Cross Checks: Danny Briere
I’m man enough to admit it when I guess wrong, and in the case of Vincent Lecavalier, I felt all along that he’d end up with the Dallas Stars.
Well, he almost did. The Stars were in there to the end, a source confirmed.
But the Philadelphia Flyers won out, agreeing to pay $22.5 million over five years for the 33-year-old center.
The Montreal Canadiens were in the mix for a good run, as well, but couldn’t make it work. The Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings also got serious consideration from Lecavalier among the 15 or so teams that showed interest.
“Wow,” one executive, whose team wasn’t in the running, texted to ESPN.com after the deal was announced.
Is Lecavalier worth $4.5 million a season?
The Flyers get a very motivated player who is out to prove he can still compete at an elite level. And in choosing Philadelphia, Lecavalier proved many wrong and showed that he was willing to go to a real hockey market.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux was pumped to hear the news, texting ESPN.com to say, “Really excited, he will bring a lot to our team.”
Lecavalier will bring his 6-foot-4 frame, to be sure, and hands that have always been soft. I give Lecavalier credit for not choosing what seemed like the safest choice in Dallas, where he would have made good money and been left alone, as was the case all those years with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team in another non-traditional hockey market.
He’s in for a bigger challenge in Philly.
The Flyers, meanwhile, will surely try to move out a body or two. And don’t forget they still need to find another goalie. This could reignite those Braydon Coburn trade talks.
• The focus now shifts to fellow buyout unrestricted free agent Danny Briere before the rest of the UFA market opens Friday. The Canadiens, having lost out on Lecavalier, made contact with Briere's camp Tuesday night, a source confirmed to ESPN.com. Sources also indicated that the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Nashville Predators are among the teams to show solid interest in Briere and have already spoken to the Briere camp, which is led by agent Pat Brisson. Other teams were expected to contact Briere's camp Tuesday night and Wednesday.
• Daniel Alfredsson hasn’t re-signed with the Ottawa Senators, and while I still don’t think we’ll see him in a different uniform, I warned everyone last week after he announced he was playing another season that his contract wasn’t a rubber stamp. Still no contract with Ottawa, and here comes the 48-hour window when other teams can call free agents. I fully expect other clubs to contact Alfredsson’s agent, J.P. Barry, once that window opens. And why not listen to what’s out there, even if you still plan on ultimately re-signing with Ottawa? Stranger things have happened. I bet you my Tony Romo Dallas Cowboys jersey that the Bruins will be among the teams to phone Alfredsson's camp. GM Peter Chiarelli was with the Senators’ front office before going to Boston and knows Alfredsson well, and it just so happens he has a hole in his top six with Nathan Horton leaving. Different player, I know, and Alfredsson is aging, but Chiarelli has always admired the Swedish winger. Not trying to make Senators fans paranoid; odds are he stays put. Just pointing out that other teams will be phoning.
• The San Jose Sharks traded winger T.J. Galiardi to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in 2015. With rookie center Tomas Hertl expected to play with the Sharks next season, plus newly acquired winger Tyler Kennedy in the fold, San Jose had to move a body out. It also suggests that the Brent Burns experiment at forward could be permanent. At some point, I think, you’ll see the Sharks announce that they plan on using him up front again next season.
It is very possible, although not quite a guarantee, that Vincent Lecavalier will choose his next team by the end of the day Wednesday.
The UFA center, who is allowed to speak with teams earlier than other UFAs because his contract was bought out, has been deliberating with family where the best fit might be for him to continue this career.
The likes of the Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames are among the teams that have shown interest.
The decision for Lecavalier begins with Montreal. He has to decide whether he wants to go home and deal with both the perks and detriments of playing in his native town. And if he goes home, it’s not going to be for the same kind of money or term other clubs would have offered. If he’s a Hab, it’s more because he really, really wants to be one. Montreal definitely has interest in signing him, but it’s going to have to be on a reasonable deal that fits within its cap and payroll structure.
But no one should fault Lecavalier if he decides to avoid that situation; that’s his choice as a UFA.
I still think Dallas is a solid possibility for Lecavalier if he wants to remain in a quiet, nontraditional hockey place such as the environment he has experienced his entire career with the Tampa Bay Lightning. And I think the Stars are willing to go five years on a deal.
While it’s true to a degree, as Nashville Predators GM David Poile suggested to his local media Tuesday, that Lecavalier would prefer to stay in the East, it does not preclude him from playing in Dallas, I can tell you that.
