It took 22 days -- and seven ugly losses -- for Vinny Lecavalier to get his wish.
Lecavalier, who should return tonight from a lower-body injury suffered Oct. 11, will move from center to right wing to play on a line with Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl.
It’s not his natural position, but he is looking forward to the move because it means he gets to skate with the Flyers’ captain tonight against the New York Rangers (see game notes).
“I love it,” Lecavalier said. “He’s a great player, a great passer. Very, very smart, quick little plays. Kind of easy to play with. It’s been going really good in practices. I’ve always played against him and he was a great player, but to be with him, you look at the way he thinks out there, he’s a very special player.”
Lecavalier has just one goal and two assists in five games, but the hope is putting him with Giroux will awaken both offensively -- and thereby get the Flyers' first line going, something coach Craig Berube has expressed is critical. Lecavalier has experience playing alongside very skilled players in his past with Tampa Bay (think Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis), though until now his linemates in Philly have been of a different caliber.
The move could also be the spark that helps Giroux net his much-needed first goal of the season.
“I just think Claude, he’ll be very excited to play with a guy of Vinny’s caliber and experience that he’s had over the years, Stanley Cup champion and all those things,” Berube said. “Vinny’s a great goal-scorer, shoots the puck real well. We all know how Claude can pass the puck. So it could be a good combination.”
In addition to the hoped-for on-ice chemistry, the veteran Lecavalier could also help Giroux mentally. It's no secret Giroux is feeling the stress of his offensive struggles, and Lecavalier believes he might be able to get the Flyers' captain out of his own head.
"He puts pressure on himself for sure, I think that’s what makes him who he is: a great player," Lecavalier said. "I can be that way, all the guys can, sometimes be too intense. Slow down and say, 'We’re playing good, we’re getting our chances, it’s going to come.' I’ll definitely try to bring that, and we’ll definitely talk in between shifts and make sure we’re on the same page.
"That’s probably the most important thing."
Who’s Cam Talbot?
On the whiteboard in the Flyers’ locker room Tuesday morning were scouting notes on Cam Talbot, the goaltender they’ll be facing tonight. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him –- Talbot has never before played in an NHL game (see story).
For the Flyers, it’s hard to say whether or not facing an unknown opponent in net is a good thing.
It is a benefit, though, that they won’t be facing former Vezina-winner Henrik Lundqvist, who they’ve largely struggled to solve over the past few seasons.
“Obviously there’s pluses and minuses about playing a new goalie,” Giroux said. “But he’s a good goalie. We’re aware of that, so we’re going to have to put some pucks on net.”
According to their coach, the Flyers have planned for Talbot exactly how they’ve planned for every other goalie they have faced. There’s no specific key to taking on an unknown netminder.
“It’s going to be hard like it always is,” Berube said. “Nothing changes. You’ve got to shoot pucks, get to the net.”
Mason goes again
In net for the Flyers once again will be Steve Mason, starting his seventh game of the season.
Despite his 1-5 record, Mason has been consistent and impressive in each of his performances. Though the stats don’t tell the happiest of stories (2.37 goals-against average, .923 save percentage), Mason has given the Flyers a chance to win every game he’s been a part of.
He’ll have to be sharp once again against the Rangers, even though they’ll be without captain Ryan Callahan (thumb), Rick Nash (head) and Carl Hagelin (shoulder).
Since he took over, Berube has been working to train the Flyers in his system -- to get them to the point where they know exactly what they’re supposed to do in every situation they might encounter.
As he said: He wants them to “have the system down where it’s already in their mind, they don’t have to think about it.” They simply execute.
So, after six days off and plenty of high-intensity practice, have they reached that point yet?
“We’re getting there,” Berube said. “We’re not totally there, but we’re getting there.”