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Simmonds says first game for Devils against Flyers will be 'pretty weird'

Forward hoping to be cheered in return to Philadelphia

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Wayne Simmonds no longer wants to hear boos when he plays the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time with the New Jersey Devils at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS).

The forward agreed to terms on a one-year, $5 million contract with the Devils as an unrestricted free agent July 1 after eight seasons in Philadelphia. He was traded by the Flyers to the Nashville Predators on Feb. 25.

"Hopefully, I get some cheers," Simmonds said Monday. "I was deep-rooted in that community and spent eight years there and had a great time. I thoroughly enjoyed Philadelphia and was proud to be a part of that franchise. Obviously, I don't regret anything I ever did in a Flyers uniform."

Simmonds, who will play on a line with rookie center Jack Hughes and Blake Coleman, has one assist, two hits and three shots on goal in two games for the Devils (0-1-1). It's the home opener for the Flyers, who defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 at the 2019 NHL Global Series in Prague, Czech Republic, on Oct. 4.

"It'll be pretty weird, but at the same time, it's another hockey game," Simmonds said. "I have to get my mind right to make sure I'm mentally and physically prepared for that game, ready to get the two points for the New Jersey Devils."

During an interview at BioSteel Camp in Toronto on Aug. 30, Simmonds said he'd "be mad if they didn't boo me" but changed his tune about fans in Philadelphia on Monday. He had 378 of his 475 NHL points for the Flyers and scored an NHL career-high 32 goals in 2015-16.

Devils center Travis Zajac called Simmonds "the prototypical gamer." He and forward Kyle Palmieri expect him to get a nice ovation in his return to Philadelphia.

"He embodied the style of play that they've played for quite some time," Palmieri said. "He's one of the toughest guys in the League to play against with his size, his skill and how tough he is, how good of a competitor he is. That's something I'm sure the Philly fans appreciated over the years, but I'm sure it's going to sting them a little bit to see him in a Devils jersey."

Simmonds said his most memorable moment with the Flyers was his last game, a 4-3 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Lincoln Financial Field on Feb. 23. He remembers how captain Claude Giroux and forward Jakub Voracek gave him the helmet as player of the game even though he did not have a point.

"It was really touching for me to see how much the guys actually really appreciated me after that game in the locker room," Simmonds said. "That was pretty cool moment for me. We had a good group of guys that were together for a long time and we were really tight, so it was cool to see. It was nice to be appreciated, that's for sure."

Devils coach John Hynes said it wouldn't surprise him if Simmonds received a standing ovation.

"He's such a team player, a heart-and-soul guy," Hynes said. "He didn't choose to leave (Philadelphia), he got traded, and did a lot for their franchise. He's impressed us. I would hope that a player and person of that character will get a nice invite back." 

Hughes, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, said he looks forward to skating with Simmonds against the Flyers. 

"He's a 30-goal scorer," Hughes said. "I know he wants to get back to that level this year, so I hope I can help him do that. He and Coleman have been good the last two games. Coleman has that speed and [Simmonds is] a big body, so I think it's a good mix for me."

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