Detroit is a great fit, too, and so is Boston. We’ll know soon enough.
As a reminder, beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET Wednesday (so basically Tuesday night), a wrinkle in the new CBA kicks in that NHL fans haven’t seen before: Free agents have the right to speak with other teams in the 48-hour lead-up to the opening of the market Friday.
So for teams trying to re-sign their free agents, Tuesday was their last day of exclusivity to do so. For example, it was the last day for New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello to be the only voice in David Clarkson’s ear. Clarkson recently turned down an offer from the Devils and most likely is headed to the market. Then again, maybe Uncle Lou has another last trick up his sleeve.
• Traded texts Tuesday morning with UFA forward Danny Briere. He says he’s talking to teams as he’s narrowing his focus. We should know more Wednesday.
• The Devils and pending UFA center Patrik Elias were close to a deal, but it wasn’t done as of noon ET Tuesday, agent Allan Walsh said. Walsh also represents winger Pascal Dupuis, another pending UFA, and the agent said talks with the Pittsburgh Penguins were continuing.
• Pending UFA winger Damien Brunner was a day away from being able to speak with the 29 other teams. His agent, Neil Sheehy, told ESPN.com via email Tuesday morning that he planned to talk again with Detroit but wasn’t sure where it was all headed.
• The Predators put veteran blueliner Hal Gill on waivers. He has one year left on his deal at $2 million. GM David Poile said via text that the blue line is a little crowded given the drafting of Seth Jones, and the hope is to find a new home for Gill. If no one claims him on waivers, another possibility would be to buy him out.
What was shaping up to be a not terribly deep nor exciting July 5 free-agent crop is getting some intriguing names added by the day.
Vincent Lecavalier brought some pizzazz to the unrestricted free-agent festivities Thursday. After the Tampa Bay Lightning announced they were buying out Lecavalier's contract, the star center joined goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and forward Danny Briere as players bought out and thrown into the UFA mix.
Lecavalier, 33, adds a tempting option in a UFA center class that otherwise was led by the likes of Derek Roy, Mike Ribeiro and Stephen Weiss. At the right price, Lecavalier would be one heck of an addition as the No. 2 center on a good team.
Of course, it didn’t take long for Lecavalier’s buyout to be announced for people to link him to his native Montreal. Let’s be honest: It would be cool to see him in a Canadiens uniform after all these years of trade rumors linking him there.
Two questions need answering, though. Do the Habs have interest? And would Lecavalier be willing to play under that kind of spotlight?
One of the reasons Tampa Bay suited him so well was that it isn’t a hockey fishbowl.
“Too early [to tell],” one source told ESPN.com Thursday regarding Montreal’s potential interest.
Indeed, much can happen between now and July 5, with other players being made available via buyout or trade. The landscape is shifting quickly.
I’d be shocked if the Lecavalier camp, led by agent Kent Hughes, didn’t get interest from at least a dozen teams. At the right price, he’s a stud, and this isn’t a great year for free-agent centers. And you still can’t teach 6-foot-4.
Just my own guessing out of the gate, not based on any sourcing ...
• The Detroit Red Wings need a No. 2 center as talks with Valtteri Filppula are headed nowhere. While Weiss also could be an option, Lecavalier would make a lot of sense.
• The Chicago Blackhawks? Cap space is at a premium and re-signing pending UFA Bryan Bickell is the priority. But, man, would Lecavalier ever fit well there, especially because you know Michal Handzus isn’t the long-term answer at No. 2.
• What about Lecavalier’s former coach at Tampa Bay, John Tortorella, who is in his first offseason as coach of the Vancouver Canucks?
• The Toronto Maple Leafs have been looking for a legitimate center with size for about a million years.
We will see a lot of teams linked to Lecavalier because, frankly, a lot of teams could use him.
The Lightning did not come to this decision lightly. I believe this was a very difficult move for general manager Steve Yzerman to make.
But at the end of the day, the ability exists under the compliance buyout provision in the new CBA (two per team for the next two offseasons) to extricate oneself from a cap-killing contract. And at $7.72 million a pop for seven more seasons, Lecavalier was a cap hit the Lightning just couldn’t live with.
More of a concern for any team with these types of long-term, front-loaded deals that are remnants of the old CBA is the "recapture" rule, which is part of the new CBA. For example, had Lecavalier retired before the end of his deal, Tampa Bay would have faced salary-cap charges moving forward.
