Jakub Voracek named winner of Bobby Clarke Trophy

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Jakub Voracek named winner of Bobby Clarke Trophy

Even now, Jakub Voracek can hear Jaromir Jagr’s voice in his head when he’s on the ice.
 
“Skate, skate, skate!”  Jagr would shout from the Flyers' bench.
 
Voracek’s skating was noticeably improved this season and it’s a big reason why he has scored a career-high 21 goals.
 
Thursday, Voracek was voted the winner of the Bobby Clarke Trophy by the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association as the club’s most valuable player.
 
“To be honest, I haven't even thought about it,” Voracek said of the award. “There are so many great players on this team that can win that award.”
 
Voracek says that Jagr, in just one short season, was very influential in pushing him to the next level as an NHL player.
 
“When he said that I have to move my feet to be better than the others, he was exactly right,” Voracek said. “If I don’t skate, if I don’t feel very well, then I don’t have my speed and I am practically useless.
 
“He was always yelling at me off the bench, ‘Skate, skate, skate.’  To be honest with you, when I didn’t feel very good or was flat on the ice, I heard his voice from the bench, ‘Skate, skate, skate’ and that got me going.”
 
Former Columbus coach Scott Arniel publicly ripped Voracek in 2011-12 as being a lazy player who didn’t take fitness very seriously.
 
“Before my first year and before my third year, I was in Columbus working out with the team,” Voracek recalled. “I wouldn't say I didn't work hard enough. Whatever [Arniel] said, I can't control the things that he thinks.
 
“Obviously, I came here and wanted to prove that stuff wasn't true about me. I think I did, and I'm going to keep going.”
 
No one calls Voracek lazy in Philly and Jagr’s work ethic rubbed off on him, and other Flyers, as well.
 
Were it not for the lockout, Voracek would have projected to 37 goals over a full 82-game season. His 45 points would have projected to 80 points. Not too shabby.
 
With Jagr having moved on, Voracek was given a chance to play with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell this season.
 
Things began slowly for Voracek, who sprained his left knee late during the lockout while playing overseas.
 
“After the lockout, he came back and was coming off that injury, but once he got about eight or 10 games into the year for us, the thing that came back that I noticed was his speed and quickness,” coach Peter Laviolette said.
 
“And from that 10-game mark on he's really attacked every game he's played. He's been a good fit with Claude and has been a good player for us. That line's been good. Whoever's gone up there has done a good job for us.”

Hartnell says Voracek hasn’t changed his style, but there is a noticeable difference.
 
“I think his speed is a lot better than it was last year,” Hartnell said. “It looks like it, anyway. He’s getting himself in position to get those shots, get those breakaway moves.
 
“On the power play, he does a great job of getting in position to get those shots. He makes great passes, so he’s had a hell of a year.”
 
The big change in Voracek this season was a craving for the puck. His game is more north-south and focused on going hard to the net now. When he gets the puck, he’s not looking to pass, but instead is looking to shoot and score.
 
“I think I got a little bit better than the years before and I'm shooting a little bit more pucks at the net, but there is still so much room for improvement about my game,” Voracek said.
 
“So many times I have a shot and I shoot the puck, but I shoot it wide or not hard enough. I still think I can get a lot better at it. Obviously, that's one of the things I'm going to work on.”
 
And while Jagr is no longer around, Voracek had that almost instant chemistry with Giroux.
 
“G is one of the best players and everyone knows it,” Voracek said. “He has shown it year in and year out. The last three years, he was a point-per-game guy. It's obviously a great opportunity for me to play with him.
 
“There are so many games we're working on so many things. I would say the last six, seven games together we really started clicking. You can tell on the ice that we both know where we are. We kind of get it together and hopefully it's going to work.”

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Wild-card race about to get busy

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Wild-card race about to get busy

Flyers (36-32-8) vs. Islanders (35-28-12)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers welcome the New York Islanders to the Wells Fargo Center Thursday on a busy night in the wild card.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Let's get wild
Ready for some movement in the Eastern Conference playoff race?

The four teams ahead of the Flyers for the second wild card are all in action Thursday.

The Bruins (vs. Stars) still lead the pack at 86 points, followed by the Lightning (vs. Red Wings) with 83. The Islanders come to Philadelphia with 82 points, while the Hurricanes (vs. Blue Jackets) also have 82.

And one more team to follow: the Maple Leafs (at Predators), who lead the Bruins by only one point for third place in Atlantic Division.

2. Time to streak?
With all the inconsistency, the Flyers are looking to win three games in a row for the first time since Jan. 22-25.

The final six contests for the Flyers are no cakewalks because every single one is against the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers are 9-13-2 in divisional play and have a record of 6-9-1 against the remaining clubs on the schedule.

