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Hard work pays off for Flyers' Wayne Simmonds

Until the last game, Simmonds wasn’t scoring, but has contributed in multiple ways.

OVER THE span of the last month or so, Wayne Simmonds hasn't really been reading. Not about himself, his lack of goal production or even his team's rough stretch of play.

"I know what it's going to sound like or what it's going to read like," the Flyers' second-line winger said after Monday's practice. "I put a lot of weight on my own shoulders to perform for this team and for everyone in this dressing room. All I can really do is go out there and work as hard as I possibly can.

"If I'm not scoring I'm going to try and bring another piece to the team to help win while I'm trying to score at the same time."

The wins and goals for the team he's spent the last five seasons playing for weren't coming in droves, but the alternate captain who scored 28 goals last season - and 29 the year before - had to keep his cool, and sort of stay the course.

"You get older, you mature and I'm a leader on this team," the 27-year-old Simmonds said. "It does no good when you start getting mad, smashing sticks and blah, blah, blah - all that other stuff. You got guys in the dressing room looking to some of the guys here and if you show frustration then I think it's going to trickle down. I'm just trying to keep my head about me, keep calm and just proceed the right way.''

Fact is, scoring is down around the entire league. And even in his own locker room, Jake Voracek - who led the team in scoring last year - has been battling through a personal scoring slump.

But, as coach Dave Hakstol predicates his philosophy, Simmonds' focus was on defense.

"When it comes down to it, you're going to play a 1-0 or a 2-1 game," Simmonds said. "The moment, I think, you start pressing and you start panicking . . . It could be 0-0, and you're like, 'Oh, we gotta score a goal.' You're going to make a mistake and the other team is going to pick the puck up and put it in the back of your net. You kind of gotta keep it out of your mind. Obviously you'd like to score every shot, but in the real world that's not going to happen. You just gotta focus on what you're doing defensively and the goals will come."

They finally came Saturday in New York. Simmonds scored two goals - one an empty-netter - and tallied an assist on Sean Couturier's goal as the Flyers' second line finally broke out in a 3-0 win over the Rangers. It helped the Flyers finish November on a run of success with a 4-2-2 stretch.

Like many of the players around them, the line of Simmonds, Couturier and Matt Read has had its share of ups and downs throughout the first quarter of the season. But when Hakstol juggled his lines last week in an attempt to kick-start the league's worst offense, he kept the three of them together.

"They've been consistent for us,'' Hakstol said. "You always want to push to have better out of each and every group. That group has given us better over the last couple nights, now we want them to keep pushing in the same direction."

Simmonds credited the fact they've played together sporadically over the last few seasons as a big reason they were able to work through the ebb and flow.

"We knew we were playing well," Simmonds said. "The majority of the game, we have the puck and we're in the other team's offensive zone. We weren't really getting the bounces or converting on our opportunities. But we felt - and 'Hak' felt - that we were playing well.

"I know firsthand, when you start to get the bounces, you get the bounces in spades. You gotta make sure you're capitalizing on them when you get them. Last game was, not a start, but a continuation of our good play, I thought, and we just have to continue to play the same way and have the same mindset."

Schultz practices

Defenseman Nick Schultz, who was knocked out of Saturday's win in New York after taking a hard hit from Rangers defenseman Dylan McIlrath, practiced Monday. The Flyers are considering him day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

Schultz said he was feeling good. If he's unable to play Tuesday night in Ottawa, Brandon Manning would return to the lineup. The Flyers did not make any roster moves.

"I put myself, I think, in a vulnerable spot," Schultz said of the hit, which he thought was clean. "You put yourself in a tough spot and that's going to happen sometimes."

Slap shots

Dave Hakstol said it's likely the Flyers stick with the same lineup Tuesday night in Ottawa. The only variable would be whether Nick Schultz plays. The lines in practice Monday remained the same as they've been over the last few games . . . Injured forwards Ryan White and R.J. Umberger both participated in practice. It's not clear how close either is to returning to action . . . Ottawa (12-6-5) lost Saturday night in Phoenix, but previously had won four straight, including a 4-0 win on Nov. 21 against the Flyers.