It’s why the New York Rangers are debating whether to buy out center Brad Richards. It’s why the Canucks should buy out goalie Roberto Luongo if they can’t find a trade partner.
A source told ESPN.com Thursday that the Canucks don't want to buy out Luongo. They could trade him if they're willing to eat part of his deal or take back a player who's also a cap anchor for another team. Vancouver also could waive Luongo at some point and hope that another team takes him.
My colleague Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune created a bit of a stir in Toronto when reporting late Wednesday that if Kris Letang can’t agree to terms on an extension with the Penguins, Toronto would be near the top of his trade destinations. Rossi does a solid job covering the Pens, but Letang’s agent, Kent Hughes, was adamant no such trade destination conversations had taken place and clearly was not happy with the story.
“Our focus has been on negotiating a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins and we have not discussed the Toronto Maple Leafs,” Hughes told ESPN.com via email Thursday morning. “He remains under contract for one more year if we don't extend his contract. We are not the source of the story, nor were we contacted to verify its accuracy beforehand.”
The Penguins have made Letang a substantial offer, but obviously it was not enough; otherwise he would have signed it.
So the clock ticks. Would general manager Ray Shero really allow Letang to enter next season in the final year of his contract? Shero would get way more in a trade this summer than he does at the trade deadline next season.
It's worth noting that the Leafs are in the market for a top defenseman, so if Letang becomes available, it'd make sense for Toronto to be among the suitors.
Tick tock ...
Speaking of the Pens ...
Great job by Shero to get Chris Kunitz signed to a three-year extension worth $3.85 million per season. That's a good value. Kunitz has one more year on his deal at $3.75 million, and he would have been a UFA in July 2014.
Credit to Kunitz and agent Ben Hankinson, too. Maybe Kunitz gets more money elsewhere, but you like where you're playing and you've found chemistry with Sidney Crosby, so why throw that away? It's not always about the money.
Kunitz will be 34 in September, which means he'll be 37 entering the final year of this extension. Getting a three-year term was the real prize for Kunitz and Hankinson.
TORONTO -- The Philadelphia Flyers begin a season-long, six-game road trip Monday night, a moment in their season that will answer questions about a club that has sent mixed messages about its status in the Eastern Conference.
Are they indeed still the contenders some people believe they are? Or a team in transition that needs its youngsters to grow a bit more before taking the next step?
The next 10 days will tell the tale.
"We’ve got a six-game road trip and we haven’t had a lot of success [on the road], so this is a big road trip for us," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told ESPN.com Monday morning at Air Canada Centre.
A 5-6-1 start has given evidence to both cases, although a 3-0-1 homestand last week helped foster thoughts that things are finally coming together after some early-season hiccups.
"We had a tough start, I think for everybody," veteran Flyers forward Max Talbot said Monday morning after the pregame skate. "But the last four games have been good. We’re trying to build off that."
A 22nd-ranked offense underlines the most obvious issue at hand, although 13 goals during that four-game home stand suggested things are beginning to open up on that front.
"Yes, we started to generate more offensively than we had in the previous games, so that’s a good sign," said Holmgren. "The coaches changed a little bit how we play in our own end and it’s affected our players going on the attack, and they seem to be getting the hang of things."
A 21st-ranked power play is part of Philadelphia’s problem, and until that unit gets going -- the Flyers went 3-for-12 during the home stand -- the Flyers won’t have much leeway on the scoreboard.
"The power play isn’t producing like last year and obviously that takes away goals," said Talbot. "It’s taken a while to find a rhythm and a tempo overall. But we keep building and building, and it’s coming."
I asked a front-office source from another Eastern Conference team to size up the Flyers, and just like Philly’s record, it was a mixed-bag answer:
"They have a pretty good forecheck, good puck pressure," he said. "They can come at you at different times. Their goalie has been good. But it’s not a typical Flyers team. They’re a little bit different than they’ve usually been. They’re not as deep offensively. They rely a lot on [Claude] Giroux and [Danny] Briere. They’ve got those good, young kids like [Brayden] Schenn and [Sean] Couturier that are still making their way, and they’re going to be very good."
If and when the Flyers ever make a trade between now and April 3, my suspicion is that Holmgren will have offense in mind, whether that’s a forward or even an offensive defenseman.
Interestingly enough, the one area that has not been an issue is the one place where everyone was pointing before the season began. Ilya Bryzgalov has been just fine, thank you, his 2.27 goals-against average (11th in NHL) and .921 save percentage (12th) solid numbers indeed.
