Line switch has Vinny Lecavalier back to old self

Line switch has Vinny Lecavalier back to old self

March 30, 2014, 7:00 pm
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Vinny Lecavalier holds up the puck he scored career goal No. 400 on Sunday. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers)

For Vinny Lecavalier, all has gone well since becoming the Flyers’ fourth-line center.

He’s back to his natural position and he’s back to scoring goals.

Lecavalier scored two goals -- his second multi-goal game as a Flyer -- in the Flyers’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center (see game story).

The 33-year-old’s first goal was his 400th of his career and his second goal sent the game to overtime with under a minute to go in regulation and an empty net.

“It’s a great honor, I got to move on now,” Lecavalier said of his 400th goal. “I never thought when I was 18 years old and I got in the league I would get there. But yeah, I was very proud.”

He’s now one of eight active NHLers with 400 goals or more and one of 90 players all time.

“I was never looking…I’ve always wanted to have a long career,” Lecavalier said of if 400 goals was a personal goal when he entered the league.

“But obviously you don’t come into the league saying, ‘I want a certain amount of goals.’ You come into the league and say, ‘I want to win the Stanley Cup.’ I’ve had the privilege and the chance to get that in 2004, but I want to do it again.”

Sunday was Lecavalier’s second game on the fourth line. Flyers coach Craig Berube demoted him from second-line left wing playing with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds to centering Zac Rinaldo and Adam Hall.

So far, so good for the orange and black. Lecavalier has three goals in the two games and registered a game-high nine shots on net against the Bruins (see 10 observations).

“I think we were awesome as a line,” Lecavalier said. “Today, I thought we played really good together. Wherever I’m going to be put, I’m going to do my best. I think Hallsy and Rino, I think the chemistry was definitely there.”

When asked about if he asked to go back to center, Lecavalier admitted he had discussed it with the coaching staff earlier in the season.

“We talked about it when I came back from injury,” he said. “I think it was -- I can’t remember when -- after Game 20-something. I’ve always said it. I’ve always played in the middle. Being on the wing is not natural. Wherever I’m put, I’ll do my best to try to be good at it.”

Lecavalier’s compete level has increased since the move. He’s more physical and it’s showing. A finesse player by trait, Lecavalier has been credited with six hits the last two games. He had three Sunday.

“Same as last game, he competed hard, got to the net, shot pucks,” Berube said of Lecavalier’s play. “I think he ended up with nine shots on net. He’s got to shoot. He moved his feet. I thought he was competitive and played a good game.”

Sending a player like Lecavalier, who has a laundry list of NHL accomplishments, to the fourth line isn’t a move you see every day, especially when he’s getting paid $4.5 million.

Berube made the change and it’s paid off, but the move wasn’t all about Lecavalier.

“[Lecavalier] is a key piece, I never thought he wasn’t,” Berube said. “We need everybody. Everybody is key. You got to have everybody going.”

The Flyers (86 points) currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division, but that could change later Sunday night. The Rangers play the Oilers at 8 p.m. and a Rangers win would give them second place in the Metro and home ice in the playoffs against the Flyers.

The Flyers have two games in hand over the Rangers and the two teams are slated to meet in the first round.

Heading into the playoffs with Lecavalier on the fourth line is an intriguing thought. With Lecavalier as his fourth center, Berube has four lines he can roll. That’s a sign of a good team.

“I wasn’t thinking about postseason, I was just thinking about that day,” Berube said of the line change. “Like I said, they looked comfortable with each other. They looked like they have chemistry.”

Chemistry the Flyers hope continues to boil over to Tuesday in St. Louis and beyond.