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Flyers' rookie impressive in faceoff circle

Scott Laughton is one of the few Flyers making a favorable impression these days.

Scott Laughton skates with the puck past goalie Ray Emery and the Wild's Charlie Coyle. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Scott Laughton skates with the puck past goalie Ray Emery and the Wild's Charlie Coyle. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

ANAHEIM - Killing time during a television timeout midway through the second period on Wednesday night, Scott Laughton was in an unusual spot on the Honda Center ice.

He wasn't at the bench with his teammates. He wasn't slugging a sip of water.

Instead, Laughton was near center ice, chatting with a referee. It was a strange scene. Referees don't always have time for players - especially rookies. Respect in the NHL is earned with games played.

Whatever the conversation was about - perhaps a deferential Laughton had a question about a particular call or procedure - it seemed to work.

On the ensuing neutral-zone faceoff, Ryan Getzlaf was tossed from the draw. Getzlaf had 3 inches, at least 30 pounds and nearly 10,000 more faceoffs of experience over Laughton, yet he was booted for a violation in procedure. The Hart Trophy finalist actually turned his head for a split second in disbelief, as if to say, "Are you kidding me?"

Matt Beleskey stepped in for the puck drop. Laughton, playing in his 14th NHL game, quickly spun and got his skate over the puck for protection and dished it back to his defense for the win.

Faceoffs are a small facet, a blink of the eye in a 60-minute game, but they help define Laughton and his attention to detail that has won favor with coach Craig Berube since his promotion to the Flyers on Nov. 19.

"I think I'm improving and trying to learn the little quirks," Laughton said. "It's strange. You watch guys like Joe Thornton on TV when you're growing up and stuff, even in junior hockey, trying to learn everything you can. You watch guys like Getzlaf and [Ryan] Kesler and then you're taking faceoffs against them.

"You want to win them. I'm a young guy, but I don't think that really matters."

Laughton, 20, has been the one positive for a Flyers team that has lost six in a row (0-4-2) for the first time in more than 6 years. They have dropped an incredible nine consecutive (0-7-2) games on the road, dating back to Oct. 22, and still have two more games left on this trip before returning home next week.

Laughton said his goal was to try to get his offensive game to carry over from the AHL and junior hockey. So far, it's working. He will carry a two-game point streak into tomorrow afternoon's matchup in Los Angeles. He picked up his first career point on Tuesday in San Jose and added another assist Wednesday against the Ducks.

"It felt like 3 years," Laughton said of his first point. "It really is almost 3 [calendar years] since I played my first game. It was good to get that, but it's been tough to end [games] like we have. I don't know if it's a monkey off my back, but it feels good to try and produce and get on the scoreboard."

His ascension to the Flyers' second line marks a meteoric rise in the last 3 months. Laughton wasn't all that impressive in training camp, with general manager Ron Hextall saying he played "one good game." So, the 2012 first-round pick went to the Phantoms with Hextall's decree that young players would be used sparingly this season, until injuries forced Hextall's hand.

Now, nine games into his second run with the Flyers, it appears Laughton isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

"He's a much more mature player, for sure," Berube said. "He's got more to his game nowadays, just taking pucks to the middle of the ice with speed and skating and attacking - and just knowing how to play the game properly.

"He makes up for his mistakes with his work and his battle."

Aside from his position on the depth chart with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, Laughton's ice time and faceoffs are an indication of Berube's growing trust. He is both killing penalties (1:25 per game) and playing power play (40 seconds per game). Two weeks ago, in his first game of the season against the Rangers, Laughton skated only 7 minutes total.

Berube allowed Laughton to take only three defensive zone faceoffs in his first three games. He's taken 14 over the last six games alone. Believe it or not, Laughton is more successful in defensive- or neutral-zone draws (36-for-59) than he is far from his net (11-for-27).

"He's got grit in his game," Berube said. "He plays a hard game and he's physical. He's a very confident guy. There's no doubt he likes the challenge."

Slap shots

The Flyers entered last night's action six points back of a playoff spot. At this point last season, they were two points out . . . With his go-ahead goal on Wednesday night for Anaheim, Flyers seventh-round pick Pat Maroon has three points in three games against his former team . . . The Flyers have scored on only two of 13 shootout attempts this season . . . Coming off another loss, Craig Berube will decide after practice today in suburban Los Angeles whether to reinsert Vinny Lecavalier and Michael Del Zotto into the lineup. Both sat as healthy scratches for the second game in a row on Wednesday.