"He’s been our best player -- by far," said Holmgren. "He’s been great. He’s had a great focus. Every game, he’s been great."
Holmgren had a sense he’d be getting a more focused netminder after the player-exit meetings last spring when Bryzgalov manned up.
"He came in and said, 'I know I [screwed] up, I know I got to get better. Don’t worry, I will,'" Holmgren recalled.
Bryzgalov’s antics last season were a bit unnerving for some of his teammates. But it’s a quieter, more focused Bryz doing his thing so far, and that’s appreciated inside the dressing room.
"He’s been great," said Talbot. "He’s kept us in tight games. That’s what we’ve asked of him and he’s done his job really well. If we can get our offense going and our all-around game going, I think we can be very, very interesting."
The Flyers are a work in progress, which is like a lot of teams after a short camp and no preseason.
The key to a work in progress is to always be inching in the same direction.
"The team that you start with isn’t necessarily the team you’re going to finish with," said veteran Flyers winger Mike Knuble. "When you look at New Jersey and L.A. last year, you have to believe that anything can happen when you get in."
It has been a week since the NHL returned from its self-imposed lockout exile. It’s far too early to draw lasting conclusions but certainly enough to gather initial impressions, now that we’re detailing power-play success over HRR and back-diving contract control.
So much for boycotts and fan apathy. The NHL reports that average per-game announced attendance is up 6.6 percent, or more than 1,000 fans per game, through the first 49 games of this season compared to the first 49 last season.
Not only have the fans come back with a vengeance, filling almost every NHL rink to capacity, but they’re watching on television in record numbers as well. NBC’s opening-weekend games (Chicago in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh in Philadelphia) were the most-watched regular-season games, outside the Winter Classics, in 14 years. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Chicago reported record local ratings. NBC Sports Network’s offering of the Boston-New York Rangers tilt on Wednesday drew 956,000 viewers, the biggest single regular-season-game audience in the network’s history and the most-watched regular-season game on cable since 2002. An incredible 27 percent of the Canadian population tuned in to the Montreal-Toronto season opener. Boston, St. Louis, Minnesota, Dallas and Florida also reported significant spikes in viewership for their local broadcasts.
It’s not all roses and cherries, though. Phoenix drew an announced crowd of just 8,355 Wednesday night, and this for a team that went to the Western Conference finals last spring. While the Blue Jackets are clearly not a big draw in Denver, the Avs announced 14,325 Thursday night, well short of a sellout at the Pepsi Center. The Panthers and Blues were also short of sellouts in home games Thursday night.
A better indication of whether fans and sponsors are prepared to forgive and forget when it comes to the lockout will come in a month or two, especially if teams like Florida or Columbus or Carolina have fallen out of the playoff race. What will the numbers look like then? Maybe the short season will keep eyes on the game and butts in the arena seats in record numbers right through to the end. Maybe not.
Not many would have predicted that the Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings would start a combined 3-13-1. Throw in a 1-3 start for the Phoenix Coyotes, who won the Pacific Division last season and advanced to the Western Conference finals, and a 1-3 start for the defending Southeast Division champs from Florida, and you’ve got a lot of teams with high expectations and standards that are wallowing near the bottom of the standings. Worth noting is that the 1994-95 New Jersey Devils started 0-3-1 and went on to win the Cup during that 48-game, lockout-shortened season. Is there a similar rags-to-glory story among these slow starters? Maybe the better story is which of this group of well-heeled bottom-dwellers can turn things around enough to make it to the playoffs in late April. Our guess is no more than three.
Markov Is Back
Yes, the absence of unsigned restricted free-agent defenseman P.K. Subban has been a problem for the Canadiens, but the return to form of Andrei Markov and the emergence of young Swiss defender Raphael Diaz means Subban’s absence is felt less keenly. Before the start of the 2013 season, Markov had played in just 65 NHL regular-season games since 2009-10 because of a series of mostly knee-related injuries. But Markov has three goals and an assist while averaging 23:47 of ice time to help bolster a power play that must produce if the Canadiens are to make it back to the playoffs. Diaz has also been a revelation after a strong lockout spent playing with Damien Brunner and Henrik Zetterberg in Switzerland. He has five assists in three games for the Habs, who won two in a row after an opening-night loss to Toronto.
