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THREE AMIGOS

by Anthony SanFilippo / Philadelphia Flyers

VANCOUVER – It took 38 games, but the Flyers finally have gotten their power play back in the top half of the NHL efficiency rankings.

Three power play goals that went a long way toward a shootout victory in Edmonton Saturday boosted their percentage to 18.4, tied for No. 15 in the NHL.

They’ve gotten there with steady improvement over the past two months with the man advantage and in December have been one of the best in the NHL going 12-for-48 for 25 percent effectiveness.

And yet, the Flyers want to be even better.

Can you blame them? They’ve been ranked in the top five each of the past two seasons and in the Paul Holmgren era as general manager, they have been ranked lower than sixth just once.

But the current stretch of efficiency has sort of coincided with increases in productivity by three particular players – Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds.

In the past five games, the Flyers are 6-for-24 on the power play – also 25 percent.

On the six goals, Giroux has four points (all assists), as does Voracek (1G, 3A). Simmonds has three points, all goals.

Not surprisingly, the Flyers have won each of those games in which the power play has hit the net (3-0).

“It’s huge for us,” Voracek said. “There are so many games on the line where the power play’s going to make a difference. I think we played an overall [good] game in Edmonton – I think we played well 5 on 5 as well – [But] the power play made a difference for us, and it was a huge two points for us.”

Giroux is actually among the power play scoring leaders in the NHL with 16 points (3G, 13A) which ties him for seventh in the league. Voracek has 10 power play points and with six goals, Simmonds is tied for 10th in the league.

Wayne Simmonds has the puck finding him in a variety of ways in recent games as he has seven goals in the last five games.

“It’s nice, especially for me,” Simmonds said. “You’ve got [Giroux] and Jake threading passes through the seams. We’ve got a double presence in front of the net with me and [Scott Hartnell], and Kimmo seems to get all the shots through. We’re starting to go right now.”

Especially Simmonds, who has seven goals in the past five games, including three straight multiple goal games, becoming just the third Flyers player to accomplish such a rare feat joining Reggie Leach, who did it twice, and Ross Lonsberry, who was the first Flyer to do it.

“He’s at the net all the time and that’s where he gets his goals,” coach Craig Berube said. “He does all the little things. He works hard to get in there and gets pucks back to the defensemen. Then on the power play he gets to a lot of loose pucks and gets them to Giroux and then gets to the net. That’s how he’s successful.”

Simmonds has also been successful off of the power play – and primarily because he hasn’t changed his game at all.

Berube put him together with Brayden Schenn and Scott Hartnell to see if the trio could jump start each other as all three had been struggling to score. Hartnell has put up a few points but Schenn has continued to struggle. However, Simmonds has flourished – and not because he’s done anything different, but rather because he’s stayed the course.

“That line needs to work hard and be physical,” Berube said. “Schenn and Hartnell have been pressing a little. They shouldn’t worry about it so much. They should worry about playing the right way because the goals will come. Wayne never changed his game when he wasn’t scoring. He kept playing the same way and the goals started to come.”

And Simmonds has a six-game point streak. Giroux an eight-gamer. Voracek has points in nine straight. They are all career highs.

But Giroux wants to remind everyone that it’s not just those three guys who are carrying the team at this point.

“I think it’s not only three guys,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys [who are] hot, and that’s why we’re winning games. Everybody’s contributing. [Hartnell] is playing well for us too right now. It’s just not four or five guys, it’s the whole team being on the same page and doing their jobs.”

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NOTES: If practice was any indication, there will be no changes to the lineup tomorrow against the Canucks… Berube made a point of working on players driving the net on the rush. He wants everyone creating traffic because he feels that’s where the Flyers best opportunity to score goals comes – around the net…. Zac Rinaldo and Jake Voracek have been playfully chirping each other about who is a faster skater. So they decided to settle it once and for all with a race at practice. Rinaldo won. Voracek insists it’s because he wiped out falling into the boards. “Zac is a fast skater but I thought could still take him and win that race,” Voracek said. “In the last turn I kind of slipped and lost the edge and fell into the boards. I think I’m going to hear about it for the rest of the season.” Rinaldo didn’t buy it. “He slipped on purpose because he knew he was going to lose.” Hartnell said he thinks it was the first race since he took on Arron Asham in 2011. “I beat him by a car length,” Hartnell said.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers

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