BOSTON – Fourth-line center Michael Raffl and his latest linemates played so well in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win in Toronto that coach Alain Vigneault used them for about 11 1/2 minutes and had them on the ice late in regulation.
“It was fun. It’s nice to get the trust of the coach and your teammates,” Raffl said before Sunday’s game in Boston. “At the end of the day, you have to earn it, so it makes it feel even better.”
“They were very effective, and that’s the reason they played as much as they did, especially when the game was on the line," Vigneault said. “I thought they got in on the forecheck and were able to spend some quality time in Toronto’s end. When you play well, you play."
Raffl has contributed three goals and three assists while playing mostly on the third and fourth lines. A natural left winger who is now at center, he has had nine players as his linemates at the start of games this season.
“You just try to be consistent in what you do and worry about what you do,” he said when asked if the constant changing of linemates made it difficult to generate any chemistry. “Go out there and do what you can control. I think it’s a bigger change to go from winger to center. That bothers me more than whoever I play with.”
The challenge at center, he said, “is that I have to prepare myself and be sure of what to do everywhere on the ice because it is a little bit different, system-wise, to be a center than a winger, for sure” he said.
There are much more defensive responsibilities in the middle.
“As a center, you have to be in control of where your line is playing,” he said. “You kind of control what is happening out there.”
In the last two games, Raffl has centered Andy Andreoff and Tyler Pitlick. Andreoff, a Phantoms callup, played his first game for the Flyers in Toronto and nearly scored. It was also the first time he had played alongside Raffl, including the preseason.
“He’s a good player and he keeps it simple and knows his role. That helps a lot,” Raffl said. “He’s a really good guy off the ice, too, and that really helps, too. He was living with Laughts (Scott Laughton) in training camp, so I got to know him and I’m happy he’s up here.”