VOORHEES, N.J. – During their brief stint in Germany during the lockout, Danny Briere and Claude Giroux played alongside each other constantly.
They played together in even-strength situations. They spent time alongside each other on the power play. The duo even paired up to kill penalties for Eisbaren Berlin.
And so, hoping to rekindle some of the chemistry the two had overseas, coach Peter Laviolette moved Briere up to the Flyers’ top line with Giroux and Wayne Simmonds at Thursday’s practice.
“That’s the goal,” Briere said. “That’s the mindset we’re going into tomorrow’s game. You always have to believe that. I know Lavy’s job is to find those combinations. When you’re 2-5, obviously, things are going to change. That’s what we saw today.
“When we get back on track, things are going to get more stable and we’ll work on some chemistry.”
With Giroux unhappy about how he’s played in recent days (see story) and Briere finally getting back to normal after nursing a wrist injury, Laviolette is hoping his two most-skilled players will jumpstart each other –- and the team as a whole.
In Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers, some of the Flyers’ best chances late in the game came only after Laviolette moved Briere up to play alongside Giroux. They weren't able to change the score but came very close on a few occasions. He’s looking for more of the same when the Flyers travel to Washington. D.C. Friday night.
“I think it’s a nice complement,” Laviolette said. “One sees the ice really well, and one can put the puck in the back of the net really well. I think a lot of players might enjoy playing with Claude too, because he does see the ice and he is able to make a lot of plays. So when you’ve got somebody who’s a natural goal-scorer like Danny, it could be a good fit.
“They played well in the third period in New York, so we’ll try it.”
Giroux has been the only constant on the Flyers’ top line through seven games. He started out playing alongside Brayden Schenn and Scott Hartnell. Then Schenn was replaced by Jakub Voracek. After that, Hartnell went down with injury, and Simmonds stepped in.
The sense of familiarity Briere brings is welcomed by the team captain.
“I had a chance to play with Danny in Germany for a month,” said Giroux, who has also played alongside Briere at times in Philadelphia. “I know where he is on the ice and I know what kind of player he is, so we can feed off each other.”
Unfortunately for the Flyers, it’s not just their first line that has struggled to score goals. The team as a whole has had a tough time even hitting the net; the Flyers are 26th in the league in shots per game. Being stuck in a division with teams like the Rangers and New Jersey Devils that are adept at blocking shots, they know that's just not going to cut it.
But once again, it probably comes down to chemistry.
“We’ve struggled just to score goals, to start with," Briere said. "It goes both five on five and power play. Maybe more shots on net would help. It just seems there’s a lot of games where we didn’t create a lot offensively, cycle, passing – didn’t really do it.
"Part of it is the chemistry, the combinations and not clicking together yet.”
They're hoping that, come Friday in Washington, D.C., the combinations begin to consistently work together. Finally.