ANAHEIM, Calif. - After sitting out 10 games with a left high-ankle sprain, Zac Rinaldo returned to the Flyers lineup Thursday night against the team with the NHL's best record, the Anaheim Ducks.
"I'm so excited; it's been too long. Three weeks is too long for me," the sometimes-frenetic winger said after the team's morning skate at the Honda Center.
The original prognosis was that Rinaldo would be out six weeks. He was on a fourth line Thursday that had a new wrinkle: Michael Raffl, who has been used at left wing, played center for the first time in his NHL career. Raffl played center in Austria.
Adam Hall, who has been used mostly at center, was the other winger on the line.
Rinaldo said he felt "a little nervous after being out of the lineup for 10 games, so to me it's good I'm a little nervous, though. I bring a little more energy when I'm nervous."
The Flyers were 3-5-2 without Rinaldo, and they played a lot of those games without much emotion.
Rinaldo could change that.
"It'll be nice to have him back in there with the energy and the skating and physical play," coach Craig Berube said.
Kimmo Timonen said the Flyers need to stay out of the penalty box against the strong teams they face on this three-game West Coast trip: Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose.
"They can make you pay on their power play," he said.
That means players such as Rinaldo, who has lacked discipline at times, need to play smart.
"He's got to watch his hitting," Berube said. "With that power he has in his skating ability, he tends to get there so quickly, and somebody turns a little bit, and it's a penalty. He's got to be careful that way and control his hitting."
"I'm not going to run around like I'm a nervous wreck, trying to hit everyone," said Rinaldo, who began the night with 101 penalty minutes and a minus-12 rating. "I'm not a little kid anymore, so I'm going to go out there and play the game of hockey. I'm just going to take my nerves out on the puck."
The Flyers are the NHL's most-penalized team, averaging 15.9 minutes per game.
Sbisa facing old team. Former Flyer Luca Sbisa was on the Ducks' third defensive pairing Thursday, with Mark Fistric. Sbisa, who turned 24 Thursday, returned Tuesday after missing two months because he tore a tendon in his right hand during a fight.
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound defenseman said the Ducks have been on a mission this season. "I think it's been a big learning experience that we carried over from last year," he said. "We weren't happy with the way things ended last year in the first round against Detroit, losing Game 7. Guys were still angry about that, and I think we just carried that anger into this year and turned it into positive energy."
Breakaways. Steve Mason (20-13-5, 2.57 goals-against average, .915 save percentage), coming off a 5-0 win over Detroit, faced Anaheim backup Frederik Andersen (13-2, 1.87, .933). Andersen has faced mostly inferior teams because the Ducks rely primarily on Jonas Hiller (24-7-4, 2.39, .914). . . . Timonen (bruised left foot) is not quite 100 percent, but he was in the lineup. . . . Chris VandeVelde cleared waivers and will head to the Phantoms. . . . Former Flyers farmhand Patrick Maroon entered the night with 12 points in 35 games with the Ducks this season. . . . The Flyers began Thursday 8-7-2 against Western Conference teams, while the Ducks were 16-5-3 vs. the East.