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Lecavalier Joins Lineup

by Brian Smith | / Philadelphia Flyers

With Pierre-Edouard Bellemare out for a couple weeks with a lower-body injury and Sean Couturier still day-to-day with an upper body injury, the door has opened for Vinny Lecavalier to join the Flyers lineup for the first time this season. Head coach Dave Hakstol said Lecavalier will take Bellemare’s place on a line with Chris VandeVelde and Ryan White when the Flyers host New Jersey on Thursday night.

Lecavalier has been a healthy scratch for the first eight games and his frequent absence from the lineup has been well noted over the past season or so. But both Hakstol and Lecavalier’s teammates say he’s been nothing but a positive influence in the locker room.

“He’s been a good teammate and handled it like a good pro,” Hakstol said. “He’s worked very hard doing as much extra as he can to stay ready and to stay sharp, and that’s what you would ask of a teammate.”

Said White: “He shows up at the rink every day and goes to work. He definitely hasn’t been a distraction. Vinny’s been in the league long enough that he’s seen this before with other guys, and it’s funny how the league kinda can get you sometimes. He’s been nothing but a good teammate and I can’t say enough about him.”

The Flyers have gotten quality minutes from the fourth line, including VandeVelde’s goal on Tuesday. Hakstol has shown confidence in putting the line out on the ice, and says that will continue.

“It’ll have a little different look to it, but that line has earned their minutes,” he said. “They’ve done that by being accountable in all three zones, they’ve done it by creating momentum for us. They’ve really played a role for our hockey team. We hope even with different personnel that that group can go out and do the same thing.”

A year ago through eight games, Jake Voracek already had three goals and 11 points. The best start of his career had him ranked among the NHL’s scoring leaders for more than half the season, and he even led the league for stretches of time. He even surprised himself with how things were going.

This year, Voracek – along with his linemates Claude Giroux and Michal Raffl – are a bit back down to earth. Voracek hasn’t found the net yet and has three assists. However, it hasn’t been for lack of trying, and Hakstol isn’t concerned about Voracek or anyone on that top line.

“If you could pinpoint a reason why the puck isn’t going in, we’d all make a lot of money knowing that,” Hakstol said. “He’s playing hard, he’s getting opportunities. Last night he had five or six shots on goal and 11 shot opportunities. Some of the shots on goal were good ones. He’s a good player; he’s a confident player. He’ll stay with it. Normally what you’d see in this situation is when he gets one, he’d get on a bit of a roll. We’re having some small successes as a team. Let’s be confident in that. We know there’s areas we can improve individually as well as team-wise. We’re going to work to make that happen in everyone’s case, not just in an individual player’s case.”

For the most part, Voracek is taking things in stride, which is logical considering that he’s been mere inches from a goal several times this season.

“Let’s be honest – I never score 35, 40 goals,” he said. “At least last year when I didn’t score, I was creating chances and I had [assists]. It’s a good thing that we go through it [now], we might not go through it the rest of the year.”

Voracek did say the issue might be bugging his thought process a little bit, but he is trying to fight through that.

“When the bounce doesn’t go your way, you make decisions that you usually don’t make,” he said. “If you see a puck between the circles and you have a big scoring chance, you start thinking where to shoot or how to shoot or what happens if I don’t score, how the crowd’s going to react and how the team’s going to react – that’s the problem. You’ve just got to go with a clear head and try to shoot the puck at the net and try to score the goal. It’s not only with me. I would say every player goes through a goal drought, they start thinking too much. Maybe I’m thinking too much, but I know if I do my thing, I’ll be fine.”

If there’s a silver lining to Voracek’s struggles, it’s that he’s got no goals but the Flyers are still 4-2-2. It would stand to reason that record will improve even more once Voracek gets going, and Hakstol is certain that the winger will do just that.

“Good people stay confident,” Hakstol said. “They work hard and they stay with things. I know that’s what Jake will do. There’s always an element, whatever the word you want to use, whether it’s frustration… personally I think it’s out of care. Jake just wants to help our team win as much as he possibly can. For him to do that, part of his role is scoring. But that’s not his only role. So he’s got to stay with it, he’s got to keep working hard, he’s got to keep working hard for the opportunities and just be confident that one’s going to go in, and a lot more than one.”

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