VOORHEES, N.J. – For most of the Flyers, the Olympic break came at a bad time.
The team was rolling, having won four straight, and would have liked to maintain that level of momentum for a bit longer, only to have it thwarted by the ill-timed international competition.
But certainly there were a few Flyers who were happy to have a rest. Steve Mason admitted that re-charging the batteries was a good thing, especially with a playoff push on tap. Scott Hartnell said time away from hockey for a week was refreshing.
But there’s nobody who the break might help more than Vinny Lecavalier.
|Vinny Lecavalier hopes to have more celebrations like this over the final 23 games of the season for the FLyers after a much-needed 18-day break. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) |
The Flyers big ticket acquisition in free agency has dealt with a bevy of injuries this season and as a result, hasn’t had the kind of production he’d like, even though he was the leading goal scorer on the team through the first two months of the season.
But now, after getting an 18-day break from the constant grind of a condensed season, Lecavalier is in a good spot.
He’s feeling well. He’s as healthy as he’s been all season. And, perhaps most important, he’s got seven practices before the next game to continue to work on being a left wing, a position he hardly ever played in his storied career in Tampa.
“It’s nice to mentally get away and physically get over the bumps and bruises that crop up during the year that don’t have a time to heal when you play every second night,” Lecavalier said. “I’m just focused now on the last 23 games to find a way to produce more and help the team offensively.
“If you look at the stats, [left wing] has been a tough adjustment, but that’s where I’m playing. Being a natural center I can’t just skate everywhere. It’s more of an up and down game on the wing. But, the last little bit, I’m feeling better there. I’m not going to lie – it’s been a tough adjustment. But I’m focused on the last 22 games and doing more offensively.”
Lecavalier was more successful earlier in the season as a center for the Flyers and hasn’t been as productive on the wing. Most of his recent offense has come on the power play as he has struggled assimilating to his new role.
However, in the last five games or so before the break, Lecavalier started to seem more comfortable playing on the left next to Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.
“I thought he was good going into the break,” Schenn said. “He seemed more comfortable. It’s not easy switching from center where you are all over the ice supporting the puck to just playing left wing where you are stuck on one side of the ice. For a guy who has played his whole career at center to adjust to left wing is not going to happen overnight. He’s been better and the three of us are getting more chemistry as time goes on.”
It’ll be important for the Flyers to have that line develop that chemistry to get all four lines rolling along well. The top unit of Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek has been excellent, as has a fourth line consisting of Zac Rinaldo, Michael Raffl and Adam Hall.
|Flyers coach Craig Berube feels his second line is better with Brayden Schenn at center and Vinny Lecavalier on left wing. |
The third line has recently reunited Steve Downie with Sean Couturier and Matt Read. They were really good earlier in the season, and now that Downie is back on the line, their effectiveness is expected to return.
Which leaves the Schenn line to pull it together to make a completely cohesive unit.
Simmonds has been excellent for a long time and is second on the team in scoring behind Giroux, so it’s up to Schenn and Lecavalier to make everything click.
“He can be more rejuvenated and healed up,” coach Craig Berube said. “It doesn’t hurt to have some rest.
“The last few games [Vinny] has been driving the net more from the left side angle. He’s playing more like a power forward.”
NOTES: Adam Hall and Hal Gill were having some fun at the expense of Erik Gustafsson after practice. They kept saying “Sweden is the overwhelming favorite” in the Olympics and that the Americans “are big underdogs” moving forward. As the lone Americans on the Flyers, Hall and Gill are trying to get in the heads of those players from Sweden and Canada as the final games of the Olympics are on tap… Speaking of those games, Schenn said he hopes Berube will hold practice “a little early” Friday so everyone can watch the Olympic semifinal between USA and Canada. Speaking of, there will be a big watch party at XFinity Live with the game on the big screen, if you are looking for a place to watch the game… Berube said the team will practice tomorrow and Friday and have an off day Saturday. The full team (with the exception of Kimmo Timonen, who is the lone Flyer still playing in the Olympics) will return to practice Sunday and then have two more practices before playing San Jose next Thursday.
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