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Flyers' newcomer Akeson could get call vs. Rangers

by Adam Kimelman

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Jason Akeson was hoping all season he would get the call, the one that would summon the 23-year-old from the American Hockey League to the Philadelphia Flyers.

But as the days left in the regular season wound down, he gave it less and less of a chance of it happening.

A week later, Akeson finds himself on the cusp of starting his first Stanley Cup Playoff game when the Flyers open the Eastern Conference First Round at the New York Rangers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN).

"A couple weeks ago if you asked me I never would have told you I'd be here," Akeson said after practice Tuesday. "So it's pretty special."

Akeson led the Flyers' AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, in goals (24), assists (40) and points (64), but it wasn't until the final game of the regular season that Akeson got the call to the NHL. He was inserted into the lineup Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes, and in 13:22 of ice time at left wing on a line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read had an assist, a plus-1 rating and two shots on goal. They were together at practice Tuesday.

"They've only played the one game, but he brings skill to that line, playmaking ability," coach Craig Berube said. "[Couturier and Read] are very good defensive players, and you put a guy like Akeson there, there's more potential to produce."

Berube said the trio isn't set in stone. He liked what he saw of Zac Rinaldo with Couturier and Read prior to Rinaldo being suspended for the final four games of the regular season, and said he could go that route. But Couturier certainly knows what Akeson can bring, from playing and practicing together briefly this season and during the lockout last season.

"He's a great player," Couturier said. "He's been pretty dominant in the minors the last few years. I had the chance to play with him last year during the lockout. He's a really smart player, great vision, good hands. He can create some offensive chances off pretty much anything. He's a good player. It's fun to have him play with us."

Akeson said it's been pretty easy to find chemistry with Couturier and Read.

"They're both really good players," Akeson said. "Really skilled, see the ice really well. Made my job a lot easier. It's pretty fun."

Some of the line decisions could come into great focus Wednesday when Vincent Lecavalier likely will take part in practice. Lecavalier sat out the skate Tuesday for a maintenance day. Steve Downie was out with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.

In Lecavalier's absence, Adam Hall centered the fourth line, flanked by Rinaldo and Tye McGinn. The top line remained the same, with Claude Giroux between Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek, and Brayden Schenn centered a line with Michael Raffl and Wayne Simmonds.

Though the status of goaltender Steve Mason remains unknown, Berube confirmed defenseman Nicklas Grossmann would be in the lineup for Game 1 against the Rangers. He missed the final three regular-season games with an ankle injury.


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