Injuries Hitting Hard
Everyone assumed injuries were going to be a major theme in a shortened season. But whether it's the compressed schedule (it actually just seems busier than a normal 82-game slate) or the lack of a training camp or the disparity between those who played during the lockout and those who didn’t, the injury bug has bitten and bitten hard. The Flyers are without Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell, and their defensive depth at the AHL level has been ravaged by injury. The Red Wings have been nicked up, testing their defensive depth. Steve Downie is gone for the season for the Avs. Joffrey Lupul suffered a broken forearm after being hit by a shot from Maple Leafs teammate Dion Phaneuf and will be gone for a couple of months. Mike Smith left the Coyotes’ net midway through the first period this week, although his injury isn’t believe to be serious. Still, don’t expect the bug to be stopping its bite anytime soon. With that in mind, look for the teams with the greatest organizational depth to rise above these injuries and stay in the hunt for playoff berths and/or top seeds.
Rookies On A Roll
Maybe it’s no surprise that a handful of youngsters are having an immediate impact in this young NHL season. Whether it’s Vladimir Tarasenko in St. Louis, who had four goals and six points to lead all rookies as of Friday, or Detroit's Brunner, who scored one of the prettiest shootout goals you’ll ever see, or Dougie Hamilton, who looks as if he has been patrolling the Boston blue line for years and not just days, the lockout has given way to a serious youth movement. Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov in Edmonton, Cory Conacher in Tampa and Jonathan Huberdeau in Florida are other noteworthy first-year players making a name for themselves. Usually coaches and GMs worry about the final third of a normal season for rookies, the travel and the physicality of a full schedule often taking the bloom off the rookie rose by the last 25 or 30 games. But with a 48-game slate, these rookies might keep lighting it up from beginning to end.
Good for the league and the players to get together and adjust the buyout process to allow Montreal and the Rangers to part company with unwanted players Scott Gomez and Wade Redden, respectively. We understand the logic that led to both teams initially planning to park both players for this season with the intent of buying them out next summer. Teams can’t buy out injured players, and it made more sense business-wise not to have them play. But there was something inherently wrong about it and the two sides agreed to alter the language and allow the Rangers and Habs to buy out those players. That has allowed Redden to resume his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues and Scott Gomez to sign a one-year deal with the San Jose Sharks. Both have much to prove, although wouldn’t that be an interesting storyline if either were to end up holding up the Stanley Cup in the spring? Bottom line, it was the right thing to do. If only the two sides had been able to summon up that spirit of cooperation last summer.
Sharks Have Bite
San Jose head coach Todd McLellan told us before the start of the season about the challenges of putting together a lineup with players who were at varying degrees of readiness, some having played extensively in Europe or the AHL, some having played a bit and others not at all. Whatever McLellan is doing, it’s working: The Sharks were one of two undefeated teams in the Western Conference through Thursday's games (Chicago was the other). Patrick Marleau, who did not play during the lockout, had three straight two-goal games to lead the league in goals; linemate Joe Thornton, who played in Switzerland during the labor impasse, leads the NHL with nine points. Will the Sharks, off the Stanley Cup radar for the first time in years, make skeptics pay with their first championship, regardless of who played where and how much during the lockout?
You Get The Power
It’s interesting to see which teams have been able to take advantage on the power play early on and how important it has been. The Blues and Sharks led the NHL with seven power-play goals each. The Blues were clicking at a shocking 53.8 percent rate while Chicago was third with six man-advantage goals. The three teams were a combined 10-1-0 to start the season. At the other end of the ladder, the Kings and Red Wings were the only teams without a power-play goal at week’s end. They were a combined 0-for-34 with a man advantage and had combined for a 1-4-1 record.
• With a lineup stacked with NHLers, Canada won its first Spengler Cup since 2007, reports the Canadian Press.
• Time is running out for the NHL and its players to save a 48-game season, a league executive told the Globe and Mail.
• Lightning winger J.T. Brown broke his collarbone while playing in the AHL and could be out for up to two months, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
• Flyers center Danny Briere injured his wrist while playing in Germany late last week and could be sidelined for up to two weeks, reports the Philadelphia Daily News.
Veteran agent Pat Brisson of CAA Sports, who represents both players, confirmed the signings to EPSN.com.
Giroux, third in NHL scoring last season with 93 points (28-65), also had interest from teams in Russia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, but chose Berlin.
