Simmonds, Voracek trade places for Flyers
Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek are switching lines. Simmonds, who has been the Flyers' top-line right winger in 18 of 19 games, dropped down to the second unit at Monday's practice in Voorhees.
The Flyers have lost five of their last seven games, so second-year coach Dave Hakstol is looking for something to energize his team.
No, it doesn't appear he is giving goalie Anthony Stolarz his first NHL start Tuesday in Florida.
Instead, Hakstol is making a line change - top-line right winger Wayne Simmonds is trading places with Jake Voracek - and hoping it creates more balance.
Simmonds will drop to the second line, alongside Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny. Voracek will be on the top unit, which includes Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn.
The Flyers (8-8-3) need to get better defense from the top two units. The top line is minus-21, while the second unit is minus-17.
The Flyers play the Panthers on Tuesday and then travel to meet Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
"When you go on the road, it's always a grind," said Voracek, who is tied with Giroux with a team-high 17 points. "We just have to make sure we play good defensively and crash the net and get a lot of traffic."
Voracek and Simmonds downplayed the line changes.
"It's normal to be switched up at any point during the season," said Simmonds, who leads the Flyers with nine goals and has been on the top line in 18 of the 19 games.
"I've played with G and Schenner before," Voracek said. "It is what it is."
Voracek said the Flyers' forwards, defensemen, and goalies "need to get better" in the defensive zone "to make that push and get over the .500 hump." He said they need to improve their five-on-five play.
"We have to get our consistency back," Simmonds said. "We have to make sure we're doing the right things - limiting the turnovers, and some of the brain [locks] we've had without the puck. I think our game with the puck has been very good, but some of the things without the puck we can improve on."
Hakstol said he made the line change because he was "looking for ways to be a little bit better."
Based on the fact that Steve Mason was the first goalie off the ice at Monday's practice, it appears he will start Tuesday. Stolarz is eager to make his NHL debut.
"I'm not sure what the game plan is, but whenever Stolie gets in - whether it's on this road trip or down the road - I wish him nothing but the best," Mason said. "He's worked hard for it and I've seen a lot of growth in his game, to the point where I even told him he looks like a different goalie from last year. I just want to make sure he's not getting too worked up over it."
Hakstol, whose team plays three games in four days starting Tuesday, wouldn't commit to when Stolarz will make his NHL debut.
The Flyers "played pretty good hockey" on their recent 2-1-1 homestand and are making defensive strides, Hakstol said, "but we have to find a way to be a little hungrier around the net."
They also need to do a better job clearing bodies around their goalie.
"We're certainly not satisfied being a .500 team," Hakstol said. "We've had some opportunities to push to that right side of that .500 mark, and each time we've fallen back."
Stolarz, who is from Jackson, N.J., will soon become the 17th New Jersey-born player - and the first goalie - to play in the NHL. "I'm getting pretty eager, but at the same time, you have to stay patient," he said. . . . Former Flyer Jaromir Jagr, 44, has just two goals in 19 games for Florida (10-8-1). He had 27 goals last season. . . . The Flyers will be trying to snap an 0-for-10 power-play funk.