Months before the Flyers acquired defenseman Andrew MacDonald, Kimmo Timonen was watching him.
The Flyers’ veteran blueliner liked what he saw.
“He played a lot of minutes,” Timonen said. “He played with a lot of confidence. Sometimes when you play against teams, you notice some players, and I noticed him. He made nice plays and he blocked shots and he played a lot of minutes. It’s good for us.”
MacDonald joined his new team on the ice for Wednesday’s morning skate ahead of the Flyers’ game against the Washington Capitals. He will be in the lineup, partnered primarily with Luke Schenn –- though he spent most of the skate working with his former New York Islanders teammate Mark Streit during power-play drills.
Streit, like Timonen, is pleased with the addition.
“He’s like a ‘modern defenseman,’ I would call him,” Streit said. “Because he’s good overall. He’s a good skater, plays well defensively and has a good first pass, which is a huge asset. Then offensively, he’s good too. He can play on the power play, and on top of that, he blocks a lot of shots.
“He’s a team guy. He does everything for the team. Whenever you have the chance to get a guy like that on your team or on your side, it’s a big plus. It’s a pleasure to have him here.”
This season with the Islanders, MacDonald averaged 25:25 on the ice every night – more than any current Flyers defenseman. He won’t be asked to play as much in Philadelphia, instead taking on slightly less responsibility. It will be an adjustment, but according to Streit, that’s a good thing for everyone on the team.
“Personally, I don’t need to play 25-26-27 minutes,” Streit said. “I’d rather play around 20. Down the line, guys are fresher, you have less injuries. It just makes the team better. If you have guys playing between 25 and 30 minutes 80 games and then the playoffs, that’s tough. Today’s game, especially with the speed, how fast the game is, it’s tough to handle. I’m sure he makes the adjustment, and we all do. As long as you’re winning.”
Another benefit to the addition? MacDonald leads the NHL in blocked shots this season, with 198. Add that to Nick Grossmann, who ranks fourth with 146, and the Flyers become even tougher in their own zone, especially on the penalty kill. The Flyers' PK is currently eighth-best in the league.
“That’s what we have to do some days, we have to block shots,” Timonen said. “And if you kill penalties, you’re going to get hit by the puck even if you don’t want to get hit. That tells you these guys play for the team. They do whatever it takes to prevent the goals. There’s always needs for guys like that who can do that. We’re really happy about that.”
MacDonald's addition adds a bit of pressure to a Flyer who's already aware his name has been talked about in plenty of trade rumors: Andrej Meszaros. But even he believes the newest defenseman improves the Flyers' blue line. Meszaros is not expected to suit up tonight, assuming he remains with the Flyers past the 3 p.m. trade deadline. (The Flyers now have nine defensemen.)
“The team’s gotta do what it’s gotta do to make it better,” Meszaros said. “Obviously he’s a great player, a great addition. We’ll see what happens the next four hours. It will be interesting.”
Wednesday's game will be a quick education in Flyers hockey for MacDonald, who's spent his entire career on Long Island. The good thing is, according to Streit, he's easy to play with and played a similar style with the Islanders.
“It’s exciting,” Streit said. “He’s a great guy and a really good player. It makes our team better.”