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At the Rink: Oilers at Flyers

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- In his five 82-game seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, R.J. Umberger scored 20 goals four games and had 18 in another season.

This season, however, he hasn't had that scoring touch with the Philadelphia Flyers, with one goal in his first 11 games. However, a move to a more offensive-themed line could jump start his production.

Umberger switched spots with Brayden Schenn at the morning skate Tuesday, skating on the left wing with center Vincent Lecavalier and right wing Wayne Simmonds when the Flyers prepared for a game against the visiting Edmonton Oilers.

"[Simmonds] is a puck-possession guy," Umberger said. "He has the puck a lot, wins a lot of battles. I'm hoping that creates a lot more offensive time in-zone, down low. For me, I'm used to being a three to four shots guy per game and I'm not getting many shots, and that's frustrating to me."

Adding the 6-foot-2, 214-pound Umberger to Lecavalier (6-4, 215) and Simmonds (6-2, 183) makes for a heavy line that has the size and strength to create havoc in the offensive zone.

"They should be a strong cycle line down low for me," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "They're all big guys with decent hands. I'd like to see that line really control the play out there down in the offensive zone. To me, with the size and skill that's on that line, they should be creating a lot of stuff off the cycle."

The hope also is that Umberger can find his offensive game after playing on a checking line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read for most of the season.

"I watched a lot of the games with [assistant coach Ian Laperriere], just individual shifts, and tried to figure it out," Umberger said. "With the line that we were on ... we weren't generating a lot offensively. We weren't giving them much defensively but we just weren't generating, didn't get a forecheck going, didn't get two guys on the puck, so we were chasing a lot. My game is down low in the corners, in front of the net, playing along the boards; that's what I do best. Just hasn't been there right now. I have to figure out a way to get more involved."

Flyers goalie Steve Mason will make his second straight start and Viktor Fasth will start for the Oilers. It will be Fasth's first game since Oct. 14 because of a groin injury.

"I'm excited to be out there again," Fasth said, "It's going to be fun. It's been a couple weeks since I played a game. Just going to go out there and have fun. ... We've been pushing it in practice and working really hard. I don't think that [the injury] should be an issue. I think we're over that point already where I can play my game without thinking about it."

The Oilers also will have different looks at forward and on defense with Taylor Hall out with a knee injury and Andrew Ference starting his three-game suspension.

Benoit Pouliot will play left wing on the top line alongside center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and right wing Jordan Eberle. Pouliot doesn't have the skill or speed of Hall, but at 6-3 and 193 pounds he brings a more physical element.

"He's a fast guy, he's a big guy," Nugent-Hopkins said. "We know he'll be first one the forecheck as much as possible. He's going to create some room out there. He sees the ice really well. Should be fun to work with him."

Defenseman Oscar Klefbom, recalled from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League on Sunday, will play with veteran Mark Fayne. Nikita Nikitin, returning after a three-game absence because of back spasms, will play with Justin Schultz. The other pairing will be Martin Marincin and Jeff Petry.

"Nik and Schultz have played together before," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "[Marincin and Petry] were solid for us last year. Marty has struggled to some extent this year so we're trying to find some balance for him. We're hoping that [Petry] is going to rub off on him. So far this year the guys that have played with [Petry] have played a little bit better. Hopefully reuniting those guys will have a positive effect on our team. Oscar has been great in the American Hockey League. He just needs to keep it simple and Mark Fayne has been a rock back there for us."

Here are the projected lineups:


Benoit Pouliot - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Teddy Purcell - Mark Arcobello - David Perron

Matt Hendricks - Leon Draisaitl - Nail Yakupov

Will Acton - Boyd Gordon - Jesse Joensuu

Martin Marincin - Jeff Petry

Nikita Nikitin - Justin Schultz

Oscar Klefbom - Mark Fayne

Ben Scrivens

Viktor Fasth

Scratched: Keith Aulie

Suspended: Andrew Ference

Injured: Taylor Hall (knee)


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

R.J. Umberger - Vincent Lecavalier - Wayne Simmonds

Brayden Schenn - Sean Couturier - Matt Read

Zac Rinaldo - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Chris VandeVelde

Nicklas Grossmann - Mark Streit

Michael Del Zotto - Nick Schultz

Carlo Colaiacovo - Luke Schenn

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Blair Jones, Brandon Manning, Jason Akeson

Injured: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots), Andrew MacDonald (lower body), Braydon Coburn (lower body), Ryan White (chest)

Status report: Draisaitl is back in Philadelphia for the first time since the 2014 NHL Draft, when the Oilers selected him with the third pick. "It was a pretty fun summer," he said. "One of the greatest experiences I ever had for sure. Great to be back and here again."... This is the first time Mason is making back-to-back starts since he played three straight Oct. 14-21.

Who's hot: Nugent-Hopkins has three goals and two assists in his past six games. ... Voracek has points in five straight games and at least one point in 10 of 11. He enters play Tuesday tied for first in the League with 13 assists and second with 16 points.


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