Coming off of a lost season where he missed the entire lockout-shortened campaign for the Colorado Avalanche due to a torn ACL, Downie got off to a fast start with the upstart Avs under the guidance of coach Patrick Roy.
But Downie, who is in the final year of his contract before hitting free agency, was considered an expendable piece for Colorado who was in need of a veteran locker room presence and penalty killer. So they shipped Downie back to Philadelphia – where his career started – in exchange for Max Talbot.
Upon arriving to Philadelphia, Downie was quickly taken out of the lineup as he was inserted into it, suffering a concussion in the second period of his first game with the Flyers during a fight with Washington’s Aaron Volpatti.
Downie missed some time, but worked his way back and eventually was put on a line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read, and the trio was rolling.
The points were accumulating. Read and Couturier were scoring and Downie was setting them up. The trade looked like a boon for the Flyers.
But then Downie got hurt again – suffering an upper body injury that forced him to miss a couple games. When he came back, he needed to find his legs, so coach Craig Berube put him on the fourth line to see if he could get going again.
But, by the time Downie was able to start to feel his game again, Read had gone out of the lineup with concussion like symptoms.
The line has never really been put back together with any permanence, and Downie has struggled to find a home.
In the past few games, mostly playing with Couturier and Vincent Lecavalier, Downie hasn’t seemed himself. He’s seemed a bit off. He’s turned the puck over, and lost track of defensive responsibilities.
Finally, Saturday, Berube pulled him off the Couturier line, replacing him mid-game with recently called up Tye McGinn. Downie slid down the depth chart to fourth line duty.
And now, in a huge Metropolitan Division matchup tonight at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers, Downie isn’t even in the lineup, scratched by Berube. Jay Rosehill will play in his place.
“I think Steve’s intensity level isn’t high enough on a shift-in, shift-out basis,” Berube said. “He’s got to find that intensity level and play on the edge but without being undisciplined.
“He’s like any other player. Everybody turns the puck over and you have to correct it. We don’t like turnovers, but they happen in games and you got to talk about it, talk to the player and try to get him more disciplined in that area because turnovers will kill you.”
For Downie, the amount of turnovers have taken a spike in recent games, and although he said he’s not 100 percent recovered from his upper-body injury, he is well enough that these kinds of mistakes shouldn’t happen and that the lingering effects of that injury shouldn’t be used as an excuse.
“I’ve never had this problem in my career before,” Downie said. “I don’t think this is a tough fix. I haven’t been playing my best hockey, that’s obvious. Whether it’s intensity or not… I haven’t been playing well.
“I feel all right. I don’t feel sluggish. I feel good. I’m definitely not feeling great, obviously. But it comes down to playing and playing hard out there. I have to find my game again.”
NOTES: Ray Emery gets the start in net tonight for the Flyers… Read was a full participant in the Flyers morning skate, and even stayed on later to skate hard with the scratches, an indication that he is feeling better and may be closer to a return. He is still considered day-to-day… Today is Claude Giroux’s 26th birthday. He said it’s the first time he’s ever had a game on his birthday… Look for McGinn to fill Downie’s spot on the left wing on the line with Couturier and Lecavalier. Rosehill will join Chris Vandevelde and Adam Hall on the fourth line… The only players who didn’t participate in the optional morning skate were Nick Grossmann, Mark Streit, Lecavalier and Emery.
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