Two weeks ago, Flyers head coach Craig Berube benched Steve Downie in New York against the Rangers citing a “lack of intensity” from the 27-year-old forward.
Downie sat two games, then returned to play five more before being benched over the weekend against Boston after a minus-2 performance in Columbus on Jan. 23.
He’ll make his lineup return Tuesday night as the Flyers host Detroit before heading to the West Coast for a three-game, six-day road trip.
“I’m looking for him to be an intense hockey player,” Berube said. “The Steve Downie that I know wins one-on-one battles in the corner, comes up with loose pucks, he’s strong on the stick -- heavy stick. Things like that. That’s what we are looking for.”
Downie suffered a concussion in his very first game coming back here after being traded from Colorado on Oct. 31. He missed four games, returned to play and had a strong offensive start for the Flyers -- one goal, eight assists, nine points in 12 games -- before his game started to get bogged down with bad penalties and sluggish skating.
In mid-December, Downie suffered an upper-body injury and missed two games. The exact nature of the injury was never disclosed, but Downie said two weeks ago in New York he was still fighting some issues.
Whether it’s a concussion or some kind of head injury, no one knows for certain, but Downie hasn’t been the same player he was in November. Today, he said he felt better.
“I feel pretty good, it was a tough patch there when I got here, but I feel pretty good,” he said.
Asked whether he feels as good as he did starting the season in Colorado, he avoided a direct answer.
“Being in and out of the lineup, I haven’t felt too good,” he said. “It’s a tough situation right now. I have to keep grinding it out and wait for my opportunities. But I feel pretty good.
“It’s tough not being in the lineup every night. You have to stay focused. Wait for your opportunity -- grind it out, I guess. My focus now is be ready when I am called.”
The coaching staff has talked to him, he said, about his benchings. Some of those talks concerned his penchant for taking undisciplined penalties. He cost the Flyers dearly in a shootout loss to the Islanders with two bad penalties recently.
“We had our discussions,” he said. “I have to find a way to contribute to this team again.”
This is a contract year for Downie, as well, as he’s in the final year of a two-year, $5.3 million deal. That makes it imperative for him to play games and avoid serious injury that could impact his next contract.
“You can’t think about that during the season,” Downie said. “It’s a team sport. It’s not individual. At the end of the day, you have to win games.
“If I can’t bring an element to help this team win a game, then I shouldn’t be playing, along with anyone else. You have to find a way to contribute to the team and bring something. At the end of the day, you have to win the games.”