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Inserting Zherdev pays off for Laviolette, Flyers

Wednesday, 04.20.2011 / 6:29 PM / News
By Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com
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Inserting Zherdev pays off for Laviolette, Flyers
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has had a knack for pushing the right buttons, and inserting Nikolay Zherdev back into the lineup for Game 3 paid off with the game-winning goal.
In talking to players on the Philadelphia Flyers, one of the biggest things they're impressed by with coach Peter Laviolette is his ability to push the right buttons at just the right time with his team.
 
"Peter seems to know when to pull the right strings, as far as who's playing," center Danny Briere told NHL.com. "Just calling timeout, game plans, stuff like that. And that's something you can't teach. He has that in him. He's done a tremendous job in that regard."
 
One of those players he's done a seemingly solid job with is forward Nikolay Zherdev. Signed over the summer to play as a top-six forward in place of the traded Simon Gagne, Zherdev played just 58 games in the regular season despite being healthy enough to play all 82. That means 24 games as a healthy scratch for a player who was the fourth pick of the 2003 Entry Draft, had three 20-goal seasons in his first five in the NHL, and scored 16 in limited time this season.
 
He was scratched the first two games of the Flyers' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Buffalo Sabres, and only entered the lineup for Game 3 due to an upper-body injury to Andreas Nodl.
 
In his return, however, Zherdev scored the game-winning goal in the Flyers' 4-2 victory Monday. It was the sixth time he's returned from a benching, and the fourth time he's had at least a point in his first game back.
Peter seems to know when to pull the right strings, as far as who's playing. Just calling timeout, game plans, stuff like that. And that's something you can't teach. He has that in him. He's done a tremendous job in that regard. - Danny Briere

It also was his first Stanley Cup Playoff game.
 
"Right now, I just focus on the playoffs and play hard," Zherdev told reporters following Monday's game. "First goal, game-winning goal -- I'm happy, the team won."
 
On his goal, Zherdev slipped behind the Buffalo defense and skated to the right post, where Mike Richards found him for an easy tap-in.
 
"Z is a player who stepped up the most when we need him throughout the season," Richards told reporters Monday. "He stepped up in situations that have been tough. He always seems to find the net when he gets back in the lineup. You could see the jump he had tonight."
 
That jump comes from what Laviolette views as improved work ethic. The Flyers waived Zherdev on Feb. 23, and he went unclaimed. Whether that sparked something in Zherdev is unknown, but since then Laviolette has liked what he's seen.
 
"Since that time, what's been most impressive to me is his attitude," Laviolette said Monday. "He's worked really hard, and he's committed just like everybody else. He got an opportunity tonight and scored a big goal for us."
 
"There's always two different roads you can go down at that point," Laviolette said, referring to the waiver situation. "You can go south and maybe never get a player back, or you can do what you have to do, and he's worked really hard with the coaches and very hard with (trainer) Jimmy McCrossin to keep himself in shape."
 
Zherdev got into the lineup for the final five games of the regular season, scoring a goal and adding 2 assists. That strong play carried over to Game 3 on Monday.
 
Briere can empathize with what Zherdev has gone through. He was waived twice by the Phoenix Coyotes earlier in his career before eventually re-making his career when he was traded to the Sabres and developed into an All-Star.
Zherdev scores his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.
 
"That certainly was a wake-up call for me," Briere said. "All of a sudden, you realize nobody wants you. Before that, you're kind of blaming it on the coaching staff that you're not playing me; it's everybody else's fault, and then when you clear waivers and realize nobody wants you, you start to realize that the problem is yourself.
 
"To his credit, he went back and has been working hard, off the ice as well. He's been … staying in shape and waiting for his chance. I think everyone is happy for him to score a big goal like that."

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 82 28 58 7 86
J. Voracek 82 23 39 11 62
W. Simmonds 82 29 31 -4 60
S. Hartnell 78 20 32 11 52
M. Streit 82 10 34 3 44
B. Schenn 82 20 21 0 41
M. Read 75 22 18 -4 40
S. Couturier 82 13 26 1 39
V. Lecavalier 69 20 17 -16 37
K. Timonen 77 6 29 5 35
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 33 18 7 .917 2.50
R. Emery 9 12 2 .903 2.96
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