Zac Rinaldo has walked a fine line.
On one side of that line is the Rinaldo who hits everything that moves, remains disciplined, and draws penalties against the opposition.
On the other side of that line is the Rinaldo who takes penalties (some justified, some not) and plays recklessly -- which, more often than not, puts the Flyers at a disadvantage.
Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers got both sides of that line in their 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
“That always happens with me,” Rinaldo said after the game. “I get on a good streak and then always something bad always happens but I deal with it and try not to think about it too much.”
That "something bad" would be his hit to the head of Buffalo’s Chad Ruhwedel, who suffered a concussion on the play (see video). The hit will result in a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety Monday. Rinaldo could face suspension.
“I shouldn’t have done it,” Rinaldo said. “There was no need for it, we were up 4-0, there was no need for that but it is what it is, it’s part of the game.”
After a strong game against Boston, and with Steve Downie out for the eighth straight game with an upper body injury, Flyers coach Craig Berube moved Rinaldo up to the third line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read.
After the game Berube said the hit “will be reviewed like everything else,” but he thought Rinaldo had a strong game, although he has “got to be smarter.”
“He played well,” Berube said. “I thought he played well in Boston, too.
“He did a lot of good things out there, moving his feet, scored a goal. He takes the body, hits, he disrupts people. He’s a physical player with the skating.”
Rinaldo brought energy to the third line and it was the only line that generated much of anything offensively early on. The line drew a couple penalties, and Matt Read put the Flyers on the scoreboard following a Mark Streit blast that rung off the post.
When Rinaldo displays his usual energy, the team typically feeds off of it.
“Well, I feed off of everyone else,” Rinaldo said. “I feed really good off of [Wayne Simmonds] and off of [Scott] Hartnell, so when they’re on their game it makes me want to play even better.
“When they’re on their game I get on my game and then maybe I feed other guys energy, too.”
Despite playing only 8:15, Rinaldo dished out five hits, notched his second goal of the year and finished with a plus-2 rating. Not bad for someone who also picked up 16 penalty minutes -- three minor penalties and a match penalty.
The match penalty and resulting hearing may have overshadowed the magnitude of the win. After four straight losses (two in a shootout), the Flyers got a much-needed two points (see game story).
“It was a big win, especially scoring all those goals, it was a confidence booster for a lot of guys -- even myself, even though I took those penalties,” Rinaldo said. “But I built a lot of confidence and so did everyone else, which was good.”
Asked what to expect from his hearing tomorrow, Rinaldo said he wasn’t too sure.
“I don’t know," he said. "I haven’t talked to [Brendan] Shanahan or anyone like that for maybe a year and a half now, so I don’t know what to expect.
“It could go either way.”