Wayne Simmonds is third on the Flyers this season with 42 shots on goal. (AP)
Wayne Simmonds is probably the hardest working forward on the Flyers. It's been that way for a couple years now, too.
He’s also probably the biggest hard-luck guy with just two goals and eight points this season. He deserves more.
“He’s worked really hard, especially on the forecheck,” coach Craig Berube said on Monday. “Getting in there on the forecheck, being physical on the puck, getting to loose pucks and strong on it.
“He’s doing a good job in front of the net on the power play. Being a power forward -- that is what he is.”
Simmonds has three points in his last three games, including a power-play goal, and continues to get oodles of chances. He had a couple near goals last week in Pittsburgh alone.
He feels Berube’s practice changes have helped him.
“We thought we were working hard, and we weren’t working hard enough,” Simmonds said. “Now guys are putting in the extra time. We’re skating more in practice, and I find it a lot easier to skate in-game. I think that is definitely attributed to the more skating we’ve done in practice.”
Simmonds has played much of the previous two seasons with Brayden Schenn, who appears to have finally turned a corner in his third season as a Flyer and leads the club with 12 points.
Schenn is another physical player who complements Simmonds. Vinny Lecavalier is their center.
“[Simmonds] can draw people into that,” Berube said. “The line itself is a big, strong line. They have the capability of taking the body, getting on the forecheck, being physical and wearing teams down and controlling play down low. That’s what we want out of him.”
The addition of Lecavalier has made this a very tough line to play against.
“The three of us are all big, strong and fast guys,” Simmonds said. “When you get pucks deep and have another physical presence with you up in the rush, it’s a lot easier. I like working with Brayden and Vinny.
“I’ve played with Brayden a long time now and always enjoyed playing with him for the simple fact that I know he will always be up in the rush with me. It’s easy to forecheck when you got two guys in there.
“The first guy takes the body, second guy comes in to take the puck, and I know when I am on the ice with that that is what will happen.”
When the season began there were questions as to whether Lecavalier would be able to keep up with the pace the Flyers were expected to play under Peter Laviolette. Not to mention how much of a scoring presence Lecavalier would be on this club.
Well, Lecavalier is third on the team in points (10) and first in goals (seven) despite missing four games with a facial injury.
“I don’t think age is a barrier for Vinny,” Simmonds said. “You look at him and he looks like he’s 19 years old still. He’s in great shape and he’s a workhorse out there. He’s strong. He’s powerful and he gets up and down the ice pretty quickly.”
Lecavalier said even when things were going tough for Simmonds -- 10 games without a goal until last Saturday in Winnipeg -- he was there to offer encouragement.
“We didn’t specifically talk about his points or anything like that,” Lecavalier recalled. “I think we’re being pretty positive about the things to come just because of the opportunities we’re getting.
“When you get opportunities, it’s gonna go in. Now, for him, he’s got consecutive games of good production and those come and his confidence level feels more comfortable out there.
“As a line, we just have to go out there and work harder than whoever we’re against. It’s been working, and we’ll try to keep it going.”
It’s a big “push” week for the Flyers with Ottawa, Buffalo and the Islanders coming into the Wells Fargo Center before another road trip leading into Thanksgiving.
The Flyers walloped the Senators 5-0 in Ottawa last week. They can’t assume this one will be that easy.
“We’ve got to look at what we did in the last game [against them],” Simmonds said. “If you look at the turnover situation, I think we barely had any turnovers in that game. They thrive off turnovers.
“They’re a transition team. They’ve got fast guys and they want to work in the neutral zone off the rush. If we can simplify our game and do it the way we did on the road in Ottawa, we’ll be fine.”