EDMONTON, Alberta – Heading into Wednesday’s matchup in Edmonton, Flyers right winger Jake Voracek was off to a difficult start this season.
No points in the first four games and a demotion from the top line.
“I think, like a couple of our guys, he fighting it a little bit, offensively,” coach Alain Vigneault said before the game, before Voracek ended his drought. “I think he’s paying attention to his defensive side of the game, but you just have to look at our stats, and a couple of our guys offensively are being put to the test a little bit, which is all right. I like our defensive game right now; we just have to make more plays with the puck.”
Voracek acknowledged his early-season struggles and his turnovers, but he said he has overcome them before.
“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I’ve been through it a lot. Maybe if it’s Game 60 and we’re still talking about it, then I’d be concerned.”
True to his word, Voracek collected two goals and an assist in the Flyers’ 6-3 loss Wednesday to Edmonton.
Voracek said he understood being demoted from the first line to the fourth for the third period Saturday in Vancouver. He wasn’t playing well, and Vigneault "put the lineup in that gave us the best chance to win the game. I’m here to win. I’m not going to be stubborn and upset about it. All I can do is work hard and be that guy to be counted on the next game.”
He played on the third line in the next two games, including against the Oilers, when he was teamed with Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton at the start of the game.
“I have to smooth out some things with [moving] the puck on the ice,” he said. “I’m talking about turnovers, because I would say, defensively, I haven’t been bad. But I’m an offensive player who gets paid to make a difference on the offensive side of the puck. I have to make things happen with the puck, because if I don’t – even if I play good defensively it doesn’t matter.”
Voracek, Claude Giroux, and James van Riemsdyk were scoreless with a combined one assist in the first four games.
Looking to get the offense going, Vigneault switched around all four lines Wednesday.
In addition to the new-look Laughton unit, Sean Couturier centered Giroux and Travis Konecny; Kevin Hayes centered Oskar Lindblom and van Riemsdyk; and Connor Bunnaman returned to the lineup and centered Carsen Twaynski and Tyler Pitlock.
Chris Stewart was a healthy scratch.
Struggles in Calgary
Lindblom played a strong two-way game Tuesday. Van Riemsdyk (six shots) was a force in front, and Giroux had some good moments, while goalie Brian Elliott was the Flyers’ best player.
Other than that, most of the Flyers seemed to leave their game overseas, as they dropped a 3-1 decision in Calgary.
A fallout from their brutal early-season travel schedule?
Perhaps. But they would not use that as a crutch for being badly outplayed and outshot, 38 to 22.
“There are no excuses,” van Riemsdyk said, pointing out that Calgary was playing its fourth game in six nights.
For the Flyers, the best news of the night was that Elliott, who was plagued by injuries last season, was very good. He stopped 36 of 38 shots – and one of them was deflected off the stick of teammate Travis Sanheim for a Calgary goal.
Elliott “gave us a chance, and that’s all you can ask of your goaltender,” said Vigneault, who was perturbed by his team’s sloppy, listless performance.