Mi­nor scorer Varone on hand for road trip

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SPORTS - By Rob Par­ent rpar­[email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @Reluc­tan­tSE on Twit­ter

The Fly­ers have em­barked on a five-game road trip with a first stop in Buf­falo for a Satur­day mati­nee. Along for the ride is a some­what fa­mil­iar face ... to the Sabres.

That would be Phil Varone, who is prob­a­bly the best player in the Fly­ers’ or­ga­ni­za­tion not play­ing with the Fly­ers. Well, soon maybe.

Varone, 28, the most valu­able player in the AHL in 2017-18 and light­ing up the score­boards again this sea­son, fi­nally earned a callup for the Fly­ers’ 1 o’clock game against the Sabres.

He will be in the Buf­falo build­ing in which he made his NHL de­but on Jan. 23, 2014 for the Sabres against Carolina. The diminu­tive (5-10, 185) cen­ter has ap­peared in 50 NHL games with Buf­falo and Ot­tawa, rack­ing up five goals and 10 points.

But it’s in the top mi­nor league that he’s made his mark. Com­ing off that MVP sea­son, his first in Le­high Val­ley and a cam­paign in which he tal­lied 23 goals and 70 points, Varone has 11 goals and 28 points in 22 Phan­toms games this sea­son.

The On­tario na­tive was orig­i­nally a fifth-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2009 but never signed with them. He signed a free agent deal with the Rochester Amerks in 2011 and led that AHL club in scor­ing for his first three sea­sons, earn­ing an NHL one-way con­tract along the way in March 2012.

He was traded to the Sen­a­tors on Feb. 27, 2016, and for the rest of that sea­son and the fol­low­ing year would play eight games with the Sen­a­tors and the rest with their AHL af­fil­i­ate in Bing­ham­ton.

The Fly­ers then signed him to a two-way free agent deal in 2017. He noted in a re­cent club ra­dio in­ter­view that he has been get­ting more penalty killing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with the Phan­toms and is mo­ti­vated by it.

“Last year, I felt like I needed to score,” Varone said. “Now I feel like I can con­trib­ute in dif­fer­ent ways. I feel like when I have more re­spon­si­bil­ity on my plate, it brings more out of me.”

As for the Fly­ers, they need to bring more out of them­selves, and since they seem to play bet­ter on the road maybe this trip that starts in Buf­falo and winds out to West­ern Canada (Win­nipeg Sun­day, Cal­gary Wed­nes­day, Ed­mon­ton Fri­day and Van­cou­ver next Satur­day) can be a good thing.

“It’s a chal­leng­ing trip,” coach Dave Hak­stol said. “Go on a trip out west, you have to be at your best.”

That’s what the Fly­ers weren’t Thurs­day night at home in a 4-3 over­time loss to Columbus, their first game un­der new GM Chuck Fletcher. By the way on the trip watch­ing.

“There’s a lot of ar­eas in that game last night that we weren’t happy with, but there were a lot of good ar­eas in that game as well,” Hak­stol said. “We have to take those pos­i­tives and shore up some of the soft spots in our game.” ... he’ll be

GARY WIEPERT — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Phil Varone (84), with Buf­falo in 2015, car­ries the puck up ice next to Toronto’s Zach Sill in Buf­falo, N.Y. Varone is back in Buf­falo with the Fly­ers for Satur­day’s game.

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