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X-Factor: Lecavalier adds punch to Flyers' fourth line

by Adam Kimelman / Philadelphia Flyers

In his 15 NHL seasons, Vincent Lecavalier has crafted an impressive resume, one which includes a Rocket Richard Trophy, a Stanley Cup and appearances in four NHL All-Star Games.

Those accomplishments came playing center, generally on his team's top line. Yet, in his first season with the Philadelphia Flyers, he was spending significant time at left wing on the second line. It wasn't a natural fit for Lecavalier.

"If you'd ask me what position I'd want to play, obviously I'd say center," he said March 18.

On March 28, he got his wish, to a degree. He was back at center, but on the fourth line.

It was a seismic blow to a player of Lecavalier's stature. But rather than sulk, he used it as motivation to spark his best play of the season. While the shift down the lineup cut into his ice time, he remains a viable threat at full strength or on the power play and will stay play a big role in the Flyers' quest to bring the Stanley Cup to Philadelphia for the first time since 1975.

"I think a lot of guys can follow that," teammate Wayne Simmonds said of Lecavalier's reaction to the move. "He has played a long time in this League and he's a role model to all of us."

Lecavalier's first season in Philadelphia has been a trying one. He missed time with facial injuries sustained in a fight in November, and missed three weeks in December recovering from a non-displaced fracture in his lower back. The back injury appeared to sap some of the jump from his legs, and playing in an unfamiliar spot certainly wasn't helping.

In his first 59 games he had 15 goals, but five of them came in his first eight games. He hadn't scored a goal in six games when coach Craig Berube shifted Lecavalier to the fourth line for a game March 28 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Playing with Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo wasn't quite like when he played on a line with Claude Giroux earlier in the season, but something was different in Lecavalier's game. The jump had returned and he was aggressive in the offensive zone. He opened the scoring against the Maple Leafs on his first night on the fourth line with a power-play goal that sparked Philadelphia to a 4-2 win, and two nights later, against the Boston Bruins, he scored two goals, including the 400th of his career.

Lecavalier remains a steady part of the second power-play unit, and Berube also has used him in spot duty higher up in the lineup when the Flyers have needed an extra jolt.

The Flyers have seven 20-goal scorers, and with one on the fourth line it makes their dangerous offense even more difficult to handle.

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