BUFFALO - For Jakub Voracek, most of his first month in a Flyers uniform was a blur. Not because it went by too quickly, or that he isn't used to the Eastern Conference rinks, but rather because he had a hard time adjusting to coach Peter Laviolette's aggressive offensive system.
"I'd say that for the first seven or eight games of the season, I was lost," Voracek said yesterday. "I think now, I'm finally at the level of playing where I want to be, where I am comfortable and not trying to think too much.
"I've never been through anything like that before, having to fit in on a new team. I was trying to make too much happen."
Now, with forwards Danny Briere and Matt Read temporarily out of the lineup with upper-body injuries, Laviolette is counting on Voracek to pick up the scoring slack. And he has a good feeling.
"He's on the verge of really being a force," Laviolette said. "There's opportunity. And I think with his talent, that's eventually going to turn into numbers."
Not that Voracek's start with the Flyers was poor; he had five points in the first 11 games. It's just that Laviolette knows more production from Voracek is lurking. His play is light-years from where it was in the preseason, when he collected just two assists in a team-high six games.
Since then, Laviolette has sensed a change in Voracek's on-ice demeanor.
"I see a lot of effort and energy," Laviolette said. "When you come to a new organization, there's a learning curve that goes on. I think he's past that now. He's starting to understand what he's doing out there. And he's getting opportunities and looks and he's playing the game hard. Usually, the next step is results."
That began to happen when Voracek contributed an assist on Sean Couturier's goal just 1:43 into last night's 3-2 victory over the Sabres. Voracek, a former first-round choice of Columbus in 2007, did the dirty work along the boards to feed Andreas Lilja for a point shot that Couturier knocked in on the rebound. Voracek played 15 minutes, 8 seconds and had three shots on net.
Now in his fourth season in the NHL, it is easy to sometimes lose sight of the fact that Voracek, 22, is just 4 months older than linemate James van Riemsdyk and 4 years older than Couturier.
Jeff Carter will be back in Philadelphia on Saturday for the first time since being shipped to Columbus on June 23, but he won't be in the Blue Jackets' lineup.