Having lost six of their last seven games, and with a visit to the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on deck Saturday night (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia), the Flyers shuffled their attacking lines before leaving town Friday afternoon.
Coach Dave Hakstol moved James van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds up to the second line, joining center Nolan Patrick. The new third line was Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, and Jake Voracek; the new fourth line was Oskar Lindblom, Jordan Weal, and Dale Weise and Jori Lehtera alternating.
Only the top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny stayed untouched.
“That line’s been really good,” Hakstol said. “We can do better with all three of the other combinations, so ultimately that’s the starting point of looking to make a few changes."
Van Riemsdyk liked what he saw from the middle of the action.
“Me and Simmer have had some good chemistry out there,” van Riemsdyk said. “Even though we do some things pretty similarly, I think there’s some different elements that we both kind of have, and [can] expand our games a little bit because we don’t have to be the ones relied on to always be standing at the net.”
As for the Flyers' own net, Hakstol confirmed that Anthony Stolarz will start Saturday night and Michal Neuvirth will be the backup. Neuvirth has battled a groin injury throughout this season and has played in just one game.
“Neuvy wouldn’t be in the lineup if he wasn’t ready to play,” Hakstol said. “You can’t just say you’re ready to back up. You have to be ready to play. So, he’s ready to play. But the more work we can get him before he has his first start, the more of a benefit it is to him.”
Saturday’s game might not be the kind of big-time showdown these teams are used to having, since the Penguins are in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division and the Flyers are in last. But there was no doubt in the Flyers locker room that it’s still a rivalry -- and could be a sparkplug to get this team back on track.
“It should be a hell of a game,” Hakstol said. “For me right now, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Obviously, playing Pittsburgh should add a little bit to it for the group in here. I know it does for our fan base. But this is about us and what we’re doing, and we’ve got to really take that to heart and take it upon ourselves here.”