PHILADELPHIA – It’s not because he’s on a “Mission from God” but Flyers coach Craig Berube has decided to put the band back together.
By that, we’re referring to his shutdown line of Steve Downie, Sean Couturier and Matt Read.
When the trio played together for 18 games from mid-November to mid-December, they were as good a line as the Flyers had, and during that stretch of games, were one of the best two-way lines in the league.
Game after game, Berube would put the trio out there against the top line of whichever opponent was on the docket and in most instances, the Flyers shut those big guns down.
The team was 11-4-3 with that trio together and in that time, they combined for 37 points – not too shabby for a third line.
Downie (2-10-12), Couturier (6-7-13) and Read (7-5-12) posted nearly a fourth of the Flyers total offense in those 18 games (24.4 percent) which is pretty impressive for a third line on any team, especially when you include points by defensemen into the equation.
So, why didn’t they stay together?
Well, it was a combination of things. First, they started to have a few off games. Road games in Dallas, Ottawa and Washington were not the best for the line as top tier players like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Alex Ovechkin had strong games against the Flyers.
Then, Downie suffered an upper-body injury that threw took him out of the lineup and in turn off his game.
Read later suffered a hit that cause concussion-like symptoms that cost him a couple weeks. Once all three were healthy again, Downie was struggling to find his game and couldn’t stay in the lineup.
But now, with the team having lost four straight (0-3-1), Berube wants to go back to something that worked previously.
“I’m trying to get Steve going and he played his best hockey with them,” Berube said. “They were a good line when they were together and I haven’t seen the same out of the three of them [collectively] since. I’m looking for some spark there.”
Berube hopes to get it against a Detroit team that comes to Philadelphia completely beat up. They will be without top players goalie Jimmy Howard and forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss – all nursing injuries.
If he can jump start that line again, it will also help defensively, as the Flyers have allowed three goals or more in each of the last nine games (2-5-2).
“This is an opportunity and we’ll see where it goes,” Downie said. “We’ve got to play smart hockey and stick to the system. We can’t play out of our element. We know what each of us brings to the table, so the best thing to do is stick to the game plan.”
NOTES: Berube made a couple other changes to his line combinations as well. Scott Hartnell is back on the top line, Vinny Lecavalier is back on the left wing with Brayden Schenn at center and Michael Raffl is down on the fourth line with Chris Vandevelde and Adam Hall. Berube said Raffl hasn’t done anything to deserve a demotion, nor should he view this as one because he’d like to get the fourth line more minutes. “I think he helps the fourth line,” Berube said. “He’s been a good player. Wherever he goes, people seem to play good around him. It’s important both tonight and on this road trip that we have four lines ready to go. It’ll be a better fourth line with him on it.” … Zac Rinaldo was a full participant in practice, but he won’t play tonight. He is day-to-day at this point… Jay Rosehill, Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill remain the healthy scratches… Steve Mason gets the start in goal… Former Flyer Vinny Prospal officially announced his retirement today after 16 seasons... The Flyers have won seven straight against Detroit at Wells Fargo Center and haven’t lost a game to them here since Game 2 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals.
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