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Greenberg: MacDonald settles in

by Jay Greenberg / Philadelphia Flyers

The fast version of the Flyers painful loss to the Devils Tuesday night was a blown call disallowing Scott Hartnell’s apparent tying goal in the final minute.

But the bang-bang second poke by Jaromir Jagr of a puck Steve Mason had just stopped, winning the game, 2-1, followed an interminable Devils shift in their offensive end.

New Jersey didn’t have many of them, just enough to score both goals and take two big points home, leaving behind another reminder to the Flyers that speed is of the essence.

Movement towards the playoffs is tied to moving the puck out of their end, why Andrew MacDonald is here and why Paul Holmgren’s intention is to keep his underrated deadline trade acquisition around for many years.

“I think I skate pretty well and make a good first pass,” says MacDonald in quick summary of what he brings to Philadelphia. Andrej Meszaros, whom MacDonald replaces, had some wheels and the ability to make the more eye-opening play. But he was more a puck carrier than a passer and wasn’t the easiest guy for partner Luke Schenn to read from.

It being hard to replace Chris Pronger, simple remains better. So do not underestimate the upgrade the Flyers made in trading second and third round draft choices and marginal prospect Matt Mangene for probably the best defenseman from the small group available at the trading deadline.

MacDonald, 27, about to come into this prime after five largely anonymous NHL seasons with the Islanders, will be worth the four-or five year deal the Flyers will offer to keep him from the open market.

Since MacDonald, underpaid at $575,000, turned down four years at $16 million from the Islanders, this is not going to be the easiest sign. But the short list of available defensemen at the deadline is the same as what it will be July 1. And the Flyers need MacDonald going forward.

His NHL-leading 198 blocked shots at the time of his trade probably were a reflection of how of much time the disappointing Islanders spend in their own end. But they also are a tribute to MacDonald’s mobility.

“The only thing not to like about him is his size (6-0, 185 pounds),” says one NHL scout. “The Islanders had to use him for too many minutes (25-plus per game) and he wore down.

“The Flyers can get him to 20-21 a game, which will really help him. I don’t think he is a first-pair defenseman, but he’s better than a five.”

Except when he will man the power play with his ex-Islander teammate Mark Streit -- MacDonald will play with Schenn as a five or a six, while Streit will remain with Nick Grossmann and Braydon Coburn with Kimmo Timonen.

Even if they can’t hit the jackpot with a Norris Trophy candidate, the Flyers will renew their efforts to upgrade.

Do not assume Timonen, who has rallied from a bad start, has made up his mind about retiring. His decision probably will depend in large part on whether the Flyers make the playoffs, and their interest in having him back will depend on both a role and a salary with which they are at ease.

In the absence of a blueline star who can handle monster minutes, the Flyers need defensemen who can consistently give them 20 good ones. Through three games MacDonald looks comfortable enough to settle in.


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