VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Jordan Weal’s pain is Dale Weise’s gain.
Weal, 24, who has showed tremendous promise in just two games and a period since being called up from the Lehigh Valley, will be sidelined with an upper-body injury Sunday, as the Flyers (24-27-7) visit the Vancouver Canucks (25-27-6) at Rogers Arena.
Weise, who has played sparingly of late, will take replace Weal in the lineup. The winger will be asked to play a prominent offensive role, as he skates on the second line alongside Sean Couturier and top scorer Jakub Voracek.
“I’m glad to be back in the lineup,” Weise said after a practice Saturday. “You never want to be out of the lineup. It’s frustrating. I’m just trying to do my work here in practice and trying to be ready when I can, and I think this is a pretty good opportunity to come in and play with two good players, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Weise will get a chance to renew his worth to the team after sitting out the last two games, and seven of the last 12 overall, as a healthy scratch.
“It’s probably the most difficult season I’ve ever had,” Weise, a 28-year-old journeyman, said. “I’ve never been scratched this much in my life. A couple games in a row, I’ve never been through that before.”
He views Sunday’s contest as a “fresh start” and, with only two goals and three assists on the season, a chance to pick up his offensive game.
“I’m just really hoping to get in and just find a way to contribute and get a couple bounces and score a number of goals,” said Weise, who has just one point in his last 29 games and has not scored since Nov. 23.
“It’s been difficult because I feel like I’m playing good hockey. I just can’t get a bounce into the net. I’m around the net. I’m getting chances. It’s just not going in, which is frustrating since it’s been the way it’s going for our whole team.”
The Flyers have lost five of their past six games, including the first two games on this three-game swing through Western Canada. Clearly, coach Dave Hakstol is also expecting Weise to make the most of his chance.
“He’s got a great opportunity to go in [Sunday] and to step in and to help our team,” Hakstol said. “I’m sure he’ll be ready and prepared to do that. Sometimes it’s about the timing of an opportunity and taking advantage of the opportunity. On a couple of different levels, obviously, that would be a real positive for us.”
Hakstol lamented the loss of Weal, who will be reevaluated after the team returns home Monday. Weal, a native of the Vancouver suburb of North Vancouver, was denied a chance to play before family and friends, made an impression with Hakstol after being promoted from the AHL.
Weal averaged 11:50 of ice time in three appearances, and Hakstol left little doubt that he will miss the chance to call upon him here.
“He added something every game,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, it was two games and a period, but he’s dynamic. He hadn’t been here [this season], but he had the puck quite a bit. He looked like a player that was confidently on the top of his game, and I didn’t think any of that was lost in the transition from Lehigh to our team.”
Now, Weise has a chance to impress the coach again in a game against one of his former teams. Weise played about three seasons for the Canucks between 2011-12 and 2013-14 before he was traded to Montreal during former coach John Tortorella’s one-and-done season with Vancouver.
Does Weise have extra motivation to shine against his former club?
Maybe not, he said.
“The first couple of years when I was traded, I always felt like I had something to prove,” Weise said. “Obviously, it’s a team I played for before, but it’s a completely different management and coach and stuff, so it’s a little different feel.”
Meanwhile, captain Claude Giroux, who has just two goals in his past 23 games, is also looking to score more. Actually, he wants his whole first line to start scoring more as the Flyers battle for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
“We have to find a way to produce,” Giroux said.
What’s been the problem?
“If we knew we would have fixed it four of five games ago,” Giroux said. “We’re getting a lot of shots on the net.”
But Hakstol was not about to criticize his captain’s effort, even though he has a woeful minus-20 mark this season.
“For whatever the reason, in the last month, he’s just gone in the wrong direction,” Hakstol said. “That’s not just [the] individual. That’s a team item, and we’ve gotta push that in the right direction.”
If they do, the Flyers can start to make up for some shoddy road play. They are 2-10-2 in their last 14 road games and have gone 0-6-2 in Western Canada lately. But Hakstol, other than for what he described as a bad game in Edmonton, has few complaints about his team’s play away from home.
“We played a hell of a road game in Calgary,” Hakstol said. “We’ve been doing that on a pretty regular basis, and I’m confident we’ll do that here.”