A DAY OF FIRSTS
It was the first full practice for Lecavalier and Hartnell, post-injuries, Vinny's first day as a winger and Raffl's first time on the top line.
VOORHEES, N.J. – Vincent Lecavalier doesn’t want to say yet if he thinks he can return from his lower body injury by Thursday.
Craig Berube is taking a similar vow of silence.
Watching practice Tuesday though, there was a definite difference between the participation of the two.
Meanwhile, Lecavalier was skating with the top line and the top power play unit.
One doesn’t want to jump to any conclusions or make any assumptions but, it sure as heck seems like Lecavalier will be back Thursday, pending any setbacks.
|Vinny Lecavalier was a full participant at practice for the first time Monday since suffering his lower-body injury two weeks ago.|
“I’ll be fine. It’s not like I’m starting from scratch or had a month off or it’s the summertime. I’ve been feeling pretty good. I’m really excited. Any time you are hurt you want to come back and help your team any way you can.
“We have a great group here, we’ve just got to put it all together. I believe in this group. If we go to the net and score a couple more goals than we have so far, then good things will happen.”
“Lecavalier was one of the few bright spots in the early part of the season before his injury, and now upon his return it looks like he’s going to try out a brand new position, something that is rare for a 33-year-old player with 15 years of NHL experience.
“It was my first time in my career that I played the wing,” Lecavalier said. “But, I really comfortable on the right side and I feel there are more plays I can do playing on the off wing. Playing with [Claude Giroux], he’s a special player. He’s a guy who can get you the puck. I thought things went well today.”
He wasn’t alone.
Lecavalier teamed with Giroux and Michael Raffl on the left wing in practice and the trio looked crisp and cohesive.
“I thought they looked really good,” said Berube, trying to hide a knowing smile.
The combination could be just what the Flyers need to spark their offense. Instead of putting players who are space eaters on a line with Giroux to try and give him more room to work his magic, instead Berube is trying to go with a unit of puck possession players who also have good vision and can help each other be creative.
The trickle down effect sees changes on all four lines as Tye McGinn and Jake Voracek slide to the second line with Brayden Schenn in the middle, forcing Wayne Simmonds onto the third line with Sean Couturier in the middle and Matt Read on the left and Max Talbot dropping to the fourth line left wing with Adam Hall at center and Zac Rinaldo on the right.
For Lecavalier, this marks the third different set of line mates he’s had in what will be just his fifth game as a Flyer. It doesn’t bother him though…
“The last three years for me I had a coach[Guy Boucher] that would change lines during games, so I’m kind of used to going from one guy to the next,” he said. “Everything is new to me this year, but the chemistry is here, I just think the last step of putting the puck in the net – everyone is struggling with that – but I think it will come because we have good chemistry.”
The happiest guy in the locker room has to be Raffl. In the span of 10 days he went from being in the AHL to landing a role on the top line with two elite players.
|His play in the first three games has helped Michael Raffl earn a spot for now on the Flyers top line|
“It’s something special of course,” Raffl said. “It should be your goal to play with those kind of players. They are so skilled and so smart with the puck and they can find you everywhere. They can make passes that probably nobody else can make. I can’t make those passes. [Giroux] is making passes that I have never seen before in my life in practice all the time. It’s a great chance [for me].”
Considering how Raffl has played in his three games since he’s been recalled to the NHL, it’s no surprise that he’s getting this chance. In each game, he has looked strong on the puck, doesn’t shy away from contact, and has the aforementioned vision to create chances for his teammates.
He hasn’t registered a point yet in those three games, but playing him with two elite centers at the same time could change that in a hurry.
“He’s been pretty good,” Berube said. “I’ve liked his game so far. He’s got skill, he’s big and he moves and he has a lot of confidence out there, which I like.”
That kind of confidence is rare for a rookie, but for Raffl, he thinks it comes from skipping junior hockey and going right to the professional ranks.
“I played six years professionally,” he said. “I never played junior. I played right away against grown-ups, so you have to learn quickly to play against those guys. That kind of helped me a little bit.”
And the Flyers are hoping it helps them out a bit on the scoreboard as well.
“You hope it clicks as quickly as it can,” Berube said. “We work on it as much as we can in practice and you hope it clicks in a game, that’s the way it goes.”
NOTES: Berube also switched up the top power play unit going with Giroux, Lecavalier, Simmonds and Voracek as his four forwards and switching to Mark Streit instead of Kimmo Timonen at the point. He explained that he wanted more 5-on-5 and penalty kill minutes out of Timonen and more power play minutes out of Streit… Scott Hartnell is listed as day-to-day, but there’s probably a better chance he plays Saturday in New York against the Islanders then Thursday against the Rangers.