NEWARK, N.J. – German Rubtsov didn’t feel comfortable enough with his English to talk about making his NHL debut Friday in New Jersey, and fellow Russian Ivan Provorov didn’t want to interrupt his pregame ritual to translate the Flyers center’s words to reporters.
So it was up to Rubtsov’s teammates to put the memorable game in perspective.
Two hours before the game, captain Claude Giroux said that Rubtsov understands English better than he speaks the language and that he would have a simple message for him: “Just go out and enjoy the game,” Giroux said.
Rubtsov, who centered the fourth line and had Carsen Twarynski and Chris Stewart as his wingers, became the fourth Flyer to make his NHL debut in the first 12 games this season. He joined Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman, and Joel Farabee.
“Any time a guy plays his first NHL game it kind of reminds us when we did,” Giroux said before the game. “It’s a special moment and you want to play well. There’s a lot of emotions going on in your head.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said he doesn’t say much to rookies playing their first game.
“They have a lot on their mind and usually I want them to be calm and enjoy it,” Vigneault said. “I know Provy has been spending a lot of time with Ruby and he’s going to be fine.”
Giroux responded to verbal jabs Vigneault gave him, Jake Voracek, and some of the veterans Thursday. The coach said he needed more from them.
“I know I can give more,” Giroux said, “and I know I have to give more. I mean, the coach can say what he thinks is good for the team, but I think you guys know I’ll be the first guy to criticize my play. I’m not worried about that kind of stuff. I’m just worried about bringing my game where I know I can bring [it].”
Giroux was recently moved from left wing to his old spot, center, He was asked if it was like riding a bike and if the transition was difficult.
“A rusty bike, maybe,” he said. “It’s definitely a different game. But I have played center for a lot of years. It’s not like something brand new for me. I know I’ve made a few mistakes as a centerman and I’ll probably make more, but it’s about minimizing my mistakes and being able to play my game.”
Former Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, now a Toronto assistant, will return to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday when the Maple Leafs face the Flyers. … Toronto star John Tavares, sidelined since breaking his right index finger on Oct. 16, could return to the lineup Saturday. ... Voracek had 199 career goals entering Friday.