Flyers bench struggling Lecavalier for game against Sharks
Veteran Vinny Lecavalier acknowledges he has been struggling, but is stunned at being a healthy scratch for the first time ever.
SAN JOSE - Vinny Lecavalier had trouble sleeping on Sunday night - and it had little to do with the 3-hour time difference on the West Coast.
That's because the Flyers' coaching staff notified him then that he'd be out of the lineup tonight against the Sharks.
The fact that Lecavalier would be a healthy scratch for the first time in his illustrious career really hit him yesterday, though, when he saw his name penciled next to injured player Ryan White on the fifth line for practice at SAP Center.
"It's very hard to take," Lecavalier said. "It was a tough night, when you're told something like that. I talked to [coach Craig Berube]. We had a conversation, but I'm out of the lineup. It's as simple as that."
Lecavalier, 34, sat out healthy for the first two games of the 2001-02 season in Tampa Bay, but that was because of a contract holdout that ended just before the season began. This is different.
Benching Lecavalier, who will finish his career as the highest-paid player in hockey history to date, with $131.7 million in guaranteed earnings, will surely catch the attention of the rest of the NHL's worst road team before the start of this three-game California gantlet. He is proof that no player is immune from accountability.
"That's not why he's sitting out - that's not the reason for it," Berube said when asked whether he intended to send a message. "I think it's a competitive thing with him. I just don't see enough of it out there. I've got to see more.
"Guys that are playing in the lineup need to find urgency quicker. That's their job. We definitely need to play with more urgency, and we need to play with more structure in our game."
Judging by the lineup in yesterday's practice, Lecavalier might not be the only high-priced Flyer watching tonight from the press box. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald, in the first year of a $30 million deal, could be scratched for the second consecutive game.
MacDonald skated yesterday on the fourth pairing with Carlo Colaiacovo, though Berube said "it's possible" MacDonald will return to the lineup.
"I just think he looks like he's not confident right now," Berube said. "I'm looking for more intensity and better puck movement out of him."
Without any trades from general manager Ron Hextall, a significant shuffling of the lineup was perhaps Berube's only remedy for trying to pull his team out of a 1-7-1 skid.
"I think if this were a couple weeks ago, and we'd been winning, this would be a surprise," said Luke Schenn, who was benched himself last week and rebounded Saturday in New York with his best game of the season. "When you're losing like this, anything is possible."
Lecavalier just didn't think he'd be benched - not after racking up 917 points in 1,122 games. Not after a refreshingly productive training camp. Not after four points in four games to start the season. Maybe not even with R.J. Umberger, yet to be scratched, off to an even less impressive start.
Lecavalier strongly disagreed with Berube's assertion that his struggles stem from a lack of effort.
"I don't think that's what it is," Lecavalier said. "I think everybody works hard. I've got to get back and play with more confidence. With confidence comes speed and everything else around it. It's definitely not effort. But I don't want to say . . . [anything more].
"I got off to a great start at the beginning of the year. I came back from injury and my minutes diminished every game after that. When you're down to, like last game, six or seven shifts, it's tough to get anything going. There were a couple games before that as well, playing 9 or 10 minutes.
"I don't want to use [ice time] as an excuse. You've got to look at the fact that I'm not going to be in there [tonight]. I'll be ready for the next time I'm out there."
In the salary-capped world, the Flyers show, money doesn't always equal wins.
MacDonald, 28, acknowledged for the first time yesterday that he's struggled to live up to the pressure of his new contract. He is earning an average of $5 million over the next 6 years after being paid $575,000 or less each of the last four seasons.
MacDonald has been a completely different player since arriving from the Islanders. He blocked 30 more shots than any other NHL player last season; this season, he would be fourth on the Flyers alone in the same category if he didn't miss 10 games because of injury.
"I understand there's high expectations for me and I certainly haven't met them," MacDonald said. "Obviously, yeah [it's difficult]. There's a bigger responsibility on you. I think whenever you're in that type of position, you have to show results and you have to be good. You have to try to be the player they've signed you to be. Obviously, I've got some work to do."
Winger Michael Raffl is expected to move back to the top line . . . Scott Laughton will center the second line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds . . . Zac Rinaldo is likely to skate with Sean Couturier and Matt Read, while Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be reinserted in the lineup alongside R.J. Umberger and Chris VandeVelde . . . Flyers first-round picks Travis Sanheim (2014) and Samuel Morin (2013) were among 10 defensemen invited to Team Canada's evaluation camp for the World Junior Championship roster. Only seven defensemen will be selected for the final roster.