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Grossmann's defensive play endearing him to Flyers

Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL on NBC Spotlight

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Grossmann's defensive play endearing him to Flyers
New Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann found it wasn't hard to get adjusted with a new team, as his ability to block shots has made him pretty popular in the Philadelphia locker room.
Any time a player gets traded, there's an adjustment period -- learning new teammates, new coaches, a new city, new style of play.

Nicklas Grossmann went through that exact scenario when he was traded by the Dallas Stars to the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 17.

However, it didn't take the 6-foot-4, 230-pound defenseman long to make new friends.

In just 13 games with the Flyers, Grossmann has blocked 31 shots. And his play seems to be contagious, as the Flyers have blocked 204 shots since Grossmann's arrival. Their average of 15.7 blocked shots per game with Grossmann in the lineup is an improvement from their 14.9 blocks per game prior to his arrival.

"I just try to bring what I can to the table," Grossmann told NHL.com. "We need blocked shots for (goalie Ilya) Bryzgalov. He likes that. All the small details that you can do to help win, you try to do."

Nicklas Grossmann
Defense - PHI
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 10
SOG: 50 | +/-: 5
Doing all those little things so well has made Grossmann a very popular player in Philadelphia. 

"I think to see a new guy come in like that and give his all for a new team makes you respect a guy," forward Scott Hartnell told NHL.com. "Not knowing who he is or where's he from or what he's all about … but when you do something like that (block shots), you make a lot of friends real fast."

Grossmann's arrival in Philadelphia coincided with Bryzgalov's outstanding recent play. In Thursday's win against the New York Islanders, he established a club-record shutout streak of 249:43, the second-longest by any goaltender in the expansion era.

And outside of Grossmann's first game, when Bryzgalov was yanked in the second period after allowing three goals on 13 shots, the Philadelphia goaltender has been nothing short of spectacular since the big blueliner arrived -- he's 9-2-0 with a 1.63 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and four shutouts. And the two losses came in games when the Flyers were shut out.

"He's been doing an unbelievable job," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said of Grossmann. "He's a tough guy, plays hard every game, plays hard every shift. I can only imagine the opposite side -- it's hard to play against him because he plays so hard. Good for us. I think our team needed that."

In six seasons with the Stars, Grossmann developed a reputation for being a strong, steady presence in his zone, and that's exactly what the Flyers were looking for when they traded a 2012 second-round pick and a 2013 third-round pick to acquire him.

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"There's no question … I would say yeah," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said when asked if Grossmann's skill set is what his team needed. "When you get a defenseman who plays that role and he's that size -- he's an enormous man and it makes it hard to generate offense against him. You get someone like that who can play against the other team's top players, then you've found something that's a real asset for your team and your organization."

Laviolette admitted he didn't know much about Grossmann prior to his arrival in Philadelphia, but said it didn't take long for him to see the kind of player he had.

"You don't realize a player's impact until he gets here and he actually plays for you and you see the minutes he logs," Laviolette said. "Paired with (Braydon) Coburn, he's been out there playing all the hard minutes. He's such a mountain of a man that it makes it hard to penetrate offensively for the opposition. We're thrilled with him as far as our organization goes, our team, coaches -- he's been a real nice addition."

Grossmann might have been a stranger when he arrived in Philadelphia, but Coburn had an idea of what his team was getting. Coburn played against Grossmann in the minor leagues and doesn't see that much of a difference now in the player he knew back then.

"I remember when I played in the (American Hockey League) in Chicago for the Wolves, he was in Des Moines with the Stars," Coburn told NHL.com. "I knew he was a big guy, solid, and he's really rounded into a nice pro. He's been a real steady guy."

At 6-5 and 220 pounds, Coburn and Grossmann have formed a colossus-sized shut-down pair for the Flyers. They have played against the opposition's best lines and have done a solid job. It's also allowed Laviolette to cut down on Timonen's minutes, which should help keep the Flyers' veteran All-Star fresh for the playoffs.

"I think he complements the guys we have back here already," Coburn said of Grossmann. "What you see is what you get with him. He plays strong, he plays steady. He doesn't get out of position too much. He makes those simple plays."

All those simple plays could add up for Grossmann soon. He's in the final season of a two-year contract and can become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career July 1.

While the Flyers certainly have interest in bringing him back, Grossmann said he's comfortable leaving all the contract talk for after the season.

"I haven't talked anything about it yet," he said. "If it comes up, it comes up. It's nothing I'm thinking about. My main focus is playing good for the Philadelphia Flyers right now. I'm doing everything I can to contribute and push along here to the playoffs. That's the main focus right now.

"I don't really think about it. When it comes, it comes. It's nothing I'm worried about or thinking of. I put that to the side right now and focus on the hockey side."

And continuing to make new friends.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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