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South Jersey's Gaudreau plays in NHL All-Star Game

Rookie Johnny Gaudreau calls the appearance “really special for me.’’

COLUMBUS - First he was in, then he was out, then he was in again. It was a rush of emotion for Flames forward and South Jersey native Johnny Gaudreau.

But it culminated with the Carneys Point product appearing in his first NHL All-Star Game as an injury replacement for Sidney Crosby.

His addition to the roster meant Gaudreau would reportedly pocket an extra $212,500, per performance-based bonuses on his entry-level contract.

"It was really special for me," Gaudreau said. "Just playing in the game was even better."

Gaudreau's parents, Guy and Jane, weren't actually planning to come to Columbus. Their son was only scheduled to participate in Saturday's Skills Competition as a rookie. So, they figured it would be best to spend time with their other son, Matthew, who plays for Boston College.

After Crosby and Tampa Bay's Tyler Johnson went down with injuries, it was rumored Gaudreau would make an appearance in the big game. It was a bad rumor, the NHL informed him.

Finally, later on Saturday, Gaudreau was added to the roster. Team Toews was originally planning to play a man down. Gaudreau, 21, has 35 points in 46 games for Calgary this season.

"I heard rumors that I was playing at first and I kind of got a little excited," Gaudreau said. "Then I wasn't playing and it wasn't very fun. Then I got a chance to play and I was extremely excited about it. Growing up, I was watching this game and watching a lot of these guys. This weekend, I got to be a part of it."

The best part: His parents ended up making the last-minute drive to Columbus in time for the game. Seven hours in a car is nothing for two dedicated hockey parents.

Cap update

The Flyers did not have a representative at Saturday's Board of Governors meeting, as president Paul Holmgren and chief operating officer Shawn Tilger ran into travel issues.

From home, the Flyers still probably breathed a sigh of relief when the NHL issued its latest salary-cap projections for next season.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the salary cap "does not fall off a cliff," even with the Canadian dollar continuing to plummet. Canada's loonie closed at 80.4 cents compared to one American dollar on Friday, nearly 20 percent lower than what it was in 2013.

At 82 cents, Bettman said next year's salary cap would be $72.2 million. At 80 cents, it would be $71.7 million. The original projection in December was $73 million. This year's salary cap is $69 million.

"Nobody can project exactly where it's going, but the point I'm making is you're not going to see a dramatic difference," Bettman said. "The cap is computed-based on currency of a daily basis; it's averaged over the season."

Bettman's numbers included the annual 5 percent "escalator," a nuance in the CBA that has been exercised jointly by the NHL's Players Association eight out of the last nine summers.

That might not be an ironclad guarantee, with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr admitting last summer there were "differences in opinion" that ultimately got worked out. For players, a higher cap means more money in available salary, but it also usually means a higher percentage of escrow taken out of their paychecks to ensure an exact 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue with owners.

This season, players are only being paid 86 percent of their published salary, with the other 14 percent held in escrow. If revenue projections fall short, part (or all) of that money will be lost to owners.

"All I can tell you about that is whenever you get the currency functions that we're seeing now, you think about those things," Fehr said. "What we always do on staff, when you've got an issue like this, periodically you must discuss it and you must inform the players and insist the players make a considered decision on their own."

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he didn't foresee any fight from the NHLPA on the escalator, something that is written into the CBA as standard practice.

"I don't anticipate that's going to be an issue," Daly said. "Because I think the players' association wants to make sure where the cap goes as well because it's in their interest to do it. I don't anticipate any issue on the 5 percent inflator."

The Flyers have $62.2 million committed to players for next season, excluding Chris Pronger's $4.94 million hit. More importantly, even $1 million down from the original $73 million projection could seriously hamper the Flyers' trade plans. Without next year's cap set in stone, some teams will be weary - and nearly half the league is already operating within $1 million of the upper limit.

The Flyers would like to move a contract or two for flexibility purposes. The more the better, in their case.

"It's not as bad as everyone is predicting," Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said. "Some of the stuff we heard from them is more reassuring."

Need some jam!

Last year, Peter Laviolette watched from afar as nearly the entire NHL season went on without him after he was fired by the Flyers on Oct. 7, 2013.

Yesterday, he was behind the bench to coach his second consecutive All-Star Game. His Predators owned the NHL's highest points percentage through Jan. 10.

It just goes to show how strange hockey can be. There have been 64 NHL head coaching changes since the end of the 2007-08 season. Only two men - Mike Babcock (Detroit) and Claude Julien (Boston) - still man the same position since that time.

Laviolette, 50, was joined on the bench by his daughter, Elisabeth, for the entirety of yesterday's game. He put his former player, Jake Voracek, on the top line with captain Jonathan Toews and former linemate Rick Nash.

"It was like the old days," Voracek said with a smile. "It was fun. He played me a lot, so I was happy."

Quotable

Claude Giroux, on the Flyers' unofficial second half of the season, which will resume tomorrow night against Arizona. The Coyotes are flying out of Phoenix at 9 a.m. today to try to beat the weather.

"I think it's important that we stick with it. Obviously, we're not in the position that we want to be right now, but we need to get better as a team and learn from this. We have a big hole, but we have to stick together."

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers