VOORHEES, N.J. — Eight games into his call-up, Taylor Leier is expected to make his first appearance with the Flyers’ top line Wednesday night in St. Louis.
This is the first of a three-game post-Christmas road trip out West.
The move was necessitated because Michael Raffl sustained an MCL sprain in his right knee against New Jersey right before the Christmas break and the Flyers need another left wing on Claude Giroux’s line.
Obviously, this is a decent promotion for the 22-year-old from Saskatoon, SK, who has been playing in a fourth-line role since joining the Flyers on Dec. 5 as a replacement for the injured Matt Read (oblique pull).
Leier will skate with Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
“It’s a big deal,” Leier admitted. “I’ll bring the same gameday mentality. I’m not going to play differently. Whatever line I play on, I will play the same, whether it’s with (Nick) Cousins or (Dale) Weise or G and Jake.
“If I get put up there, they are putting me up there for a reason and that’s to play my game. I’ll stick to my strengths. Bring speed. Those guys are world-class talents. It’ll be nice to play with them if I get the opportunity.”
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol feels Leier can handle the challenge he’ll be given on this three-game road trip, which also includes San Jose and Anaheim.
“He’s done a good job in a couple different roles,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t seem to change his game. He’s a pretty intelligent two-way player, responsible defensively. Each and every night, he’s brought good pace and tenacity.”
Leier should get a nice bump in ice time, as well, from the 8:28 he averages now.
“I don’t see that as a problem,” he said. “I played a lot down in the American League. Every chance I get in practice or the gym, I’ve been working hard to keep up all my endurance I’ve built up. If I go up or down, I’m prepared for anything.”
Leier scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 17 in Dallas.
There will be another lineup change against the Blues, as well, as defenseman Nick Schultz returns on defense, paired with Shayne Gostisbehere.
Schultz has missed a career-high 22 games as a healthy scratch. Brandon Manning will sit this game out.
“I’ve had a couple [scratches] here and there but nothing to this extent,” the 34-year-old veteran blueliner said. “It’s tough. With all the games, not as much practice, you just try to stay in shape and ready as much as you can. It’s definitely mentally hard. Physically, you try to stay with it.”
When Hakstol makes these kinds of lineup changes, it’s usually only for a game or two to keep a guy in game shape, which Schultz clearly is not in right now.
“You’re not in the rhythm other guys are,” Schultz said. “Once you’re playing, you get into the rhythm of playing games. Game-like situations can’t simulate that, especially if you haven’t practiced a lot.”