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Flyers' Berube looking to conjure a winning lineup

At practice, coach Craig Berube experimented with Vinny Lecavalier at wing on same line as center Claude Giroux and Mike Raffl.

Flyers head coach Craig Berube. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Flyers head coach Craig Berube. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

CRAIG BERUBE was wearing sweatpants and a zippered jacket as he conducted another practice during the Flyers' unofficial fall break. But with all of the experimenting he is doing to try to pick this 1-7-0 team off the mat, a white lab coat might have been more appropriate.

Berube is practically juggling beakers and test tubes as he tries to figure out a formula to help get the Flyers righted. It would be fitting if his depth chart was laid out like the periodic table of elements.

There was a hint of good news at practice yesterday as injured forward Vinny Lecavalier continued his recovery from an Oct. 11 lower-body injury by skating with Claude Giroux and a surprise third guest on the Flyers' top line.

No one was ready to pronounce that Lecavalier, 33, would be in the lineup against the visiting Rangers tomorrow night, but he sure looked good. The veteran forward would be a boost to an offense that has scored just 11 goals in the first eight games - an average of 1.4 per outing.

"Every day I'm a lot stronger, a lot quicker on the ice, just feeling a lot better," he said.

Lecavalier has played center for just about his entire 15-year career, the first 14 of which were spent in Tampa Bay before the Flyers signed him on July 2. He was the most significant forward the Flyers acquired over the summer.

"I can't say I'm a natural winger because I haven't practiced there," Lecavalier said, "but I feel more comfortable being on that right side. I guess we'll see if I get that opportunity to play on the wing."

Berube had him on the right side with Giroux in the middle and - surprise - youngster Mike Raffl on the left.

Raffl is 6-feet, 195 pounds. He played eight professional seasons in Europe and was among the final cuts in Flyers training camp, where he seemingly made an impression on Dr. Berube. The 24-year-old Austrian was called up from the AHL on Oct. 12, the day after Lecavalier was injured.

"He's got skill, he's big and he moves," the coach said of Raffl. "He seems very confident out there to me. The size and the skill is what intrigues you. But he seems like a confident kid to me, which I like."

Confidence right now is among the Flyers greatest voids.

Raffl played well enough at last year's world championships, which included two goals in seven games on a line alongside Sabres star Thomas Vanek, that the Flyers signed him as a free agent in May.

Raffl came from Sweden's second strongest league, so there was going to be a significant jump in the size and skill of his teammates (and opponents) in the NHL. Bring it on, the kid essentially said.

"I played 6 years of pro. I never really played in junior," Raffl said. "I started playing against grown-ups and had to learn to protect the puck if you want to play against those guys."

During work on their struggling power play yesterday, Giroux slid the puck through five players onto the blade of Jake Voracek for a slam-dunk goal.

"They can make passes that nobody else on the team can," Raffl said. "I can't make those passes all the time. 'G' is making plays in practice all the time I've never seen before in my whole life. It's a great chance."

Raffl warned that his practice on the top line yesterday was not a guarantee of what Berube has in mind for tomorrow. The coach also inserted Mark Streit on the top power-play unit in place of Kimmo Timonen. When you have dropped seven of your first eight, everything is subject to experimentation.

"I basically changed the whole unit," Berube said, "put Lecavalier out there too. I was just looking for a different setup."

Ice cubes

Forward Scott Hartnell, also out since Oct. 11 with an upper-body injury, practiced mostly with the reserve players. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Hartnell and Vinny Lecavalier officially are listed as day-to-day . . . Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, off to a very slow start (2-4, 3.45 goals against), missed his second consecutive practice yesterday with an undisclosed injury. Coach Alain Vigneault wasn't sure if Lundqvist could play tomorrow against the Flyers. Rookie Cam Talbot, promoted after backup Marty Biron's sudden retirement this week, could get his first NHL start if Lundqvist can't go.