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Brayden Schenn experiment over for now

Flyers coach Craig Berube didn't have much patience with Brayden Schenn playing on the top line.

The Flyers' Brayden Schenn. (Chris Szagola/AP)
The Flyers' Brayden Schenn. (Chris Szagola/AP)Read more

TURNS OUT, the chain around Brayden Schenn's neck was more choker collar than leash - given how quickly and how hard it was yanked by Craig Berube last week.

Schenn's experiment on the top line with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek did not last five full periods during the regular season. He was pulled from the line during the second period of last Thursday's loss to New Jersey.

It wasn't just a momentary shake-up, either. When the puck dropped on Saturday night against Montreal, it was Michael Raffl flanked to Giroux's left for the opening draw.

"It didn't work the other way," Berube said. "At the time, during the New Jersey game, there just wasn't a lot of speed on the line. They weren't playing fast enough for me."

The move seemed to flabbergast Schenn, who didn't have the benefit of working with Giroux for most of the preseason because of the captain's injury.

Schenn, 23, tried to play the role of the good soldier after yesterday's practice.

"You don't gain that chemistry like you would if you're going to be playing with someone every other day," Schenn said. "You know, it usually takes more than a couple games for most guys. Another new linemate, you've just got to adapt as soon as possible.

"Nothing I can do about it, really. We needed a lineup change, a shake-up to try and score some goals and put some wins together. It's no big deal at all."

Perhaps Raffl's ascension to the top line is the first tangible impact on the Flyers' lineup of advanced statistics and analytics.

As the blog TwoPadStack.net pointed out this weekend, the Flyers' top line had their best puck-possession statistics with Raffl (and not Scott Hartnell) last season. That has to be something new director of hockey analytics Ian Anderson has noted.

In the 203 minutes they were on the ice last season, Raffl-Giroux-Voracek controlled nearly 60 percent of all shot attempts compared to just 40 percent for opponents.

Raffl also posted 10 points in 14 games during a stretch in December on the top line, compared to just 12 in his other 54 games.

"I think we find each other pretty well out there," Raffl said. "Those guys are some of the best players in the league, top 10 maybe. It feels like you get more scoring chances - and it should be that way when you play with those guys. I'm real happy to get a chance there."

Strangely, now with center Vinny Lecavalier (foot) out for a couple weeks, Berube seems set on keeping Schenn on the left wing. He seems to be playing his best hockey at center. Instead, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will slide up from the fourth line to the second line to center Schenn and leading scorer Wayne Simmonds.

"Vinny is out right now, but he's going to be back," Berube explained. "I don't want to mess around too much. I'd rather leave on the wing and see how it goes. Overall, game has to get quicker. Quicker and stronger. He needs to move his feet and win more battles."

A game of musical chairs three games into the season has Schenn's head spinning. Not a long leash, indeed, but it's not as if any coach in this franchise has ever been given one, either.

"I've got to take whatever opportunity is given to me," Schenn said. "We needed a lineup change, a shake-up to try and score some goals and put some wins together. I know myself I have to be better. Three games and three losses for our team, I know everybody on this team has to be better."

Injury report 

* General manager Ron Hextall upgraded Braydon Coburn (lower-body injury) to "day-to-day." Coburn did not practice yesterday but seems like a good bet to return Saturday in Dallas.

* Vinny Lecavalier will miss approximately 2 weeks of action with a left foot injury. He was hurt when a Mark Streit slap shot connected with his foot in the first period of Saturday's shootout loss to Montreal, but finished the game. Lecavalier, 34, missed 13 games last season with a fracture in his lower back that caused frequent spasms.

* First-round pick Samuel Morin underwent surgery yesterday in Quebec to repair a fractured jaw suffered on Sunday in his junior game. He is expected to miss 4 to 5 weeks.

Slap shots

With Vinny Lecavalier out, Blair Jones will make his Flyers debut centering the fourth line . . . Defenseman Nick Grossmann missed yesterday's practice with a stomach virus but Craig Berube expected him to play tonight against Anaheim. Assistant coach Gord Murphy got the best workout during practice, with just five healthy defensemen available . . . Berube said the Flyers would not require a call-up for tonight's game, but adding an extra body before the upcoming three-game road trip seemed likely . . . Anaheim pulverized Buffalo in a 5-1 win yesterday afternoon, outshooting the Sabres by a 44-12 margin . . . The Flyers have lost three straight to Anaheim at Wells Fargo Center, dating back to Feb. 2, 2008.

Quotable

Ron Hextall's son Jeff, a 19-year-old goaltender who plays for the Flyers' USPHL junior team, took shots in yesterday's practice. He remained in net when the Flyers practiced the shootout, prompting Craig Berube to note:

"They weren't scoring on him, either."

No Flyer scored in four attempts on Saturday against Montreal. Nine NHL teams have more shootout wins on the road than the Flyers (27-52) do all-time.

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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