RALEIGH, N.C. - No one knows how long it will last, but Vinny Lecavalier has been the Flyers' most productive player recently.
The same Vinny Lecavalier whom general manager Ron Hextall tried to trade last summer and probably would still deal if the right opportunity arose.
The same Vinny Lecavalier who was embarrassingly banished to the bench for seven games from Dec. 2 to Dec. 16.
The same Vinny Lecavalier who has been forced to learn a new position for much of the time since Craig Berube became the head coach early last season.
With Lecavalier leading the way, the Flyers' fourth line - which includes center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and left winger Chris VandeVelde - has been arguably the Flyers' best unit for much of the road trip.
"We're mentally trying to forecheck a lot, get turnovers, and attack the net as much as possible," Lecavalier said the other day. "Get shots and attack. I think it's like a mental thing. We're more and more hungry to go to the net, and we're getting our chances, for sure."
Lecavalier has five goals in his last seven games, answering those who thought he should retire.
"I never doubted him," Bellemare said, adding that Lecavalier has given the line "direction" with his inspired play.
"He's hungrier," VandeVelde said.
Berube said Lecavalier has lately provided "good energy" and has been "strong on the puck. He's winning more battles and shooting the hockey puck and doing what he does."
To his credit, Lecavalier didn't sulk when Berube made him a healthy scratch for the first time in his distinguished 16-year career. He worked harder in practice, and he has been on a mission since he was put back into the lineup.
But that doesn't mean he understands why he wasn't playing.
"Obviously, I thought it was pretty long," he said of the benching. "I'm not the coach, but I may have done things differently with myself, but that's just the player talking; it's not the coach."
Lecavalier, 34, who has 410 career goals - 10 away from Hall of Famer Bill Barber - wouldn't admit it, but it's obvious that his benching left him with something to prove.
He has been playing with a chip on his shoulder, and has been much more aggressive since returning to the lineup Dec. 18.
"I think sometimes, when you're not playing, you look at your game. You access your game and think about your game more - just to be more mentally ready right from the get-go," Lecavalier said. "I think that's one thing I've been focusing on since I've been back. I'm trying to be aggressive right away - and trying to get that first goal and get those first opportunities."
Besides playing on the fourth line, Lecavalier has been used on the power play, and has gotten occasional shifts on the top unit, alongside Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, the NHL's highest-scoring duo.
After playing just 5 minutes, 56 seconds in the last game before his benching, Lecavalier has been getting around 15 minutes of ice time lately.
"The more minutes you play, the more comfortable you get, the more confident you are," Lecavalier said. "I think as a line we've been playing well, and we have to keep it going. After that, it's kind of out of my control with the minutes I play."
Until last year, Lecavalier was strictly a center in 14 seasons with Tampa Bay. He is now playing right wing and, although he is more comfortable in the middle of the ice, he is growing fond of his new position.
"I'm starting to really like it," said Lecavalier, who, after this season, has three more years left on a $22.5 million contract that has an annual $4.5 million cap hit. "Belly has speed up the middle, and I think with him being a lefty, it's easier for him to give it up on the right side, and he looks for me a lot. I like being on the right side.
"Being on the left wing" - where he sometimes played last year - "is a different story," he added. "Being on the right side, going into the zone I have more options. I can go to the middle and protect the puck. I enjoy it there."
It shows. Lecavalier looks revitalized, has more "jump" in his game, and has been looking like the player the Flyers thought they were getting when he signed a lucrative free-agent deal before last season.