ANAHEIM, Calif. — It appears Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol is switching up his second and third lines for tonight's game against the Anaheim Ducks.
During today's morning skate, Nolan Patrick and Valtteri Filppula swapped spots. Patrick was centering Dale Weise and Travis Konecny, while Filppula was with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds.
Patrick had his hands full Wednesday with Logan Couture's line in San Jose and then endured a heavy workload the following night against "That 70's Line," arguably the Kings' best line with Jeff Carter at center.
The line of Weal, Filppula and Simmonds caught fire in the final few weeks of last season, and perhaps Hakstol is looking for that line to spark some offensive firepower again.
“We’re definitely more familiar,” Filppula said. “We played quite a bit at the end of last season. That’s always something that helps.”
“I don’t know (why it worked). We just built chemistry really quickly — me and Wealsy,” Simmonds said. “We started off with (Claude) Giroux and then switched to Filppula and I don’t think we missed a beat. Filppula’s a veteran player with great awareness and he’s always in the right spots. The way he plays the game, you just get open and he’s going to put the puck on your stick. For me, I think that’s a great thing.”
It’s easy to look at the move as a demotion for the 19-year-old rookie Patrick, but it could allow him to open up his game offensively playing alongside Konecny.
“Just continue to grow your game,” Hakstol said of Patrick. “He’s a confident player. He’s doing a good job. He’s going to experience a lot of firsts along the way. First game in San Jose, I thought he did a really good job — with the puck, without the puck. The following night he has the experience of his first back-to-back with a little bit of travel in between, and he’s going to continue to learn through a lot of these firsts.”
Whenever the Ducks and Flyers do battle, it’s typically a matchup of two of the premier power forwards at the right wing position. Since Simmonds joined the Flyers in 2011, Corey Perry ranks second in goals in the NHL with 183 amongst right wing and Simmonds is fourth with 166. The "Wayne Train" has patterned himself after Perry over the years.
“I actually used to hate his guts (when I was in L.A.),” Simmonds said of Perry. “But we spend a lot of time now in the London (Ontario) area during the offseason. He’s one of the guys I’ve tried to emulate his game since coming to Philadelphia — playing that net-front presence. He’s probably been the best in the league over the last 10 years in that area. There’s lot of his game that I’ve tried to take and incorporate into my own.
“He’s a good player. He’s strong, he’s physical. He can skate. He’s got good hand-eye coordination,” Perry said. “You put all of those together, you’ve got a pretty good hockey player. He’s a player I know quite well. He loves the game and he just wants to be out there and help the team win.”
Brian Elliott will be back in net, and this time, looking to wash out the bad taste of last year’s playoff series against the Ducks, who swept Elliott’s Flames out of the playoffs, essentially ending his brief one-year stint in Calgary.
Elliott started all four games and finished with a 0-3 record, a 3.89 goals-against average and an .880 save percentage. It was, by far, the worst playoff series in his 10-year NHL career.
Hakstol believes, though, Elliott can build off his season-opening victory in San Jose.
“There were several key (third period) saves in that game,” Hakstol said. “He fought hard to make those saves. Beyond that, I thought he had a good presence. The end result is what really matters. He helped us get a win in a tough building on the road in night No. 1"
In studying game tape of the Flyers' first two games, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle has definitely noticed the speed and agility of the Flyers’ blue line.
“The one thing you do notice that stands out is the ability of their back end,” Carlyle said. “That’s probably the biggest change I can see from the two games that I’ve watched. I think that the (Shayne) Gostisbehere kid is a special player in the back end, and (Ivan) Provorov seems to have a comfort zone in doing that and playing that type of game, and they have some young kids who can move up and down the ice.”
A day off in paradise
Nothing beats a complete day off on a road trip in Southern California.
Filppula lounged around Newport Beach. Sean Couturier hit the stores for some shopping, where he purchased a pair of dress shoes. However, none of that topped the excitement of the Jakub Voracek-led group that spent the day at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Voracek drove a “soccer-mom” style minivan toting around teammates Radko Gudas, Michal Neuvirth and Gostisbehere to name a few.
Projected lineups and pairings
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas