BOSTON – It’s easy to spot where Ivan Provorov is going to be when he’s at the top of his game.
He’s charging up ice, joining the rush and making a beeline for the net.
That’s a sure sign the Russian is playing with confidence.
Such has been the case during the Flyers’ five-game winning streak heading into Thursday night’s game against the Bruins.
The 22-year-old Russian defenseman looks like his old self, showing the form of last season when some thought he should have received the Barry Ashbee Trophy for best Flyers defenseman (instead of Shayne Gostisbehere).
Did coach Scott Gordon say anything to Provorov that changed matters, especially in Tuesday night’s stellar performance in a 1-0 win over the Rangers in New York?
“The last two games he’s played the way I thought he would have played,’’ Gordon said at the morning skate at TD Garden. “Being on the attack, getting up into the play, being more assertive when he does do it as opposed to staying back and looking for the perfect option.’’
Provorov clearly wasn’t himself earlier in the season when he dropped as low as a minus-17. A plus-4 in the last five games has made this statistic a bit more respectable.
“I think he’s making the perfect option by moving forward as opposed to being stationary,’’ Gordon said.
Provorov confirmed he’s more sure of himself at the moment.
“It’s easier to play your game when the team is playing well,’’ he said. “That’s why I guess you could say we’ve looked like ourselves the last five games.
“I was skating well the last two games. I took it to the net when I had a chance.’’
Andrew MacDonald has been a partner of Provorov’s on occasion over the past couple years and agrees that confidence plays a big part in Provorov’s game.
“I think at the start of the year, as a group, we weren’t able to put everything together,’’ he said. “I think at times when we were struggling, everyone was guilty of trying to do a little too much, whether that’s offensively or defensively.
“Now I think he’s really settled in, in terms of decision making, of moving pucks. He’s always been a strong defender. But I think he’s making real good decisions with the puck and it’s allowing him to join the rush and be that next wave of the attack.’’
Of course, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is Provorov’s impending new contract. He’s a restricted free agent and there’s been speculation that a possible long-term deal might be weighing on his mind.
Provorov denies that it’s bothering him and said he prefers not to talk about it.
MacDonald, however, did say that he went through a similar experience in his career and it is a challenge to keep the future out of one’s thoughts.
“Obviously he’s a much better player than I was going into that situation,’’ MacDonald said with a chuckle. “It’s harder for me to relate.
“Anytime you’re up (for a new contract), it doesn’t matter how old you are. It’s probably a bit harder when you’re younger. You want to maximize yourself and show your worth. He’s not the type of guy who is going to dwell on that but still you’re going to think about it, you’re going to want to do well, you want to help the team win.
“It’s not easy. Sometimes you might to try to do a little too much. But for him, I think he’s been playing great lately and he just has to let his play talk for itself.’’
>Gostisbehere still on hold
A bruised foot bone continues to hamper Gostisbehere, who was scratched from Thursday night’s game (making it a total of three) and Gordon said “Ghost’’ is doubtful for Saturday afternoon’s home game vs. Edmonton.
“We were hopeful for Saturday but I don’t think that’s realistic,’’ Gordon said. “The fact that he had eight days off (bye week/All-Star break), it’s going to be almost two weeks before he gets back on the ice. I don’t know if it’s going to be Monday or Thursday (home games vs. Vancouver and Los Angeles respectively).’’
Goalie Carter Hart was scheduled to return to a starting role in Thursday night’s game. He was coming off a four-game winning streak. . .Brian Elliott, who’s been out since mid-November with a lower-body injury, is with the team and took shots at the morning skate but there is no projected timeframe for his return. . .Gordon hails from the Boston area so he was asked if there’s any extra meaning coaching in front of a “home’’ crowd. “Being from here, for me it’s fun,’’ said Gordon, who coached the Bruins’ AHL affiliate Providence Bruins for a number of years. “You see some familiar faces, particularly having worked in the organization for eight years. As a kid growing up here, it’s not the original Garden but it still has a buzz because it’s the town you grew up in.’’