Schenn latest to audition for top line status
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.
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.