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Jakub Voracek leading offense even without scoring a goal

OTTAWA, Ontario — If an NBA shooting guard started the season 0 for 29, there would be questions as to why he’s in the league.

If a major-league hitter started the year 0 for 29 at the plate, there might be a minor-league assignment to work on his mechanics.

But in the NHL, an 0-for-29 shooting start to a season may not even warrant a discussion or, in the case of Jakub Voracek, an afterthought.

It may appear bizarre that the Flyers' leading scorer (12 points), who also leads the team in shots on net, is without a single goal through the first nine games of the season. Tuesday against Anaheim, Voracek ripped a slap shot from the top of the circle that hit Ducks goaltender John Gibson right in the chest. At that moment, Voracek looked straight up to the rafters with curiosity as to when that first puck might find the back of the net.

However, this is a different Flyers team, a different season, and quite possibly, a different Voracek.

“I think it’s different this year, because we’re winning and I’m still putting up points,” Voracek said Thursday. “It would be worse if I wasn’t putting up points, and it would cost the team from winning the games. It’s different because as a team, I think we’re scoring, so I’m not that worried about that.”

Right now, Voracek and Washington center Evgeny Kuznetsov are the only two players in the league with a double-digit point total without the benefit of a goal. 

Goals will come eventually as Voracek’s been generating offense from the opening period in San Jose when he snared a Martin Jones pass and fed a wide-open Claude Giroux, who one-timed a shot into the empty net for the Flyers' first goal of the season. It’s one of the top lines in the entire NHL with Voracek, Giroux and Sean Couturier combining for 32 points and are first, second and fourth, respectively, on the team in scoring.

“If Jake keeps playing the way he’s playing, I’ll be real happy,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He’s doing a lot of good things for our team. He’s going to score at some point in time with the number of opportunities. He’s producing offense, whether or not he’s the guy putting the puck in the back of the net, he’s producing offense for our team, whether that’s 5-on-5 or on the power play.”

The 5-on-5 portion of Voracek’s play appears to be his greater emphasis. Last season, despite leading the team with 61 points, Voracek also posted a team-worst minus-24, which was a reflection of how poorly the Flyers' top line performed at even strength and a reminder how much better Voracek needed to play defensively.  

“I’m more focused on the way I play,” Voracek said. “So far, Coots is helping as well. I’d say I’m playing a pretty good two-way game. I take it to heart last year because the plus/minus number for me wasn’t very good. It’s real important for me to be in the plus number.”

Voracek is driving hard to the net and creating quality scoring chances, which if it was an official NHL stat, he’d likely lead the Flyers in that category as well. 

"For me, I think that’s always been most important,” Voracek said. “Make sure I’m in the right spot. I earn those chances during the game because I work hard. That’s what I can do right now. If I get stuck on not scoring a goal, it’s only going to get worse.

"Obviously, it would be nice if I got that goal sooner or later.”

'Simmer' vs. the Senators
Wayne Simmonds expects to play tonight against the Senators after taking a puck off his leg and hobbling at times during the game Tuesday night.

“As long as I can contribute, right, and not be a detriment to the team, I’m going to play,” Simmonds said.

Simmonds comes into Thursday’s game against Ottawa looking for his first point against the Senators since Guy Boucher took over as head coach last season. The 'Wayne Train' generated just three shots in those three games, and with patience comes points.

“I think they want to lull you to sleep and then they jump on their opportunities,” Simmonds said. “It’s like going through a maze in the neutral zone. You get pucks deep, you can’t turn them over. For us, play smart, play fast and make sure their defense is facing their glass.”

“These guys for sure present a challenge,” Hakstol said. “They’re hard to play against with and without the puck. So much of the discussion about Ottawa is what they’re doing without the puck. You've got to remember once they turn it over, they’ve got a lot of team speed and they transition very well, and that’s where they hurt you.” 

Projected Lines

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny/Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Brandon Manning- Radko Gudas
Travis Sanheim-Robert Hagg

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Update: Patrick did not play because of an upper-body injury. The rookie center is considered day to day.