Carter getting last laugh in Cup Finals

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Carter getting last laugh in Cup Finals

NEWARK, NJ Apparently it was a Flyers thing, and not a Jeff Carter thing.

One year after the Philadelphia Flyers jettisoned both Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in trades after determining they were a problem inside a dysfunctional dressing room, the troubled duo are still standing.

Theyre just two wins away from being Stanley Cup champions, and the Flyers are taking up tee times all over the world.

Further adding insult to Philly injury, Carter potted the game-winning shot in overtime during a Herculean shift that pushed the Los Angeles Kings to a 2-1 victory at the Prudential Center.

Its a pretty special moment, said Carter. Its my first overtime goal in the playoffs. Obviously anytime you get a chance to play in the Finals its exciting, but scoring an overtime goal in Game 2 to put us up 2-0 in the series. Thats pretty special.

The play started with a scramble in front of the New Jersey net, and a tiring group of Devils players looking for a whistle with the puck resting in front of the net.

Carter wrapped around the back of the net while beating every Devils player to the loose puck, and then curled to his left before dragging back into the slot area moving right to left.
Carter buried a bullet of a shot at the 13:42 mark with Dustin Penner using his 6-foot-4, 250-pound bulk to screen Martin Brodeur in front of the net, and the Kings are once again well on their way to a short postseason series triumph.

Though Carter finished with only 21 goals in a star-crossed year going from Columbus to Los Angeles, it was the kind of sizzling shot that would have been a goal had Brodeur seen the puck or not.

Good to see him score, right? asked Darryl Sutter rhetorically after the Kings took their 2-0 lead. Hes a goal-scorer. Youre counting on him to score a big goal.

Too many times with the Flyers Carter never scored that big goal despite gaudy numbers, but his LA redemption story has been a sweet one.

The overtime win pushes the Kings to 10-0 on the road during the playoffs this year an NHL record -- but thats not the most eye-popping number when it comes to Carter and his Los Angeles teammates. The Kings are 25-7 in the regular season and playoffs in 32 games since Carter arrived in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and reunited him with his Dry Island partner in Philly, Richards.

Dry Island was a reference to the notion within the Flyers organization that both Richards and Carter werent fully focused on the playoffs last year, and the idea that a parting of ways was necessary.

Its not a coincidence that Carters arrival in LA has brought the wins.

Its instead one of the driving reasons why the eighth-seeded LA hockey club has taken the world by storm during the postseason. They havent played like an eight seed since a healthy, happy and productive Carter joined the Los Angeles lineup.

Carters Kings teammates immediately noticed a difference when the Columbus Blue Jackets exile was brought on board, and the Kings had some consistent offense to go with Jonathan Quick and the stifling LA defense.

He was very professional. Hes been focused since he got with us, said Penner. He knew we needed some offensive scoring punch. He came in and had familiarity with Richards and that helped a lot.

I can speak from experience about being traded, but not while having a 10 or 12 year deal like those guys did. Its probably disheartening when you expected to be part of the Flyers franchise for a long time. When you get a 12-year deal you probably expect that youll always be there. Im sure it was tough on him. But hes been professional since he came here. Its great for him to get a goal like that.

Clearly both Richards and Carter left the City of Brotherly Love with something to prove, and their Kings experience has allowed them a chance to do just that.

We were pretty mad. I'm not going to lie," admitted Richards of the deals that sent the two buddies away from the Flyers to differing NHL locales. "It's something that I've never had before. I've never been traded; Jeff's never been traded. For us to be traded at the same time, I think was a lot of venting to each other."

Had things gone stale with the Flyers for both players, or did they just need a swift kick in the pants to get them motivated enough for a Stanley Cup title?

Perhaps, but there wont be too many complaints from Los Angeles after Kings GM Dean Lombardi showed a riverboat gamblers moxie in putting the Philly twosome back together again. Richards was sent to L.A. for forwards Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, and an undisclosed draft pick.

Carter was dealt to Columbus for forward Jakub Voracek, the No. 8 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft (Sean Couturier) and a third-round pick in the 2011 draft (Nick Cousins).

Fast forward a year and now Carter and Richards have been reunited in Los Angeles, theyre living together in a condo on Manhattan Beach and theyve got the Kings 120 minutes of good, winning hockey away from the organizations first Stanley Cup title.

Who knows?

Perhaps theyll even take the Cup to Dry Island for a visit on their respective Cup days should Carter and Richards finish off the job they helped start with two road wins in New Jersey.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.