Schenn lat­est to au­di­tion for top line sta­tus

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery @21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

VOORHEES, N.J. >> The more the Fly­ers’ record trended medi­ocre, the closer Dave Hak­stol would move to­ward the in­evitable.

So, he has, stitch­ing to­gether what long was sus­pected to be his pre­ferred No. 1 line, fit­ting Wayne Sim­monds and Claude Giroux with Bray­den Schenn.

Schenn was sus­pended for the first three games of the sea­son for his hit on the Cap­i­tals’ T.J. Oshie dur­ing the play­offs last spring. Ver­sa­tile, he has played mostly as a third-line cen­ter of late, though he has also played on var­i­ous lines as a left wing. But when the 6-6-3 Fly­ers visit the 5-5-3 Toronto Maple Leafs Fri­day night, he will re­place Matt Read as the top-line left-wing.

“I think I’d like to see some con­sis­tency and be able to give him that,” Hak­stol said Thurs­day, after prac­tice at the Skate Zone. “I re­ally wanted to look at him up the mid­dle. He was there for three games. The first two games, I thought he did a good job. Our team played well. The last one (a 3-2 shootout loss to the Red Wings) was tough to eval­u­ate him as a cen­ter­man. It wasn’t a great per­for­mance for him. And it cer­tainly wasn’t a great per­for­mance by our team, just in terms of our over­all play and en­ergy.

“So we stuck with that for three games to re­ally take a close look at him and I think there’s a lot of pos­i­tives to him, there, up the mid­dle. But we need him up on that wing. And he, along with G and Sim­mer, proved to be a very good line fully down the stretch last year. They have some pretty good chem­istry.”

In his 11 games, Schenn has two goals and nine points, and could ex­pect some more pro­duc­tion be­ing re-con­nected with Sim­monds and Giroux.

“To be hon­est, and I said it be­fore, it doesn’t change my role,” Schenn said. “It doesn’t change what I try to do on the ice, ob­vi­ously. Play­ing with ‘G’ and Sim­mer, we have had some chem­istry along the way.

“Hope­fully we can get it go­ing early on and we can stay to­gether for a pe­riod of time.”

Schenn was not dis­turbed by his con­tin­u­ally chang­ing as­sign­ments.

“It is what it is,” he said. “They are look­ing for bal­ance. They are look­ing for chem­istry. There’s a bunch of fac­tors that come into it. I’m the guy that’s kind of been tossed around a lit­tle bit, all over the place so far. But to me it doesn’t bother me.”

Read will fall to a fourth line with Pierre-Edouard Belle­mare and Ro­man Lyu­bi­mov. And though Hak­stol is never far from an­other change, he of­fi­cially let it out Thurs­day that, this time, he will give his No. 1 line some time.

“In a per­fect world,” he said, “I’d like to see that group stay to­gether and re­build our chem­istry.”

•••

Just be­cause some­one turned off the lights at the Maple Leafs’ prac­tice fa­cil­ity Wed­nes­day, coach Mike Bab­cock didn’t con­sider it quit­ting time. So on the Leafs worked, in the dark, just a day after a 7-0 loss to the Los An­ge­les Kings.

Dave Hak­stol has heard of that hockey-prac­tice tech­nique … even though that was him Thurs­day, try­ing through half a smile to pre­tend that he hadn’t.

“Don’t ask my for­mer play­ers, be­cause I’ll just deny it,” said Hak­stol, for­merly the coach at the Univer­sity of North Dakota. “Next ques­tion?” Again, he smiled. “Well, there was an old tra­di­tion, and I loosely use that term, ‘tra­di­tion,’” he said. “But there was some­thing called the ‘Black Sun­day.’ It was the odd ‘Black Sun­day.’ Not very of­ten.”

Hak­stol did not deny that those usu­ally oc­curred after a dis­ap­point­ing Satur­day.

“Some­times, it’s the best way to kind of clear the minds of ev­ery­body, to just go do some work,” he said. “So I guess that’s one way of do­ing it.”

•••

NOTES >> Lyu­bi­mov was for­mally back on the Fly­ers’ ros­ter Thurs­day, a day after be­ing “loaned” to the Phan­toms in a salary-cap back-door … For­mer Fly­ers Dave Schultz, Bob Kelly and Todd Fe­doruk will en­gage in a Q-and-A with the au­di­ence Nov. 22 at the Kim­mel Cen­ter after a screen­ing of “Ice Guardians,” a doc­u­men­tary about the his­tory of the hockey en­forcer … Steve Ma­son will tend goal Fri­day in Toronto be­fore the Fly­ers re­turn to the Wells Fargo Cen­ter for a Satur­day visit from the Min­nesota Wild.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Bray­den Schenn (10) and Wayne Sim­monds, left, hope to share more goal-scor­ing cel­e­bra­tions on the Fly­ers’ top line, which also in­cludes team cap­tain Claude Giroux.

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