Flyers Storylines: Simmonds expanding role

Flyers Storylines: Simmonds expanding role
February 2, 2014, 7:00 pm
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Wayne Simmonds leads the Flyers with 18 goals this season. (AP)

Before he was acquired by the Flyers, Wayne Simmonds was lucky to get 15 minutes of ice time per game while serving as a checking-line forward for the Los Angeles Kings.

Fast forward a few years and you find the 25-year-old blossoming into one of the most productive players for the orange and black.

Simmonds, as we all know by now, was part of the surprising deal that sent Mike Richards to the Kings in the summer of 2011. On Saturday, Simmonds played his first game in Los Angeles since the trade and scored his 100th career goal in helping the Flyers claim a 2-0 victory (see story).

But what may have gone unnoticed by some was Simmonds' uniform. With Kimmo Timonen sidelined because of a foot injury, the Flyers were down an assistant captain. There are a plenty of players on the roster who have made a presence in the locker room with their leadership -- Mark Streit, Vinny Lecavalier and Braydon Coburn to name a few -- but it was Simmonds who was sporting an "A" on his jersey for the afternoon.

It was another example of how Simmonds has continued to expand his role with the team. He's playing more minutes, piling up points and is now being viewed as a leader.

Simmonds, who leads the Flyers with 18 goals this season, has three more games to continue his strong play before the NHL breaks for the Winter Olympics. With that in mind, here are a few other storylines we'll be following this week:

Timonen's status
Kimmo Timonen missed his first game of the season on Saturday. An aching left foot kept him out of the lineup and has him questionable for Monday's game against the San Jose Sharks.

Timonen did some off-ice work on Sunday and was not wearing a cast or walking boot.

“If it were broken I wouldn’t be walking around, I can tell you that,” Timonen said (see story). “Pain is always there. It’s really hard [to find rest]. That’s why I hate missing games. But sometimes maybe you miss two or whatever. That game off [Saturday] was needed, let’s put it that way."

Andrej Meszaros filled in for Timonen on the blueline on Saturday and will likely remain in the lineup if Timonen is unable to go against the Sharks.

Timonen is slated to represent Finland at the Sochi Games, but said if his foot is bothering him he won't play. The more rest for the veteran defensman the better.

Super eight
The Flyers have seven forwards -- Simmonds, Lecavalier, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Matt Read and Scott Hartnell -- with at least 10 goals this season.

Sean Couturier can make eight it with one more tally. The Flyers' third-line center had a nice run in December and a decent January, but has slowed down offensively as of late.

Couturier, however, has continued to be the team's best shutdown center. He needs just five more goals and three points to set career highs in those categories.

Players to watch
San Jose: He doesn't score often, but boy can Joe Thornton create some offense. The veteran center has just eight markers this season, but he has 47 assists in 56 games and remains one of the best playmakers in the NHL today. He does most of his magic on the man advantage, so the Flyers would be smart to stay out of the box on Monday.

Colorado: Matt Duchene will be representing Team Canada in Sochi, but the Flyers have to deal with the speedy centerman on Thursday. Duchene leads the Avs with 47 points this season and has six helpers in his last five games. However, he's had trouble finding the back of the net as of late as he's collected just one goal in his last 20 contests.

Calgary: The Flames don't pose much of an offensive threat, but they do have a handful of forwards who can score goals. Jiri Hudler, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund and Michael Cammalleri all have 13 tallies or more this season and are more than capable of burning the Flyers if left unattended.