VOORHEES – There’s always plenty of excitement for a hockey team’s home opener.
In the case of the Flyers, though, that level of energy promises to get even higher because old pal Wayne Simmonds returns to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since last season’s departure.
Simmonds will be with the Devils when the Flyers try to run their record to 2-0, after last Friday’s “home’’ win over Chicago in Prague, Czech Republic.
A sold-out crowd would have been pretty jacked up even if Simmonds didn’t have a spot on the Devils’ roster. Having him around will only add to the noise level.
The players expect some “chirping’’ during the game but also a lot of pre-game laughs and kidding around before the first whistle.
Simmonds, who played here from 2011 to 2019, was traded to Nashville about two minutes before the February deadline, then signed a one-year, $5-million free-agent contract with the Devils in the offseason.
“It’s going to be weird to see him in that uniform,’’ said Scott Laughton after Tuesday’s practice at the Skate Zone. “But I mean it’s exciting.
“I think ‘Simmer’ did so much for this organization — when I came in the 2012 season, he kind of took me under his wing for the next six. He’s definitely missed here in the locker room. It will be exciting to see him and I’m sure he won’t let up on us.’’
Similar comments were expressed around the Flyers’ locker room.
“It’s going to be strange,’’ Jake Voracek said. “We go back a long way (2011). There are no hard feelings, for sure.
“I’ll ask him if he wants to go to dinner (Tuesday night). I don’t know if they have a team dinner. Probably text him and maybe go see him and talk about life. He had a baby in the summer so I’ll find out how they’re doing.’’
Sean Couturier also goes back to Simmonds’ first year with the Flyers (2011-12).
“It will be a little different,’’ Couturier acknowledged. “We’re used to having him on our side, sticking up for us.
“But it’s a new season. He’s gone now. We have to turn the page. He was a great player for us. Now we have to look ahead and mind our own business.’’
Couturier raises a good point. Even though the Devils have gotten off to a rocky start (0-1-1, minus-6 goal differential), they have several potent offensive weapons, including 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick Jack Hughes.
“Simmer has been a great player and helpful to a lot of guys,’’ Ivan Provorov said. “It’s going to be a fun match-up.’’
James van Riemsdyk said Simmonds reminded him of another Flyer tough guy who happened to be a linemate.
“I remember last year,’’ said van Riemsdyk, who before last year had spent six seasons in Toronto. “I hadn’t played with someone that tough since Arron Asham.
“It’s interesting how much more space you have out there. He (Simmonds) is always a big presence on the ice. That element of him playing a physical brand. . .he definitely gave you that extra bit of room, almost gave you that element of a little more confidence.’’
>Time off helps time adjustment
The Flyers flew home from Prague on Saturday and had Sunday and Monday off to get readjusted to U.S. time again.
Goaltender Carter Hart, who will start against the Devils, said it took him a while to get his sleep schedule back in order.
While it’s usually easier flying east to west, Hart still needed some time to get back on track.
“I stayed up (late Saturday night, U.S. time) and watched some TV shows, like ‘Ballers’ on HBO,’’ he said. “The next day I was starting to fade out in the afternoon, was pretty tired.
“So I got up and got some groceries to stay awake. I tried to get back to my normal bedtime schedule. I slept all the way through to 8 (a.m.). I honestly don’t feel that bad now.’’
Four-plus days certainly helped get things back to normal.
But will there be any signs of rust?
Coach Alain Vigneault shook his head. Probably not, because most of the Flyers skated on their own Monday to get their legs back under them.
“I believe we’re going to be fine tomorrow,’’ he said. “The skate yesterday, plus the off-ice stuff and today’s practice, we should be fine.’’
Laughton had a wisdom tooth extracted on Monday but took part in a full practice on Tuesday. . .Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) is still listed as week-to-week. . .Vigneault doesn’t usually hold morning skates but he will Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center because “guys will be a little anxious, a little bit nervous, which is quite normal.’’. . .Line combinations are still a work in progress. “Defensively, I thought our positioning was good against Chicago,’’ Vigneault said. “The fact that they came in yesterday shows they want to be the best they can be.’’ Vigneault said he liked what he saw of the four lines he used in Prague.
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