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As injury bug hits, Flyers adjust

by Brian Smith | / Philadelphia Flyers

Injuries brought a different look to the Flyers on Saturday night, and they’ll further alter the look for Tuesday night’s game vs. Los Angeles at the Wells Fargo Center.

With Ryan White out of the lineup for two to four weeks, head coach Dave Hakstol moved Michael Raffl into White’s spot on a line with Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Brayden Schenn, a healthy scratch on Saturday, took Raffl’s old spot on the line with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek.

“We’ve got Whitey out of the lineup, so that changes things throughout our lineup,” Hakstol said. “I think Raff can go and do a good job with the other two guys on that line, and looking at Brayden with Giroux and Voracek, he’s played there in the past, and certainly it’s a good opportunity for him.”

It’s indeed an interesting situation for Schenn, who on paper appears to go from the doghouse to the penthouse – a healthy scratch Saturday to the top line on Tuesday. But Hakstol has said throughout the season that he and his staff evaluates the lineup on a game-by-game basis, so whatever put Schenn on the bench Saturday doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Tuesday’s game or the team’s situation now.

“It’s hard to figure out sometimes,” Schenn said. “I didn’t talk to them and I don’t know what the rhyme or reason is. But at the same time I’ll be ready for the opportunity and my chance tomorrow.”

At the same time, Hakstol wanted to keep the fourth line as close to what it’s been as possible. That line has been one of the Flyers’ most effective groups lately, first with Scott Laughton at center and then with Bellemare returning once he was healthy. He feels Raffl’s style of play fits well there.

WATCH: Shayne Gostisbehere talks to the media about joining the Flyers...

“We want the personality of that group to stay the same,” Hakstol said. “Between Belly and Vandy, with Whitey on that line they’re a very reliable line that can play with anybody. I think they can maintain that same role.”

While not happy at being scratched Saturday, Schenn is looking forward and is using it as motivation.

“We all know we’ve got to be better around here,” he said. “When you lose eight of nine, obviously no one’s happy. Yeah, I can be better. We all can be better. It throws a little fire in your belly, and I’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

Schenn believes he can be a good compliment to the offensive threat that Giroux and Voracek provide.

“I think I can play a solid game with them, be physical, get on pucks, win battles, and create space for them,” he said. “They always have the top-2 D-pair [against them] every night. So for me, that’s my job, to be a winger for them, go up and down the wall, play hard, and try and create space and make plays for them.”

Saturday’s game featured the NHL debut of Taylor Leier and the return to the NHL of Shayne Gostisbehere, both coming at relatively the last minute after R.J. Umberger and Mark Streit were placed on injured reserve Saturday morning. The two players hustled from Allentown, where they played Friday night for the Phantoms, to Raleigh, where the Flyers awaited.

“I think the way they played, they brought energy to the team,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They did a lot of good things, especially for not having one practice with the team or anything like that. They kept it simple early on and were able to make some nice plays.”

Gostisbehere especially caused some chatter around the NHL with his play that set up Wayne Simmonds for the game-tying goal. First, he accepted a rink-wide D-to-D pass on his backhand – a situation where it’s very easy for the puck to roll over the stick or otherwise get away from the recipient. Then he took a stride backwards, pulling Carolina left wing Chris Terry out towards him.

Once Terry was moving, Gostisbehere cut to his right and went right past him. That gave him the time and space he needed to take the shot that deflected off Simmonds and past Cam Ward. It was a risky play, but without that move, Gostisbehere likely ends up shooting the puck right into Terry – or worse, Terry forces a turnover and heads the other way.

It was an impressive move on its own merits, but even more so for a player who only had two NHL games under his belt total, both of which came nearly a year ago. But Gostisbehere said his conversations with Hakstol before the game gave him the confidence to get involved on the offensive side.

“He just said go out there and have fun, play your game. You start thinking out there and that’s when mistakes are going to happen. I just let loose and went out there and played.

“He builds you up. He gives you the confidence to play well. It was definitely nice to hear.”

Gostisbehere had an idea of what to expect, having played those two games last year when the Flyers had injury trouble on defense. Leier, though, was going through it for the first time, and Hakstol was impressed by what he saw.

“I thought quietly he just did a good job,” Hakstol said. “He kept it very simple. Probably what you’d want textbook-wise. Just go out, keep it simple, play confidently, and I thought he did those things. Nice credit to his linemates and the people around him helping him out and doing a good job along with him.”

Hakstol says the two players are hard to compare, but he’d like to see them both just take the next step on Tuesday.

“They’re obviously different positions and different players,” Hakstol said. “I liked the confidence that both guys played with in game #1. There’s obviously going to be ups and downs as they go into game #2. But Taylor brings pace to the game. He has a quick stick; he’s a smart, intelligent player. Shayne did a pretty good job on the defensive side of the game, and he added offensively. So game #1, they both did their job for us.”

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