When the Flyers signed defenseman Christian Folin to a free-agent contract during the offseason, the feeling was he was taking the place of Brandon Manning as a depth player.
But you know how it is in the NHL – there’s always an injury waiting to happen.
On top of that, Folin played so well in the preseason that coach Dave Hakstol decided on a platoon system and actually sat out a healthy Radko Gudas on Oct. 6 in Colorado to give Folin some earned playing time.
Since then, the ex-Los Angeles King has demonstrated some steady play and after Saturday’s 4-0 win over Chicago, his plus-minus has zoomed to plus-9.
Which, by the way, is well above the highly publicized “minus twins,’’ namely Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov.
General manager Ron Hextall still has strong ties to Los Angeles, where he served as assistant general manager during the build-up to the first of two Stanley Cups.
So he had a fairly good handle on Folin’s scouting report. The skinny: A 6-foot-3, 204-pound 27-year-old Swede with just the right combination of speed and physical edge.
Plus, 118 games with the usually defensive-stingy Minnesota Wild to boot.
Folin’s steady play has allowed veteran Andrew MacDonald to take his time coming back from a lower-body injury which he suffered before the season began.
Initially, MacDonald was supposed to be out more than a month but felt so good he returned in two weeks. Turns out that was much too soon, so he suffered a relapse and now is taking a much more prudent approach.
In the meantime, Folin is getting the job done.
Goaltender Brian Elliott says it’s pretty remarkable how quickly Folin has adapted to his new team.
“It’s always hard when you change teams and try to fit into the system,’’ Elliott said. “But he’s done a remarkable job.
“Again (in the Chicago game) he had a huge block in the second period that was a tough play for me to see the puck. He just stuck out a leg and I think that’s one of his strengths in his game and I think that’s really coming through now.’’
Folin confirms that he’s starting to fit in now.
“After that little, shaky start, it’s getting better,’’ he said. “I feel more comfortable. It all counts on the situation; I get put in there a lot of different situations.
“It’s fun to be out there, it’s fun to play with Ghost (Gostisbehere), he’s such a good defensive man. Sometimes it’s easy just to get the puck to him and he’ll do the rest. But I think we’re working really well. Our whole D-corps as a unit, even our goalie (vs. Chicago) did a tremendous job; moving the puck and getting it up to our forwards.’’
Folin has a long reach and an effective stick to block a lot of pass attempts down low.
“Yeah, it’s been working nicely for me,’’ he said. “It’s something I’ve been working on the last few years to improve that. To take away angles and to take away space, sometimes you get your stick on the puck and it’s a good feeling. But you have to keep working on it, it’s a long season, you want to have that momentum in the back of your head.’’
It will be interesting to see how Hakstol will handle the situation of seven healthy defensemen when MacDonald does return.
“He (Folin) goes out and does his job every night,’’ Hakstol said. “He’s a consistent player, he’s reliable in terms of you know what you’re going to get. And you get that at a high level.’’
The Flyers were off Sunday. They practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. on Monday and then play the third game of their five-game homestand against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. . .Sean Couturier’s two-goal game against Chicago was the 10th two-goal game of his career. He also had an assist on a Claude Giroux goal, giving Couturier his 11th career three-point game. Giroux also had a three-point game, the 50th of his career. Giroux on the Flyers’ 5-0-1 streak: “I think our chemistry is a lot better. When you have a little confidence everything goes pretty well.’’
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