NEW YORK – Wayne Simmonds has been the Flyers’ leading scorer on the power play over the past few years but his reign in front of the opponent’s net may be coming to an end.
That was evident on Tuesday night when coach Dave Hakstol took that role away from Simmonds late in the game and replaced him with rookie Nolan Patrick.
Patrick responded with a pair of goals with the man advantage during a three-goal rally to tie the Islanders, 4-4, in what eventually became a 5-4 loss at Barclays Center.
“Patty was going,’’ Hakstol explained. “We needed a change there. We needed to shake it up a bit and he went out there and did a good job.’’
Patrick got right into goaltender Thomas Greiss’ grill and looked at home in this role.
Simmonds was hurt for a few weeks and Patrick had a chance to work as an apprentice during that stretch. Apparently the time was productive, because Patrick scored three power-play goals over that span.
“Obviously it helps when you have been there before,’’ he said. “There was some comfort there in that spot. You just have to get in the goalie’s eyes. Jake (Voracek) did a great job (getting him the puck on the second goal).’’
Laughton sits for a game
It was only a one-game healthy scratch, so there’s no reason for Scott Laughton to get bothered by Tuesday night’s sit-out against the Islanders.
Hakstol wanted to get Michael Raffl (out six games with an upper-body injury) back into the lineup, so Laughton drew the short straw.
“In Raff’s case, I mean he’s been out for a couple weeks now and he’s a real important player to our team,’’ Hakstol said before the game. “For him to come back into that (fourth line) spot with ‘Letts’ (Jori Lehtera), he can play a very similar role.
“He’s capable of being very versatile. He can play the role of a fourth-line winger well. He can parts of the penalty kill and play a very similar role to Laughton. That’s the reason behind it.’’
Hakstol said he did not believe Laughton, one of only five Flyers to play in all 79 games this season, needed a mental or physical break, even if he had not scored a goal in 20 straight games.
“I’m happy with his play,’’ Hakstol said. “If you watched his play the other night, he had two or three really good scoring chances. So it’s not that (his play).
“We have healthy bodies and we’re going to need everybody, through the final stretch here. We need everybody to be successful and Raff is a very important player. This is a means to have him re-enter the lineup.’’
Simmonds is coming off a game against Boston in which he went a minus-2 and flubbed a chance to clear the puck in the final seconds of a game in which the Flyers held a one-goal lead.
Fortunately for Simmonds, Claude Giroux scored in overtime and there were sighs of relief.
Hakstol senses Simmonds’ frustration. While he has scored 23 goals this year, his plus-minus has dropped to a team-worst minus-15.
“Nobody cares more than ‘Simmer’ does,’’ Hakstol said. “Nobody takes more pride in those situations than Simmer does. I’ve like his game. I like the way he’s been playing, the element he’s brought.’’
Start for Elliott?
The Flyers finish up their season with Carolina on Thursday and the Rangers on Saturday.
Any chance Brian Elliott, out since Feb. 10 due to core muscle surgery, could see action in one of those to get him warmed up for the playoffs?
“We’ll see what’s allowed here,’’ Hakstol said. “We’ve got a lot on the line here. I’m not really looking past tonight.
“It’s obviously a very short time period. I think there’s a huge benefit if we’re able to lock up a playoff spot and get him back into a game. Whether or not we’re actually going to be able to do that, I guess we will evaluate that game by game based on his readiness and where we’re at as a team.’’