Matt Niskanen will never forget his time with the Capitals.
When you give hundreds of thousands of fans a parade in a city craving a championship, it would be impossible to move on with no sentimental feelings for the past.
But Niskanen is now a Flyer and playing for a city that hasn't seen its hockey team win a Stanley Cup since 1975. Performing in orange and black is his focus, as hard as that is when facing his former teammates for the first time since being traded during June.
Niskanen won the 2018 Stanley Cup in Washington, the city's first major championship since 1992. The Capitals visited Philadelphia to play the Flyers Wednesday night and held a morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center.
The 32-year-old defenseman hadn't yet caught up with his old buddies. Following the game might be a better time for Niskanen.
"There’s that kind of special connection that you get when you have that kind of success with a team," he said Wednesday morning.
"There’s a fine balance of wanting to say hi to these guys and also you’ve got to cut the cord a bit, too. My focus is playing well with the Flyers right now. But I’m not that far removed from playing with these guys, so if I see somebody, I’ll chat and say hi.”
Niskanen has been excellent for the Flyers, impacting the club's improved goal prevention, special teams units and young defensemen. Some of his new, younger teammates have asked him about winning a Stanley Cup.
"A bit," the unassuming Niskanen said. "It’s not something that comes up all the time, or usually not in front of a big group. I try not to bring it up too much. On occasion, a few times they have.”
Alain Vigneault knew about Niskanen from coaching against him in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers' head coach also heard from Scott Arniel — one of the Capitals' assistant coaches who was on Vigneault's staff in New York — about Niskanen.
“He told me that I was going to have a real solid leader, quiet leadership, but great role model and that’s exactly what we have," Vigneault said.
“Just by the way he conducts himself. If you watch him in practice, he’s always doing things the right way and he pays a lot of attention to details. When he talks to, whether it be a teammate or coaches, it’s soft-spoken but right to the point. We’ve got a great person there and we’ve got a defenseman that’s really helping us out.”
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