Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Posted: 10:50 a.m.
By Tim PanaccioCSNPhilly.com
OTTAWA -- Considering that Nikolay Zherdev sat the majority of the second half of this NHL season, its a tribute to him that he came out of the press box colder than Siberia but looked strong in consecutive games for the Flyers last weekend.
Hell make his third straight start in the lineup Tuesday against the Senators. He hasnt played three in a row since the beginning of March.
That the Flyers lost both to New Jersey and the New York Rangers is irrelevant to this story only because Zherdev was clearly one of coach Peter Laviolettes best players.
General manager Paul Holmgren admits its not easy being the forgotten man and then being asked to contribute in critical games down the stretch.
The last time this happened to Zherdev happened to be in this very city Feb. 26 in Ottawa. One day removed from clearing waivers, he sat down with Holmgren and Laviolette and they mapped out what they expected of the Russian winger for the rest of the season.
He played real good for half the game and then he ran out of gas, Holmgren said. I think this time in the two games hes played hes looked fresh. Hes really worked hard and Im proud of him.
He spent a lot of time with the assistant coaches and a lot of time just by himself. Hes worked and it shows. We knew at some point that hed come up as a pretty nice option for us to get in there. Credit to Nik, he worked out and hes played good in the games he has played lately.
Zherdev assisted on Jeff Carters goal in New Jersey and almost set up a second Carter goal that game. If Carter had scored, maybe the Flyers wouldnt have lost 4-2 and the Atlantic Division race would be over. Zherdev scored during the Flyers 3-2 shootout loss to the Rangers this weekend.
Initially, the Flyers' record with him in the lineup wasnt very good 4-4-1 at the start. Yet is has gradually improved.
The Flyers are 29-18-6 in games when Zherdev is in the lineup. When he scores, they are 7-3-4. His teammates give him props for showing up under difficult circumstances.
Yeah, that was really impressive what Zherdev did, playing that last game in Jersey and then coming in Sunday and playing really well, said Sean ODonnell.
He had a huge goal. There was another one in the third period, I dont know if it was the first or third but it was down there, it was a one-timer and Henrik Lundqvist made a great save on him.
Thats hats off to him for going through what he has gone through this year, and come in. This is a tough stretch right now. We are playing some tough teams. I thought he has played really well.
Zherdev, who has almost nothing to say win or lose even when he plays was thankful to be back in the Flyers lineup.
It feels good. Its important to me, he said.
Thats about all you get from Zherdev to round out a story.
Hes a pretty quiet guy, ODonnell said. I dont know, its kind of like Sergei Bobrovsky. I dont know if its the Russian in him, but there isnt a whole lot of emotion there.
But I thought Sunday there were times where he wanted the puck and he did some good things out there. It was exciting to see as a teammate.
Theres a chance Zherdev could see some playing time in the playoffs. Theres obviously some chemistry with both Carter and Claude Giroux and its also apparent that Andreas Nodls stock has dipped lately.
A lot depends upon injuries and Zherdev playing both sides of the puck with equal vigor.
Hes a good player and I like playing with him, Giroux said. He makes plays. When he's hard on the puck and wins battles, it makes my job a lot easier and we saw it Sunday. He can skate and he can score goals too.
Carter echoed ODonnells sentiments that it hasnt been easy for Zherdev to just come into the lineup cold and fit. Yet hes shown he can do it.
Its not easy hes been around, hes been practicing and working hard, Carter said. Im glad to see him get an opportunity. He played well in Jersey and Sunday.
Ive never done it, but Im sure its not easy hanging out and just practicing and then going into a game. All things considered, he did a great job for us.
So why has it taken so long for Zherdev to "get it"?
You know, its just one of those things for whatever reason, Holmgren said. After we waived him we had a nice talk to him and since that time hes been a pretty good soldier for us. Now hes getting an opportunity to play and show what he can do.
Bobrovsky will start in net Tuesday in Ottawa. ... Neither Danny Briere (sore groin) nor Blair Betts (left knee) made the trip to Ottawa. Lines from Mondays practice are expected tonight: Ben Holmstrom centering Scott Hartnell and Kris Versteeg; Claude Giroux centering Zherdev and Carter; Mike Richards centering James van Riesmdyk and Ville Leino; Darroll Powe centering Nodl and Dan Carcillo. The Flyers are 10-8-6 since Versteeg arrived. They are 1-3-1 when he scores a goal. In the last 11 games, the Flyers have had seven one-goal losses. You think the power play (2-for-last-19 over that span) could have made a difference? You bet it could.
We continue to work on it, Laviolette said. We feel we have the right people out there. Skill people. The power play can be better. Well certainly be counting on that when playoffs rolls around. Kimmo Timonen said the Flyers are trying to be too cute and fancy right now on the power play. Perhaps because Chris Pronger isnt around. I dont disagree with that being fancy and get more inside the paint, Laviolette said. Just bringing the puck to the net. Scott Hartnells goal in Pittsburgh is a perfect example. Send it low and just slam it at the net. And if that doesnt go in, maybe it kicks out to the guy coming in from the back door.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org
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