Raffl clicks right away with Lecavalier, Simmonds

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Raffl clicks right away with Lecavalier, Simmonds

He had not gotten off the ice yet for his line change, when the puck was turned over at the blue line to Michael Raffl.

Without hesitation, the left winger darted into the Rangers' zone and found Vinny Lecavalier open in the right circle -- Lecavalier's favorite spot -- for a quick shot on Rangers goalie Marty Biron.

That is the essence of Raffl. Seemingly being in the right spot, knowing where his other winger is sitting. It’s a gift.

Same thing happened no less than four times on Monday night against Washington, as well. Raffl can find his linemates with the puck, whether it be a skill line with Lecavalier and Wayne Simmonds against the Caps, or on a checking line of Max Talbot and Chris VandeVelde during the Flyers' 3-2 exhibition loss to the Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

“It’s hard to explain, sometimes you play with somebody and you just can’t see them [on the ice],” Lecavalier said. “For some reason, sometimes there are lines that don’t click. You can’t see guys, you can’t find them.

“You always kind of look around and [think] where is he? But I thought with Simmer (Simmonds) and Raffl, we made some good plays. We connected right away. We talked on the ice. It makes for a lot easier game if you are always looking for each other.”

The Flyers, 1-2-1 in the preseason, will cut their roster down to 28 players on Wednesday before they head to Lake Placid for four quick days of training and team bonding.

Raffl is certain to be there. Right now, he has a slight edge on fellow wingers Tye McGinn and Jason Akeson for a roster spot.

Tuesday’s objective was to see what Raffl could do in a checking role with Talbot. One of the things the Flyers liked about Dan Cleary -- had he chose them over Detroit -- was Cleary’s ability to play up or down the lineup.

“Not that many open scoring chances for me,” Raffl said. “I think I can fit that role, too, and work hard in the corners. I didn’t play my best game tonight. That’s a challenge that I would take.”

Coach Peter Laviolette liked what he saw of Raffl in terms of versatility.

“It’s important to take a look at players in different situations,” Laviolette said. “There’s others who will end up with Vinny or times maybe [when it's Raffl] or someone else. It’s important to get a good feel for a player and strength he brings. His line was effective tonight.”

Flyers management wants a 13th forward who can play a little finesse and a little grind, and not be solely tied to one role. The question is whether Raffl can do that better than McGinn and Akeson at this point on the wing. Scott Laughton, also vying for a spot, is a center.

If the Flyers carry 14 forwards, two of those players will make the roster. If they carry just 13 forwards, then only one makes it.

Laughton is a natural center. The personnel staff feels he has to make the roster at that spot to develop at the NHL level.

Raffl, so far, is surprising people with the ease he fits on the ice for not having played any games in North America until Monday’s exhibition. Then again, he’s older.

The 24-year-old Austrian played eight years in Europe, the past two of which for Leksands IF in the Swedish Hockey League.

He scored 24 goals and amassed 46 points last season, which caught head of pro scouting Dave Brown’s eye. The Flyers signed him to a one-year deal last May.

“What he did last year, he scored a lot of points in [the] Swedish League,” said John Paddock, the Flyers’ director of player development. “They don’t score a lot of points in that league. Big rinks, slowed down, no one forechecks. It was impressive.”

Raffl has had a number of scoring chances in two exhibition games.

“He continues last night to do in the game what he has done in practice,” Paddock said. “He likes to shoot the puck. He didn’t look out of place playing with those guys.

“I talked to Simmer and he said he was easy to play with. He finds holes. He had chances early in the game. It was pretty impressive the first time playing together in four days.”

Raffl is a man of few words.

“It’s fun to get the opportunity to play with those kind of players,” he said. “There is a lot of responsibility with the puck but it was fun. I felt we had a lot of chances but I couldn’t bury it [against Washington].

“The ice is smaller, you recognize it all over the place. [It doesn't] really [hamper me]. I don’t think too much about it. It becomes part of the game.”

Craig Berube coached the 4-3 shootout loss to the Capitals.

“He had some great chances, he missed the net three times in the first period for goals -- I thought they were real good opportunities,” Berube said of Raffl.

“He puts himself in the right position to score, that’s for sure. He shoots the puck well. I thought he was good, I thought overall he skated well and his first game over here, it’s not a lot of time and he’ll get better and better.”

Flyers-Predators 5 things: Going for longest win streak since 2014

Flyers-Predators 5 things: Going for longest win streak since 2014

Flyers (13-10-3) at Predators (11-8-4)
6 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

The Flyers have won a season-high four games in a row. They'll try to make it five Sunday night when they visit the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena for the second game of a back-to-back set.

Let's take a look at five things you need to know.

1. Streaking like 2014?
Not only do the Flyers have a chance to extend their season-best winning streak, but they're also looking to win their most consecutive games since March 15-22, 2014, when they also won five straight.

