Trying to get more out of an offense that looked stale in a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault is making several changes to his lines and power play for Monday night’s game against visiting Boston.
He also put much bigger players on Sean Couturier’s unit, hoping it can contain the Bruins’ ultra-effective top line.
The new-look lines:
♦ Kevin Hayes centering Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny.
♦ Couturier centering Michael Raffl and Jake Voracek.
♦ Scott Laughton centering James van Riemsdyk and Nic Aube-Kubel.
♦ Connor Bunnaman centering Joel Farabee and Tyler Pitlick.
Vigneault is hoping that moving Raffl to the second line as a left winger will get him on the right track. He has one goal in his last 26 games.
“I just thought whoever plays with Coots seems to play well,” Vigneault said.
“I’m really excited to play there,” said Raffl, who had been primarily centering the third and fourth lines.
Hayes also benefits from the changes. He had been centering the slumping van Riemsdyk and rookie Aube-Kubel, but he now has two high-scoring wingers (Giroux, Konecny) on his line.
The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Bunnaman was recalled from the Phantoms because Vigneault believes he needs more size up the middle against heavy teams such as Boston and St. Louis, the Flyers’ next two opponents. Bunnaman started the season with the Flyers, was demoted to the Phantoms after four games, then missed more than a month with an ankle sprain.
“The last week, Scott [Gordon] was happy with his play,” said Vigneault, referring to the Phantoms’ coach. “So he gives us skating ability and gives us size in the middle, and hopefully he can make the right decisions with the puck.”
In addition, the Flyers used van Riemsdyk and Konecny as a double net-front presence on the top power-play unit at Monday’s practice, and Voracek was dropped to the second unit. The Flyers’ power play is 0 for 13 in the last four-plus games.
The Couturier line and defensemen Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen are expected to be matched against Boston’s powerful trio of center Patrice Bergeron (19 goals, 38 points), left winger Brad Marchand (20 goals, 62 points), and right winger David Pastrnak (35 goals, 65 points).
“They’re tough to play against because they play the right way,” Couturier said. 'They’re responsible at both ends of the ice, so that makes it that much tougher."
“It’s going to be a good test for us, no question,” Vigneault said.
Vigneault also moved Voracek and Raffl on Couturier’s line to compose a beefier unit that, he hopes, can contain the Bruins’ stars. Couturier had been with Giroux and Konecny.
Couturier, one of the league’s elite defensive players, said Bergeron is “responsible and doesn’t really make any mistakes. It’s always a good chess game out there to play those type of guys. We’ll just have to prepare to play the right way, and not get frustrated if it’s tight out there and not much space. Just wait for our opportunities.”
Carter Hart (2.53 GAA, .908 save percentage) will make his fifth start in the last six games and will oppose Jaroslav Halak (2.34, .923).
Hart beat the Bruins in a shootout, 3-2, when the teams met in Boston on Nov. 10.
In 18 career games vs. the Flyers, Halak is 10-6-2 with a 2.34 GAA and .918 save percentage. While playing for St. Louis in 2011-12, he shared the Jennings Trophy with Brian Elliott for fewest goals allowed in the NHL.
This will be the 200th regular-season meeting between the franchises. The Flyers have a 72-96-21-10 record (.440 points percentage) against the Bruins.
The Flyers have won the last three games in the series; they have never won four consecutive games against Boston.
Vigneault was moved by the standing ovation Oskar Lindblom received when he was shown on the scoreboard watching the game from a Wells Fargo Center suite Saturday.
“It was outstanding. You can tell he was a little not-at-ease there; he’s a pretty shy young man,” Vigneault said. “But it was great to see the fan support, and I expected nothing less from these great fans. I think it gave goose bumps to everyone who was watching.”
Lindblom, 23, is receiving treatments for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.