Philly still Wayne’s world

Fly­ers, fans ex­cited about Sim­mond’s re­turn to city with Devils

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Wayne Fish For more from Wayne Fish, see Fly­ingFishHoc­key.com.

VOORHEES, N.J. — There’s al­ways plenty of excitement for a hockey team’s home opener.

In the case of the Philadel­phia Fly­ers, though, that level of en­ergy prom­ises to in­crease ex­po­nen­tially be­cause not only are the rival New Jersey Devils the op­po­nent, but old pal Wayne Simmonds re­turns to Wells Fargo Cen­ter for the first time since last sea­son’s de­par­ture.

Simmonds will be with the Devils when the Fly­ers try to run their record to 2-0 on Wednesday (7:30 p.m.) after last Fri­day’s “home” win over Chicago in Prague.

A sell­out crowd would have been pretty jacked up even if Simmonds didn’t have a spot on the Devils’ ros­ter. Hav­ing him around will only add to the noise level.

The play­ers ex­pect some “chirp­ing” dur­ing the game but also a lot of pregame laughs and kid­ding around.

Simmonds, who played here from 2011 to 2019, was traded to Nashville about two min­utes be­fore the Fe­bru­ary deadline, then signed a one-year, $5mil­lion free-agent con­tract with the Devils in the off­sea­son.

“It’s go­ing to be weird to see him in that uni­form,” said Scott Laughton after Tues­day’s prac­tice at the Skate Zone.

“But I mean it’s ex­cit­ing. I think ‘Sim­mer’ did so much for this or­ga­ni­za­tion — when I came in the 2012 sea­son, he kind of took me un­der his wing for the next six.

“He’s def­i­nitely missed here in the locker room. It will be ex­cit­ing to see him and I’m sure he won’t let up on us.”

Sim­i­lar com­ments were ex­pressed around the Fly­ers locker room.

“It’s go­ing to be strange,” Jake Vo­racek said. “We go back a long way [to 2011]. There are no hard feel­ings, for sure.

“I’ll ask him if he wants to go to din­ner [Tues­day night]. I don’t know if they have a team din­ner.

“(I’ll] prob­a­bly text him and maybe go see him and talk about life. He [and his wife] had a baby in the sum­mer so I’ll find out how they’re do­ing.”

Sean Cou­turier also goes back to Simmonds’ first year with the Fly­ers (2011-12).

“It will be a lit­tle dif­fer­ent,” Cou­turier ac­knowl­edged. “We’re used to hav­ing him on our side, stick­ing up for us.

“But it’s a new sea­son. He’s gone now. We have to turn the page. He was a great player for us. Now we have to look ahead and mind our own busi­ness.”

Cou­turier raises a good point. Even though the Devils have got­ten off to a rocky start (0-1-1, mi­nus-6 goal dif­fer­en­tial), they have sev­eral po­tent of­fen­sive weapons, in­clud­ing 2019 No. 1 over­all draft pick Jack Hughes.

“Sim­mer has been a great player and help­ful to a lot of guys,” Ivan Provorov said. “It’s go­ing to be a fun matchup.”

James van Riems­dyk said Simmonds re­minded him of an­other Flyer tough guy who hap­pened to be a line­mate.

“I re­mem­ber last year,” said van Riems­dyk, who be­fore last year had spent six sea­sons in Toronto. “I hadn’t played with some­one that tough since Ar­ron Asham.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing how much more space you have out there. [Simmonds] is al­ways a big presence on the ice. That el­e­ment of him play­ing a phys­i­cal brand … he def­i­nitely gave you that ex­tra bit of room, al­most gave you that el­e­ment of a lit­tle more con­fi­dence.”

Time off helps time ad­just­ment

The Fly­ers flew home from Prague on Satur­day and had Sun­day and Mon­day off to get read­justed to U.S. time again.

Goal­tender Carter Hart, who will start against the Devils, said it took him a while to get his sleep sched­ule back in order.

While it’s usu­ally eas­ier fly­ing east to west, Hart still needed some time to get back on track.

“I stayed up [late Satur­day night, U.S. time] and watched some TV shows, like ‘Ballers’ on HBO,” he said. “The next day I was start­ing to fade out in the af­ter­noon [I] was pretty tired.

“So I got up and got some gro­ceries to stay awake. I tried to get back to my nor­mal bed­time sched­ule. I slept all the way through to 8 [a.m.]. I hon­estly don’t feel that bad now.”

Four-plus days cer­tainly helped get things back to nor­mal. But will there be any signs of rust?

Coach Alain Vigneault shook his head. Prob­a­bly not, be­cause most of the Fly­ers skated on their own Mon­day to get their legs back un­der them.

“I believe we’re go­ing to be fine [Wednesday],” he said. “[With] the skate yes­ter­day, plus the off-ice stuff and to­day’s prac­tice, we should be fine.”

Short shots

Laughton had a wis­dom tooth ex­tracted on Mon­day but took part in a full prac­tice on Tues­day. … Nolan Patrick (mi­graine dis­or­der) is still listed as week-toweek. … Vigneault doesn’t usu­ally hold morn­ing skates, but he will Wednesday at Wells Fargo Cen­ter be­cause “guys will be a lit­tle anx­ious, a lit­tle bit ner­vous, which is quite nor­mal.” … Line com­bi­na­tions are still a work in progress. “De­fen­sively, I thought our po­si­tion­ing was good against Chicago,” Vigneault said. “The fact that they came in [Mon­day to skate] shows they want to be the best they can be.” Vigneault said he liked what he saw of the four lines he used in Prague.

BRUCE BEN­NETT/GETTY

For­mer Flyer Wayne Simmonds, seen yelling at an op­po­nent dur­ing a pre­sea­son game, re­turns to Philadel­phia on Wednesday with the New Jersey Devils.

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