Now third in division, Flyers prep for Oilers
Andrej Meszaros was a healthy scratch for five straight games before playing in Monday's win over the Wild. (USA Today Images)
It takes some courage for an organization to sit a guy making $4 million. But the fact is, Andrej Meszaros’ play for a rather long time now hasn’t been up to snuff.
“Just from a competitive standpoint,” coach Craig Berube said, “I don’t know if it goes back to last year, but I just want him to be more competitive when he’s in there.”
Specifically, Berube wants Meszaros to compete harder along the boards for pucks and be more physical off the puck.
“He got better as the game went on and more physical as the game went on,” Berube said of Meszaros’ effort during the Flyers' 4-1 win over Minnesota on Monday (see story).
Lack of committed physical play is why Meszaros was a healthy scratch for five straight games before re-entering the Flyers' lineup against the Wild.
Then again, there wasn’t much of a choice. It was either play Meszaros or Hal Gill because of Erik Gustafsson’s left knee sprain -- that will sideline him about two weeks.
Gustafsson netted a critical score during last week’s five-goal comeback win against Columbus. And while he still makes mistakes with the puck, the bottom line is, the Flyers are noticeably slower when he’s out of the lineup.
“He’s a mobile guy who can move the puck, that’s for sure,” Berube said. “He’s got quick feet. We’ll be fine. We have Meszaros and Hal Gill, and we’ll get them in there.”
You might think this put Meszaros on the spot to perform against the Wild.
“I don’t feel pressure at all. It’s just nice to be out there after a while,” Meszaros said. “Play hard and compete every shift I get out there.”
Berube will have to decide off of the Wild game whether Meszaros plays on the Flyers' upcoming six-game, West Coast road trip which begins Saturday in Edmonton.
“It’s tough mentally,” said Meszaros, who has been injured quite a bit during his four years here. “A couple first shifts are important to get into a game right away.”
This is a contract year for Meszaros as his four-year, $16 million deal expires in July. The Flyers have tried unsuccessfully to move him since last summer.
“It’s tough. It’s hockey and a coaches decision who will play,” he said. “There is nothing I can do about it but work hard [and] when I am not in the lineup, do extra work.
“You want to stay positive. It’s hard because you want to play all the time. It is what it is. Being positive is the main thing.”