They still have to play the Blue Jackets and Rangers, two top-five NHL teams.

And they also get the Devils twice more, a team that has won the first three meetings between the two by a combined score of 14-3.

We'll see if the Flyers can flip the script and make things interesting.

"We're not going to quit until the end of the season," Travis Konecny said Tuesday. "That's the way we are. It's the character of our team. It's the things we've shown all year.
 
"Our games may not show it at times, our scores, but I think each and every night we always compete, we always battle. I think things are starting to happen for us."

3. Weal's turning
Jordan Weal has provided a legitimate jolt to the Flyers, who desperately needed offense.

He'll see more and more ice time if he continues to perform the way he has in the past two games, putting up two goals and an assist.

Dave Hakstol has liked the early chemistry on the new second line of Weal, Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

"I think right now, Wayne Simmonds is playing some of his best hockey of the year in terms of a power forward game," Hakstol said Tuesday. "He is just a straight forward, power forward right now. He is very tough to handle down low and I think that is adding an element for Fil and Weal there."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere has looked like his old self offensively the past two games in which he has one goal and two assists. He's been active with nine shots, while his point blast looks sharp. The Flyers will need more of that the rest of the way.

Islanders: It has to be John Tavares, who does so much for the Islanders. The captain has 28 goals and 37 assists this season. Twelve of his 65 points have come in the previous 12 games. He also has put up 15 goals and 14 assists in 37 career games against the Flyers.

5. This and that
* Steve Mason will make his 14th start in the last 16 games. Over his past 13 outings, Mason is 8-4-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.

* Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss has been tough on the Flyers in two starts this season, going 1-0-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .951 save percentage.

* New York has lost two straight games and six of its last nine.

* Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk is likely to return from a foot injury that has sidelined him since March 5.

Flyers taking 'never die' approach to final playoff push

Flyers taking 'never die' approach to final playoff push

Nothing has changed for the Flyers as they enter Thursday night's game against the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
They remain six points behind Boston for the wild card. They still have four teams to leapfrog over to claim the second wild card spot.
 
Their Tragic Number remains 6 points -- points the Bruins need to eliminate them or points the Flyers need to lose to eliminate themselves.
 
The only difference tonight is the Flyers are playing head-to-head against a team in front of them in the chase.
 
The Islanders absolutely feel they're in this thing even after losing to the Bruins this week. So if they think like that, why not the Flyers?
 
"Obviously a team that is in the race with us," said Flyers captain Claude Giroux. "But, in general, we know we pretty much have to win every game. Our focus is on the Islanders. The big picture is not a picture we like to see.
 
"But at the end of the day, we have to worry about the New York Islanders. It's the only thing we can control now. We can't control future games or other teams."
 
There was genuine euphoria after the Flyers' comeback, 3-2 shootout win over Ottawa on Tuesday. Some of that excitement was immediately tempered when the players realized Boston had won as well.
 
Yet there is a noticeable difference in the Flyers dressing room right now. Guys are looser and more relaxed after three wins in their last four games.
 
"We keep doing what we keep doing," coach Dave Hakstol said. "Guys keep showing up. We're playing hard for each other and taking care of business. We've been real focused on doing that, day after day and night after night."
 
Several players said this week that the games right now are "fun" to play, despite the obvious pressure to gain a playoff spot that is virtually impossible to attain at this point because the numbers overwhelmingly favor clubs ahead of the Flyers.
 
Have games become "fun" because the players are resigned that it's out of their hands and they are now content to allow the chips to fall where they may be?
 
"No, I'll be honest, I think we are seeing some results," Hakstol said. "When you play hard and don't get results it's not fun. But we've continued to play hard and are getting some of the results right now.
 
"We all know the reality of our situation and don't have to revisit it day-in, day-out. We know that for us the most important thing is take care of our own business. That's the single-minded focus of our group right now.
 
"Come to the rink, playing hard together and winning becomes fun. We got to just turn the page, come out and play hard again."
 
Among those Flyers who believe the impossible is doable is defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.
 
"Our motto is ‘Never die,'" Gostisbehere said. "We know what's against us here. We're just taking it game by game and we're just trying to win every game.
 
"I think you can tell it's a little looser in this locker room, but we’re still going out there putting our best foot forward and trying to win games."
 
The Flyers are 2-1 against the Isles this season.
 
Lineup:
 
F: Read-Giroux-Voracek
Weal-Filppula-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Schenn
Vandevelde-Bellemare-Konecny
 
D: Provorov-MacDonald
Del Zotto-Gostisbehere
Manning-Gudas
 
G: Mason; Neuvirth