of his winning play. "It's always fun to score goals, it doesn't matter when or how. Some goals are more important, but it doesn’t matter who scores the goals. Winning matters more."   

Back in business -- It's been somewhat of a rough season for Chris Osgood, but it appears as if the Detroit Red Wings' goaltender has found his game.

Osgood recorded his first shutout of the season, stopping all 22 shots he faced in a 5-0 win against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center. It was his 299th victory with the Red Wings, who have won three of four and are 3-0-1 against St. Louis this season.

Osgood won his second start after taking a four-game break to retool his game. So far, so good.

''I know when I'm playing good and when I'm not,'' Osgood said. ''I feel like I'm getting where I need to be, and I'm not scrambling around, so I think I'm going in the right direction.''

"I know when I'm playing good and when I'm not.  I feel like I'm getting where I need to be, and I'm not scrambling around, so I think I'm going in the right direction." -- Chris Osgood
That's just one piece of good news for the defending Stanley Cup champions. The other is that it appears forward Marian Hossa is OK after slamming head-first into the end boards early in the first period following a check by Roman Polak. Hossa left the ice on a stretcher but waved to the crowd as he was exiting. The Red Wings will face the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Wednesday night.

''I don't think he's playing tomorrow but he's flying with us,'' Wings coach Mike Babcock said. ''They're doing a bunch of tests on him and everything looks real good.''

So long, skid -- The Dallas Stars ended a five-game losing streak in impressive fashion.

Rookie James Neal scored twice and veteran Mike Modano had a goal and an assist as the Stars ended their slump with a 4-1 win against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. The Sharks have lost three of four, but Tuesday's defeat "dropped" them to 26-3-3 on home ice.

The win, meanwhile, helped Dallas move back to within a point of a playoff spot in the ever-so-tight Western Conference.

"We needed to get rewarded for some hard work," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "We played some very hard games. In the five-game losing streak, we played three games that I thought we had a real good chance to win. We needed something to give us that jolt of energy that our work would be compensated. The win is good compensation for that."

Brian Sutherby also had a goal and an assist for the Stars, who handed the Sharks their worst home loss of the season just when it appeared Dallas was doomed following a 1-5 homestand.

''It was just real strong from start to finish, all aspects,'' said Modano, who has 70 points in 76 career games against San Jose. ''We were due for a strong performance. We couldn't go the other way any longer. ... It was a combination of what we did and what they didn't do. We didn't allow their big guys to get going like they did in the past games against us.''

Return to Broadway -- Sean Avery is back.

The controversial forward was claimed on re-entry waivers by the New York Rangers on Tuesday, ending a tumultuous stint with the Dallas Stars. Avery will practice with the Blueshirts on Wednesday morning and could be in the lineup Thursday night against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

It's one of several moves made by Rangers GM Glen Sather in recent weeks, which includes the firing of coach Tom Renney. John Tortorella, who replaced Renney, ripped Avery in December during his stint as a TSN analyst. However, he appears to be on board with Sather's decision.

"Glen believes in giving second chances," Tortorella said. "Sean was an effective player here before. And this is about trying to make the team better. Sean Avery is a player coming to the New York Rangers organization, and we want him to fit in and play under a team concept. If he does that, we feel he can be effective."

Looking to build off last Saturday's 6-1 win against Colorado at Madison Square Garden, Tortorella is hopeful the addition of Avery will provide the Rangers with yet another spark. Avery enjoyed the most success of his career during his time in New York.

"We feel that he will provide a little more jam on our team, especially in this division here, and hopefully he'll kick in a couple of goals," Tortorella said of Avery, who has 68 goals and 1,144 penalty minutes in 402 career NHL games. "I've never coached Sean, and I want to see what he's all about. I've seen him play, and when he's under a team concept, he's an effective player."

Contact Brian Compton at bcompton@nhl.com.

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.
Quote of the Day

Obviously a lot happened in a short period of time. At the end of the day, considering everything I went through, I really felt close to my teammates and I really feel like what we accomplished, I know we didn't win it all. ... I'm really proud of how we got there and what we did once we got there.

— Rangers forward Martin St. Louis to Jim Cerny of BlueshirtsUnited.com