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The Flyers’ centers looking to step up in Nate Thompson’s absence

Laughton knows he needs to play better, as one of the Flyers' few healthy centers, to help turn around their current losing streak.

Flyers left wing Scott Laughton skates with the puck against Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jordan Martinook on Friday.
Flyers left wing Scott Laughton skates with the puck against Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jordan Martinook on Friday.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

With four centers down, Scott Laughton knows he has to step up now.

At the beginning of the season, Laughton felt like he and his linemates, James van Riemsdyk and Oskar Lindblom, were getting good chances even if they weren’t capitalizing on them. The lines shifted a bit before bringing the three of them back together Friday.

This time, things didn’t go as well.

“Seems like we’re almost stuck in the neutral zone or D zone and trying to fight out of it,” Laughton said. “Things haven’t been easy for us the last couple weeks, but a new challenge tonight and division opponent and we’re really excited to get back on track and play like we should.”

With center Nate Thompson officially out with a shoulder injury — coach Alain Vigneault said Thompson needs another opinion, but it doesn’t look good and he could be out for weeks — the third line will be back together again. All the lines will stay the same, with Morgan Frost centering the second line in Derick Brassard’s absence, except the fourth line. The Flyers recalled Max Willman to play on the left while Connor Bunnaman will shift to center in Thompson’s absence.

Both Bunnaman and Frost have experience with the Flyers, so Laughton said he wasn’t worried about how they’d step in. But as one of two remaining centers who made the team out of training camp, Laughton knows he has to do more.

“I haven’t been good enough and have to be better for our group and continue to work and try and be better and create a little bit more in the offensive zone to give us a little bit of depth scoring,” Laughton said.

The Flyers also are already without center Kevin Hayes, along with Patrick Brown, who can play center.

Teaching each other

Over time spent together at World Championships with Team Canada, New Jersey Devils coach Lindy Ruff found he and Vigneault share similar mentalities and coaching philosophies.

“I think we look at the game the same way,” Ruff said. “There was a lot of interaction between the two of us on how we felt the game needs to be played, which was fairly similar.”

As an assistant coach, Ruff observed Vigneault, the head coach, and took notes. He learned from Vigneault’s playbook, his team meetings, and his reactions to different situations. Vigneault laughed when he heard this, saying he, in fact, learned from Ruff.

Recent events have also placed the two teams in a similar situation. Both made significant changes over the offseason, and both have dealt with a recent rash of injuries. They both have eight wins.

“To get where we’re going, we need to finish ahead of them,” said Ruff, whose team is trying to avoid a three-game skid.

The Flyers, meanwhile, are trying to snap a five-game losing streak.

“He’s going to do what he needs to to get his team ready tonight, and I’m going to do the same thing,” Vigneault said.


The Flyers play the Devils at 7 p.m. on Sunday in Newark. ... With Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders postponed due the team’s COVID outbreak , the Flyers will have time to rest and practice. It’s a mixed blessing, though. “It means we’re going to have to make up the game somewhere in what is already a very challenging schedule,” Vigneault said. ... The NHL fined the Carolina Hurricanes’ Andrei Svechnikov $5,000 for kneeing Laughton on Friday. Laughton, however, would rather the refs have called a penalty. “It creates a goal and bad line change by me,” Laughton said. “I’m hurt going off the ice and they go down and score. It’s a different game. I’m not so sure about the fines and all that. Guys make pretty big money there and can pay that off.”