VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Matt Read did not have to worry about being an NHL draft bust.
He did not impress scouts enough to be drafted at all while playing collegiate hockey at Bemidji State in Minnesota. Instead, the Flyers' winger had to make the NHL the hard way — as a free agent.
“Out of college, I signed with the Flyers and was just doing everything I could to get an opportunity to make the team,” Read, 30, recalled after the team’s morning skate before the Flyers take on the Vancouver Canucks.
His hard work and determination were rewarded here as he drew into the Flyers lineup for his 400th NHL career game.
“If you told me as a 12-year-old self I was playing 400 games in the NHL, I’d be pretty happy, obviously,” Read said. “I don’t have enough words to describe (what the accomplishment means.) Every day in the NHL is a blessing, I guess. You show up every day, work hard and have fun. As a kid, I wanted to be a professional hockey player, and I get to live it out everyday, which is amazing.”
Read originally signed as a free agent with the Flyers in 2011. Unlike many other NHLers, he has played his entire career with the same organization.
“The opportunity to play for the same team for six years is almost unheard of in the National Hockey League these days, so (I) take advantage of it and enjoy it,” Read said.
What has enabled him to stick?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m just showing up at the rink every day to work hard, have fun, be a team guy and do as much as I can to make this team better.”
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said he has a “solid level of trust” in Read.
“There’s a lot of different pathways towards the NHL,” Hakstol said. “I think what you see in that guys that are able to hit a milestone like 400 is, there’s a level of dedication and consistency in terms of work habits to get there. Obviously, Matt has demonstrated those. It’s a hell of a milestone. (But) probably first and foremost on his mind, I would think, tonight is playing a good hockey game and helping our team.”
MacDonald gets night off
Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald received the night off as Hakstol made him a healthy scratch. The move was somewhat surprising, because MacDonald has played every game since he was scratched Nov. 19 against Tampa Bay.
Hakstol said MacDonald needed a rest. As a result, Brandon Manning was shifted to the right side from the left and paired with Ivan Provorov.
According to the coach, Manning has not had trouble switching sides this season.
“He’s done a pretty good job,” Hakstol said. “If you look at it, particularly this year, he’s been pretty efficient in making that transition. Is it easy? No.”
Neuvy gets the nod again
Hakstol did not think goaltender Michal Neuvirth needed a rest. He got the nod for his fourth straight start and sixth in the last seven games overall.
“He’s been the guy that’s been in a rhythm for us and he’s done a pretty good job and he’ll go back tonight,” Hakstol said.
Neuvirth was not complaining about the heavy workload.
“It’s good to be playing,” Neuvirth said. “The more I play, the more comfortable I feel. It’s been good.”
He also prepared to be comfortable with the risk of added fatigue.
“It is what it is — you’ve gotta be ready anytime, any day,” Neuvirth said. “It’s a good opportunity for me and it’s gonna be a good challenge.”
Former Flyers coach enshrined
Late former Flyers coach Pat Quinn has been honored with a life-sized statue outside the home of the Canucks. The monument, funded by a group of Quinn’s friends and business partners, was unveiled over the weekend.
Quinn began his coaching career with the Flyers in 1977-78 before holding coaching and managing positions with the AHL Phantoms and four other NHL clubs, including the Canucks. He guided the Flyers to a 35-game unbeaten streak — a record for North American sports — in 1979-80, when they reached the Stanley Cup finals.
• The Flyers’ .667 winning percentage in Vancouver ranks as their best in any current NHL city.
• Despite outshooting their opponents in 15 of 20 games dating to Jan. 1, the Flyers are 5-8-2 in the 15 contests.
Scratches: Defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Nick Schultz