Flip-flopping right wingers Tyler Pitlick and Nic Aube-Kubel on the bottom lines helped the Flyers whip NHL-best Boston, 4-1, in a round-robin tournament opener Sunday.
Pitlick, who had been on the third line, was dropped to the fourth unit, and Aube-Kubel went to the third line. Both provided physical play and fit in nicely with their new linemates. Pitlick’s new line, with center Nate Thompson and left winger Michael Raffl, produced two goals.
“I just thought that little subtle change might give a different look to the lines,” said coach Alain Vigneault before the Flyers practiced in Toronto on Monday. “I thought ‘Kube’ played very well. He got in on the forecheck. He was physical. He was making it hard on Boston’s defense. And I felt Tyler – I don’t want to say refound his hands or his ability with the puck – but I thought he was much more effective with that line with Nate and Raffy. It was one of our better lines at both ends of the rink last night.”
Pitlick had a team-high four hits and drew a penalty, while Aube-Kubel had three hits. Raffl (goal, assist), who was injured late in the game and will not play Thursday against Washington, and Thompson (goal, his first with the Flyers) excelled with Pitlick. Derek Grant, the third-line center, also contributed, taking three shots and going 8 for 11 (73%) on faceoffs.
Pitlick said the third and fourth lines “play pretty similar games. We just go north. We’re physical and grind on the other team. I think it makes it tough on them. It’s a lot of fun playing that way.”
Grant said the bottom lines are “hard on pucks” and “create opportunities and chaos with their speed ... and create turnovers with that.”
Grant, Pitlick, and Thompson also played key roles on a penalty kill that was 3 for 3 against Boston’s usually potent power play.