Vinny Lecavalier could provide some spark to the top line with Claude Giroux, who's yet to register a goal. (USA Today Images)
On July 6, Vinny Lecavalier was asked by CSNPhilly.com about possibly playing right wing on Claude Giroux’s line in place of Jakub Voracek.
“If you watch me in a game, if I have a choice of going on the left side with the puck or right side, I choose, 99 percent of time, going on the right side,” said Lecavalier, who is a left-handed shot. "It’s not something I really worry about, especially after being told, 'You might play with Claude Giroux.' I’m open to that and excited for that.
"I would be very comfortable [there]. That is something they asked me at the meeting, if I could play wing and I said 'certainly.' I’m lot more comfortable on the right wing than on the off-wing."
Before signing his five-year, $22 million contract last July, both Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren and then-coach Peter Laviolette wanted to know whether the 33-year-old natural centerman would be willing to shift to the wing.
Fast forward to the present day.
Voracek and Giroux are struggling terribly (neither has a goal), and Lecavalier, who actually generated some offense before suffering a suspected groin/abdominal injury, is back at practice.
On Tuesday, coach Craig Berube moved Lecavalier to right wing on Giroux’s line but also changed up the left-winger, elevating Michael Raffl in place of Tye McGinn.
“I feel really comfortable on the right side,” Lecavalier said. “I feel comfortable going into the offensive zone on the right side. I have more plays, more things I can do on the off-wing. I was playing with G today. He is a special player and he can get me the puck. I felt it went pretty good.”
Lecavalier played right wing during his days under Guy Boucher when he was on a line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis in Tampa Bay.
He also played right wing with Ryan Malone and Stamkos on Dec. 10, 2011 against the Flyers.
“I can’t say I am a natural winger,” Lecavalier said. “If you ask me about the right side and do I feel comfortable, I would say yes,” he said.
The assumption here is two-fold: One, that Lecavalier is cleared to play Thursday against the New York Rangers; two, that Berube doesn’t switch up his lines between now and then.
“He’s made more progress,” Berube said of Lecavalier. “I wanted to get him out there with Giroux and see how he looked. ... I thought he fit in there pretty good with Giroux on the wing.”
The big question is skating. Berube has been pushing his club to the max –- skating-wise -- since last Friday.
Lecavalier is coming off an injury where fast skating and up-tempo play can lead to re-injury. Berube said he has to be convinced Lecavalier is healthy enough to play without impediment.
“If he is not feeling comfortable enough or he needs a day or two more, we’ll give it to him,” Berube said. “We’re not here to rush anybody back.”
Lecavalier says he’s ready to play and, because he kept himself in shape over the summer, he hasn’t lost much “game” shape in the two weeks he will have missed. He was injured against Phoenix on Oct. 11.
“You might not be in game shape, but when you work out hard all summer and I had exhibition games and had some really great practices, I’ll be fine,” he said. “It’s not like I am starting from scratch or taking a month off. … I’m feeling pretty good.”
The promotion of the 24-year-old Raffl is the result of his hard work creating chances on other lines.
“I think if you try too hard to do something else than you usually do, it gets worse, I think,” Raffl said. “I just try to stick to my game, get open, shoot the puck, play physical and do what I do best.’’
Three things work in the Austrian winger’s favor for Berube.
“He’s skilled, he’s big (6-foot) and he moves,” Berube said. “He looked comfortable out there. The size and skill is what intrigues you. He seems like a confident kid to me which I like.”
Scoring confidence is lacking throughout the roster. Berube is hoping if he moves some people around who have confidence in other areas, it will have a trickle-down scoring effect on lines.
Raffl is a good example of a player who was sent to the Phantoms early in camp, believed in himself, came back up and is now determined to show he belonged. He exudes confidence.
“When you get sent down, it’s not what you want to happen,” Raffl said. “You want to hear that you stay here and play in the NHL. You get sent down, you get sent down.
"You come with the mindset that you [could] get sent down and when that happened, I just stayed positive and worked my way back.”
• Berube also moved Lecavalier to the first power play unit.
• Mark Streit replaced Kimmo Timonen on the first power play unit at the point with Timonen dropping down to the second unit that employs two defensemen. In this case, the other D-man is Erik Gustafsson.
• Scott Hartnell (apparent rib cage injury) skated extra today after working with the scratches in practice. He still thinks it’s questionable whether he’ll play in either game this week, including Saturday’s on Long Island against the Islanders. Hartnell said he doesn’t want “to jeopardize the strides” he’s made in rehab. Both Hartnell and Lecavalier are considered day-to-day.