More players in Europe »
* Danny Briere: 2 goals (6, 7), including 3rd career postseason OT goal (both previous goals were in 2006 with Sabres)
* Briere: 3rd multigoal game this postseason
* Claude Giroux: goal (7); leads NHL in playoff points (15), tied with Briere for most goals
* Flyers: have won past 5 playoff series after winning Game 1
* Devils: have lost past 5 playoff series after losing Game 1, including losing to the Flyers 4-1 in 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals
FROM ELIAS: Danny Briere scored his second goal of the game 4:36 into overtime to give the Flyers a 4-3 victory in the opener of their second-round series against the Devils. Briere, who had a pair of two-goal games as Philadelphia beat Pittsburgh in six games in the first round, is the first player in Flyers history to record three multiple-goal performances in the team's first seven games of a playoff year. In fact, he's only the second Flyer since 1998 to register three multigoal games over an entire playoff year, joining R.J. Umberger, who had three in 2008.
Coyotes 5, Predators 3; PHX leads series 2-0
* Coyotes: According to Elias, Coyotes are up 2-0 in a series for 1st time since 1986-87 season
* Coyotes: won 3 straight playoff games for first time since 1999
* Antoine Vermette (PHX): 5th goal of postseason (9th of postseason career)
* Predators: all 5 power-play goals have come on road
* Pekka Rinne (NSH): has allowed 9 goals in 1st 2 games of this series (allowed 9 goals in 5-game series vs DET)
FROM ELIAS: Antoine Vermette opened the scoring with a first-period goal in the Coyotes' 5-3 win against Nashville. It was Vermette's NHL-leading fourth go-ahead goal during this year's playoffs.
• Mikko Koivu’s goal 15 seconds into overtime earned the Wild a 3–2 win against the Panthers on Thursday. It was the second-fastest overtime goal in an NHL game this season (Washington’s Brooks Laich scored at 0:12 of OT on Dec. 3 vs. Ottawa) and the quickest overtime goal in Minnesota franchise history, 10 seconds faster than the previous record, 25 seconds by Marian Gaborik at Los Angeles on Oct. 18, 2006.
• The Islanders, who won 5–3 at Pittsburgh on Tuesday, completed a sweep of their home-and-home set against the Penguins with a win by the same score at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday. Josh Bailey had a hand in all five Islanders goals, scoring two and assisting on three. Bailey is the second NHL player to score five or more points in a game this season and record a point on every one of his team’s goals. Sam Gagner did that with four goals and four assists in the Oilers’ 8–4 win over the Blackhawks on Feb. 2.
• Danny Briere set a single-game career high with four assists in the Flyers’ 7–1 win at Toronto. Briere is only the third Flyers player to record four assists in a road game over the last 11 seasons. The other Philadelphia players with four assists in a road game since 2000–01 were Mike Richards (Oct. 24, 2008, at New Jersey) and Claude Giroux (Jan. 23, 2011, at Chicago).
• Martin Brodeur was not at the top of his game on Thursday night, allowing four goals while facing only 20 shots, including three goals by Ryan Malone, but he still posted a 6–4 win against the Lightning. It was Brodeur’s 115th win over the last four seasons but only the second in which he gave up more than three goals. The other one was a 5–4 overtime victory against the Maple Leafs on Jan. 29, 2010.
We gave the Philadelphia Flyers the benefit of the doubt in early March when they hit the skids, figuring the first-place club seemingly just hit a minor bump during a fantastic season.
Well, the malaise continues, as the Flyers are 6-7-4 in their past 17 games and have dropped five of their past seven contests.
"It's been the same problem now for the past month," veteran Flyers center Danny Briere told ESPN.com on Saturday. "It seems we play a good game or two and then we have a bad one, or two bad ones."
The Flyers have four more regular-season games left to steer the ship. It's not funny anymore. They've got to get it going this week and get rid of the bad habits.
"I'm hoping that guys have realized the playoffs are around the corner," Briere said. "You have to get ready for the playoffs as a player and make sure you're ready to go when the playoffs start. We did it last year. I think we gained a lot of experience, we really showed up in the playoffs last year. I'm hoping we'll be able to do that same thing this year."
Sunday's matinee against the New York Rangers is just the type of game the Flyers need. The Rangers, desperate for points to keep their playoff hopes alive, are the perfect playoff-like test for Philly.
"Yes, and that's a good thing," said Briere. "It felt that way against Pittsburgh this past week. We played a great game in their building. Tomorrow is the same type of game, where the other team is desperate. It's a great rivalry, it's a national game in the U.S. on NBC. Hopefully it's the kind of game we get up for."