Dropping the Gloves: Flyers' scoring struggles
Steve Downie answers questions in the locker room at the Flyers' morning skate on Thursday. (Sarah Baicker/CSNPhilly.com)
The fight wasn’t a mistake, Steve Downie said, but he did take a misstep during his brawl with Capitals winger Aaron Volpatti last Friday that led to the concussion that caused him to spend two nights in the hospital.
Nonetheless, Downie – deeply bruised, swollen and wearing a bubble helmet – joined the Flyers on the ice for Thursday’s morning skate ahead of the evening’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
“The loss [to the Caps] hurt more than my face,” Downie said. “I’m just trying to get back.”
The Flyers’ winger, in his first game after being traded to the team, challenged Volpatti late in the second period with an intent to do something – anything – to wake up his new teammates; the score was 5-0 Caps at the time. But, he said, he put himself in a vulnerable position, and once he lost vision in his left eye, he had to ask Volpatti to stop.
He left the Wells Fargo Center in an ambulance after the game.
Downie won’t be back in the lineup against the Devils but said he’s “healing well,” and “should be back soon,” despite the bruising around his eye and the fact that the eye itself remains bloody.
“My vision’s good,” he said. “The doctor did a good job checking out my eye making sure everything went well. It’s going really well.”
Downie, however, is struggling with sinus issues. It's noticeable even just hearing him speak.
“That’s the issues that I’m having, the sinuses,” he said. “So I’m just waiting for that to clear up and start breathing again. Mainly sinuses right now.”
Downie has played just 10:24 in his second stint as a Flyer before he was injured, and was brought in to join Claude Giroux and Vinny Lecavalier on the top line -- at least to start. With him out, head coach Craig Berube continues to shuffle up the team's lines, but said he's encouraged to see the feisty forward back on the ice already, just six days after the scary fight.
“It’s good to see Downs skating already,” coach Craig Berube said. “Hoping he’ll be back soon.”
“He’s tough,” the coach added with a smile.
Morning off, night on?
Ray Emery wasn’t on the ice for Thursday’s morning skate, but he is expected to be the Flyers’ starting netminder.
Emery, of course, did earn the shutout in the Flyers’ 1-0 victory over the Devils Saturday in Newark. This morning, Mason remained on the ice to work with coaches a while after most of the Flyers who took part in the optional skate had left.
It's easy to see why Emery gets the start: He is 6-3-2 in 11 games against the Devils, with a 1.90 goals-against average, .931 save percentage and two shutouts.
No matter who occupies the Flyers’ net, though, the skaters in front of them need to help out. The Flyers rank dead-last in the NHL in goals per game, averaging 1.57. They’ve only scored more than two goals in a game once this season, against the New York Islanders.
“They’re doing their part in this whole deal,” Scott Hartnell said. “[Steve] Mason, he’s played the majority of the games and he’s played awesome. Razor [Emery] took all he could in New Jersey there to have the shutout. I’m sure they’re frustrated with us. It’s on us to get the goals.”
Even after allowing for a costly icing call earlier this week against the Carolina Hurrcanes, Flyers defenseman Nick Grossmann has probably been the club’s best blueliner this season.
He averages 19:18 ice time a game and tonight against the Devils, he will be playing his 400th NHL game – something he was unaware of until told by the club today.
“It’s always fun to have a milestone like that,” said the seven-year NHL veteran. “Something to look back on when you get older, I guess. For now, it’s just another number in the books. It went fast didn’t it?”
Asked whether he felt Grossmann has been his best D-man, Berube replied: “He’s been up there. He’s played well. Really well. Strong defensively, done a good job with the puck. Defended really well and we’ve used him in a lot of key situations.”
New Jersey will present a more formidable lineup tonight with center Travis Zajac and defensemen Anton Volchenkov and Peter Harrold returning to the Devils’ lineup off the injured list.