(Voorhees, NJ, February 2) – In a season in which the bright spots have been few and far between, one highlight of the season so far has been the play of rookie defenseman Alexander Picard. On Thursday night against New Jersey, Picard had a hand in every one of the team's goals against Martin Brodeur.
Despite the Flyers coming up on the short end of a 6-5 decision, Picard's play is a good sign for the future on the blue line.
"I think Alex is going to be a guy that first and foremost is going to be a really good defender and is going to end up playing against the other team's top two lines," said John Stevens. "Now, when he gets the puck, and gets into special team situations, he's capable of doing some really good things. He's got a great release, he moves the puck well and he's a mobile guy."
Picard had not scored a point in 19 games prior to Thursday night, but saw his ice time skyrocket to more than 32 minutes when defenseman Joni Pitkanen left in the second period with a bruised right ankle. He took advantage of it.
"When Joni went out, I think Alex had this feeling like we were counting on him. He got first-unit power play time and he welcomed it as an opportunity. He didn't look at it like it was an overwhelming task, and he looked like he was excited," said Stevens.
"He did some really good things on the power play and showed composure and played a heck of a hockey game playing huge minutes."
Picard, who has two goals and 11 assists in 37 games this season, had a day to reflect on the performance and was asked about it by the local media following Friday morning's skate at the Vitrua Health Flyers Skate Zone.
"It's pretty weird. It wasn't amazing passes I did, I just played my game and played a simple game and put some pucks on the net," he said. "Today, it's a little weird to see everywhere in the paper and I have gotten a bunch of calls. It's a little different."
He was also quick to give credit to the players who scored the goals, including Mike Knuble, who had two.
"Last night, a guy like Mike Knuble was taking shots in front of the net and sacrificing his body and I was pretty happy he was rewarded with two goals," said Picard.
Overall, Picard's five assists was one short of the franchise mark held by Eric Lindros, when Lindros tallied six helpers on February 26, 1997 in Ottawa. The five-assist mark had been reached three previous times: twice more by Lindros and once by Bobby Clarke – pretty good company for a 21-year-old first-year player.
"A game like that can do a lot for your confidence, that's for sure," said Derian Hatcher. "A night like that helps everything."
Calder Responds to Report in Philadelphia Inquirer
A report in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday mentioned that the Flyers are trying to re-sign left wing Kyle Calder, whose one-year deal is set to expire at the end of the season.
Calder would not confirm or deny the report, but had the following to say about it:
"When I got traded here, I thought I was going to be a big part of this organization for a lot of years. To be a Flyer; it's a pretty proud tradition and everyone around here carries a lot of pride. I know it hasn't been the year that I wanted, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I know they are going to put a good team together next year and I know they want to win. That's the attitude here and they're going to find a way to do it."
Stevens also thinks Calder, who struggled at the beginning of the season but has come on of late, is a player that could help the team beyond this season.
"There's no question that in the last two months he looks more focused, he's on top of the puck, and I think it's just a real credit that he's been able to turn it around. Now, we're seeing the guy that we thought we had all along and he seems to have chemistry with [Jeff] Carter. They both have enhanced each other's play with a little bit of chemistry.
"The way he is playing right now, he certainly could help us [next year]. Whether management decides to resign him or not is a decision they have to make, but certainly he's a big contributor right now."