The Flyers have put up strong showings in the back ends of back-to-backs, going 4-1-1 thus far.

“You just have to have the work ethic night in and night out," Steve Mason said Saturday after the Flyers' 3-1 win over the Blackhawks. "And, I think we were struggling to find that. There are games when we were swarming and giving teams no other option, and other nights we were chasing the puck.

"We have another tough test going to Nashville to play. So, we’re going to have to follow up with another great effort.” 

2. A Provorov encore?
Ivan Provorov's confidence has to be at his highest of the season.

In Saturday's win, the 19-year-old blueliner scored two goals in a 31-second span to double his goal total through the first 25 games.

Provorov said he thinks defense first, but the offensive production is a good sign.

“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable,” Provorov said.

“Every time you score, it’s like a confidence booster."

3. Predators finding stride
After losing eight of their first 11 games, Peter Laviolette's Predators have gotten on track, going 8-3-1 since.

Nashville ranks in the top half of the league in goals per game (3.00 — tied for fifth), goals against per game (2.61 — 15th), power-play percentage (22.6 — sixth) and penalty-kill percentage (84.5 — 10th).

Last time out, the Predators blew a 4-1 lead in the third period for a 5-4 overtime loss to the Devils on Saturday, so they should be extra focused.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: On Saturday, Brayden Schenn scored just his second goal in his past 18 games. Schenn can be streaky so maybe he feeds off that goal. He's also a career plus-4 against the Predators, with two goals and three assists in eight games.

Predators: Let's go P.K. Subban, who isn't exactly a favorite among Flyers fans. He's off to a nice start in his first season in Nashville with six goals and 10 assists, and eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last eight games.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is 7-7-5 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 20 career games against the Predators.

• Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne is 3-2-2 with a 2.91 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in seven career games against the Flyers.

• Claude Giroux is four assists away from passing Rick MacLeish (369) and Eric Lindros (369) for fifth on the Flyers’ all-time list.

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov moved on but didn’t forget.

The 19-year-old still remembers losing his footing on the United Center ice in front of 21,263 fans, alone in his own end and costing the Flyers a goal in a blowout defeat to the Blackhawks on Oct. 18.

In just his third NHL game, Provorov had his rookie moment. He also had a minus-5 rating when the 7-4 loss was all said and done.

Well, on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, he saw the Blackhawks again and made it a point to show them his best. Provorov ripped off two goals in 31 seconds of the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit and spearhead a 3-1 win for the Flyers (see story).

Better output than last time?

Provorov laughed, paused and then laughed again.

“A little bit,” he said. “I think so.

“I was trying to use it as a positive thing. Try to prove that that’s not me, that it’s just one bad game.”

Consider that job done.

“I didn’t play my best at that game,” Provorov said. “But I put it behind me, learned from it and this was a better result tonight.”

In 31 ticks of the clock, the Russian defenseman topped his goal total through the first 25 games (see 10 observations). Provorov uncorked a slap shot and slung a wrister for the tallies early in the middle stanza.

“I think you have to keep everything in perspective from a night like that,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said of Provorov’s first game against Chicago. “He is a guy that continues to work at his game and continues to build.”

Provorov didn’t net the hat trick, but in the same period, saved a goal on the defensive end when he quickly pounced on a puck dribbling toward the goal line off and behind goalie Steve Mason.

“I came from the left corner and I saw the puck was rolling on Mase’s shoulder,” Provorov said. “It went down, rolled to the goal line. I just got there as quick as I could and swiped it out.

“I think it was close. As soon as I saw the puck, I tried to get there as fast as I can.”

After experiencing some growing pains to start the season, Provorov has played better. Once he makes a mistake, he rarely makes it again.

“He’s just beyond his years in terms of maturity and the way he studies the game,” Hakstol said a little over two weeks ago. “He’s a young guy that I can probably ask him about a play that happened two weeks ago in a game and he would immediately have recall on that play. A very intelligent player, he’s handled the ups and the downs pretty well."

Mason isn't surprised by Provorov's development.

"When you come into the league at a young age, it’s not easy and you’ve got to get your feet under you," Mason said. "We’re starting to see that [with Provorov]."

And two goals in half a minute don’t hurt.

“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable,” Provorov said. “Two great plays by our forwards. The whole team, it was a great effort, we played a great hockey game, so it was easy to play.

“Every time you score, it’s like a confidence booster. For me, it’s defense first but when you get goals and assists, it’s always nice.”

The Flyers had the players’ dads on hand for Saturday’s game. Provorov’s father, Vladimir, couldn’t make it from Russia, but you can bet he tuned in.

“He watches every game back home,” Provorov said. “Today was a little easier because it’s only 9 p.m. back home when the game started, so yeah, I think my whole family watched it.”

He watches the other games at 3, 4 a.m.?

“Yeah,” Provorov said with a smile, “then he takes my brother to practice at 6.”