MONTREAL - When the talk comes around to rookies, the name most mentioned is Luca Sbisa.

The 18-year-old defenseman skipped going back to juniors, made the Flyers out of training camp, and is surprising people around the league with his level of play.

The name Andres Nodl only comes up when there are questions about line changes. That's probably because after 24 games, the rookie winger out of Vienna, Austria, and Canadian Juniors, has not scored a goal. He has three assists, and if his value to the team wasn't obvious to his coach, he might be back with the Phantoms.

"Goals are a point of reference for success and he hasn't scored in a while," said John Stevens. "But I think it's important that we communicate to him that his level of play and success won't just be on the stat sheet, it will be on his ability to do the little things well."

It's not that Nodl hasn't been trying - and he's gotten the opportunities, playing on top lines with top players.

But even at 21, Nodl is still young and a move to the AHL, switching for someone like Claude Giroux, wouldn't be the worst scenario for him or the team.

Stevens, however, doesn't see it that way. "There is a process integrating a young played into the NHL and if we send him down we'll be starting that process all over again," the coach said.

"Besides, we can't bring Giroux up and not play him on one of the top three lines, and if he is not going to get playing time then he needs to stay with the Phantoms and play."

Giroux, Stevens said, would be wasted playing a role position like Nodl is right now on the fourth line.

"If you get an offensive player they can't stay because they don't do the little things well like [Nodl] does; scoring doesn't matter in his case. It's almost reversed.

"He's here because of the little things he does do well and his defensive awareness, and in time I think you'll see him develop into a real source of secondary scoring on our team."

From Nodl's perspective, his time with the Flyers has been good and he's happy with whatever role he gets.

"It's been going really well," he said. "You've got to know your role and I know mine. That's playing hard every game and so far it's been an unreal experience.

"I play hard every day and go from game to game. It helps that we keep winning. If we would lose a lot it would be different."

Snap shot

Marty Biron missed his second game last night with the flu, but coach John Stevens said he should be ready to return this weekend. Antero Niittymaki got the start again in goal. *