VOORHEES, N.J. -- For 14 seasons, Vinny Lecavalier was a center. It was his natural position – the place on the ice in which he felt most comfortable and found the most success.
But the Flyers are a team fully stacked at center; that’s been the philosophy of general manager Paul Holmgren all along. And so, Lecavalier has had to move over to wing, most recently playing on the left side on a line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.
It’s no wonder he’s had some trouble adjusting to the change.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s been a tough adjustment,” Lecavalier said. “But I’m focused on the last 22 games. To produce more and help the team offensively.”
Lecavalier began the season at center. He was, for a time, the Flyers’ leading scorer back when basically every other member of the team was struggling to hit the back of the net. But once things started to fall into place for the Flyers, Lecavalier found himself shuffled all over the lineup, including time at both wings.
Predictably, his offensive production slowed.
“Obviously, if you look at the stats, it has been a tough adjustment,” he said. “But that’s where I’m playing.”
Through the first 10 games of the season, Lecavalier had five goals and a pair of assists. Those numbers slowed in late November through January, thanks in part to a lingering back injury. But it’s been a rocky transition to left wing for the veteran forward, who moved to his new line shortly before the Olympic break.
“I couldn’t imagine going from wing to center, so I can only imagine what it’s like going the opposite,” Simmonds said. “I think he’s transitioned well. I think we’ve played well together, whether Vinny’s been at center or Schenn has been on the wing. I think we’ve done a good job complementing each other.”
The good news is, Lecavalier’s starting to feel a little bit more comfortable.
“I guess being a natural centerman, kind of going everywhere, it’s [left wing] more of an up and down game,” he said. “But I think the last little bit, I’m starting to feel a little bit better there.”
Coach Craig Berube moved Lecavalier, in part, in hopes of getting him going. In the 18 games following his return from a back injury, Lecavalier had just two goals and four assists before the move.
Since transitioning to his new line Jan. 28, Lecavalier has a goal and two assists, and is minus-2. He’s not thrilled with the numbers, but they do represent an improvement, albeit a small one. More importantly, though, he starting to play like he's comfortable.
“The last few games, he’s been driving the net and from the left side angle and stuff like that,” Berube said. “He’s starting to play more like a power forward.”
As a unit, Lecavalier’s line has combined for three goals and four assists in six games – and it should be noted the Flyers won five of those six contests.
“I thought we played some good games going into the break,” Schenn said. You can just tell he’s looking more comfortable. It’s not easy going from center, kind of being all over the ice and supporting the puck, to left wing, in your own end you’re kind of stuck on the one side and on the rush you’re on the left side as well.
“For a guy who’s played his whole career at center, to be adjusted to the left wing, it’s not going to happen over night,” Schenn said. “He’s getting better. I feel like the three of us have some chemistry.”