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Sim City

by John Kopp / Philadelphia Flyers
The NHL season lasts 82 games. Few players are immune from scoreless stretches.

Therefore, Wayne Simmonds operates with one assumption: If he keeps working hard and plays to his capabilities, the points eventually come.

“I’ve been trying to do that all year,” Simmonds said. “You start getting little bounces here, little bounces there and you start putting them in the back of the net. You start seeing points coming out of our production.”

Since the All-Star break, Simmonds has not had much trouble scoring goals. He was particularly hot during February, when he nearly averaged a point per game. Simmonds finished the month with nine goals and three assists in 13 games.

That performance helped the Flyers weather a storm that included inconsistent goaltending, a struggling power play and various injuries. The Flyers finished 5-7-1 during February, but Scott Hartnell said the team’s record would have been worse without Simmonds.

“He’s been a stud,” said Hartnell, who plays alongside Simmonds on the power play.

“February, he had a great month. Without him I don’t think we would have won a game. He’s a competitor. Obviously, he can hit, he can fight and he can score. He can make plays, so he’s coming into his own.”

In his first season with the Flyers, Simmonds is having the best year of his young career. Sparked by his second-half play, the right winger already has surpassed his career high in goals and has tied his best mark for points.

Entering this weekend's games, Simmonds has registered 41 points on 22 goals and 19 assists. That includes nine power play scores and four game-winners.

Those numbers come despite one particularly difficult stretch in the first half. From Oct. 24 through Dec. 2, Simmonds collected just two goals and one assist in 17 games. He endured scoreless streaks of both six and seven games.

“I think I had some good success early and then I had a little bit of a lull,” Simmonds said. “I think there was a point where I figured, I’m more comfortable and I think I started playing better. It just started to snowball from there.”

 A 23-year-old from Scarborough, Ont., Simmonds was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings with Brayden Schenn in a trade last June for Mike Richards. Simmonds said there was some “underlying pressure” in being swapped for the Flyers’ former captain, but said he was excited by the trade.

“They traded for me for a reason,” Simmonds said. “They obviously knew the way that I played. I’m not the exact same type of player Richie is, but I bring a different element to the game. I just wanted to come here and play my game and not try to emulate him, but just do the things that I knew I could do on the ice. I think I’ve done that well so far.”

The forward has gained the praise of fans and teammates for his feisty style of play. Combining speed and grit, Simmonds sprays the net with shots, looks for hits and isn’t afraid to drop his gloves.

“Wayne is just a really, really smart player and very trustworthy out there,” forward Matt Read said. “You know when you’re playing with him you can throw pucks in his corner or defensive zone. … You know that he’s going to win the puck battle in the corner or that he’s going to be in front of the net taking shots at the other team.

“He’s been one of our top players since Christmas. Every night he’s showing up and just working harder. He’s doing those little things right that have made him successful in his career. He’s been a great asset to this team and a great pickup for the Philadelphia Flyers.”

Simmonds spent three full seasons playing for the Kings, where he totaled 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) and helped Los Angeles make the playoffs the last two years. His best season came in 2009-10, when he collected 40 points on 16 goals and 24 assists. All were career highs entering this year.

Simmonds said the Flyers play a more aggressive style of hockey than the Kings, who utilize a trapping system. He said it took some time to learn a different system.

“We put pressure up ice and we generally keep possession of the puck in the other team’s zone,” Simmonds said. “That’s our type of game. In L.A. it was kind of different. We kind of sat back and we waited for them to come to us and we were solid defensively. We relied on our goalie a lot.”

While Simmonds has flourished in the Flyers’ system – he ranks fourth in points – he also has been one of their most durable players.

Various injuries, including several concussions, have cost the Flyers more than 300 man-games. Only Simmonds, Hartnell, forward Maxime Talbot and defenseman Matt Carle have played every game.

“We’ve had a lot of guys out this year,” Simmonds said. “It’s a shame but our team has been really resilient. Obviously, I want to step up and show that I can play. I think every guy here, we’ve stepped up to a man and we’ve done well. We’ve overcome that.”

Simmonds has hit another scoring lull in March.

Despite his draught, Simmonds has remained tenacious on the ice.

“Even if you’re not putting up points – I think I’m in a little slump here – I’m just going to keep working hard and things are going to start going my way eventually,” Simmonds said.
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