Raffl’s versatility coming in handy on Flyers’ fourth line

Michael Raffl

PHILADELPHIA – Good thing veteran forward Michael Raffl is such a versatile player because the Flyers need someone just like that right now.

Coach Alain Vigneault decided to move Raffl from the third line down to the fourth line for Thursday night’s game against Montreal because he wasn’t satisfied with the lower unit’s play in Tuesday night’s 4-1 win over Carolina.

“Wherever you put him, he works extremely hard,’’ Vigneault said. “I was told by Lappy (assistant coach Ian Laperriere) this summer that he’s a real efficient player and a good player to have on a team because he can play all positions.

“He tries to play the right way all the time so there’s no doubt he’s an important asset on our team.’’

Vigneault also brought up Mikhail Vorobyev from the Phantoms on Wednesday to see if that move can get some chemistry going.

But adding Raffl should pick things up.

Raffl has played on all four lines over the past few years and says he doesn’t have a preference, just as long as he can help the team win.

“I talked to him yesterday on the ice,’’ Vigneault said, “and if you notice in our last game there (Carolina), the fourth line spent a lot of time in our zone. And we’re in a sequence where we’re playing four games in six nights. I need to be able to play four lines.

“So by putting him there, I feel like we have some good balance on each of the four lines. I’m sure he will do a good job.’’

>Couturier, Giroux dominant on faceoffs

Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux have been running one-two in faceoff winning percentage for much of the season. Those are important numbers when it comes to puck possession, which is a high priority in this new age of hockey analytics.

“I would say it’s an ability that’s worked at,’’ Vigneault said. “Both those guys spend a lot of time before the game watching video on the other team and how they’re taking faceoffs. They haven’t improved their skill without working at it.’’

Entering Thursday night’s game, Couturier was winning draws at an impressive 64.5 percent clip. Giroux was close behind at 63.0 percent.

“They’re working extremely hard,’’ Vigneault said. “G is always talking to people who have taken faceoffs, trying to get input and improve his knowledge. That’s why both are good.’’

Couturier has been instructed to limit his faceoffs over the past week due to a nagging shoulder injury but he should be back close to full strength by this weekend.

>Frost heating up

There were some who thought rookie center Morgan Frost might have a shot at making the Flyers’ opening night roster last month.

That didn’t happen, so the former first-round draft pick headed down to the Phantoms to make a good impression.

So far he’s done that, compiling four goals and nine points in 11 games. This after registering triple-digit points the past two seasons for the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL.

Apparently, Flyers’ management hasn’t been that impressed just yet.

General manager Chuck Fletcher has been shuttling Vorobyev and German Rubtsov back and forth between Allentown. Frost has stayed put.

Fletcher was asked for his take on Frost’s progress.

““I would say there are some big swings in his performances right now,’’ Fletcher said recently. “(Two weeks ago) the first game he scored a goal but had a real tough time managing the puck. He sort of reverted back to some of his junior habits.

“And then the next night he played really well. Managed the puck much better. Played with more pace. I think that’s very, very typical for a 20-year-old player, first-year pro. There are big swings. They’re not consistent performers at the pro level yet. You’re trying to break some of their habits.’’

On the plus side, these things usually have a way of working themselves out.

“His talent level speaks for itself,’’ Fletcher said. “In terms of pace and puck management, playing without the puck, zone awareness and coverage, right now there are areas he needs to get better at it. He’s made some progress, so we’ll continue to allow him to develop down there. But certainly at some point, he’s a smart, talented hockey player and he is going to get better at it. When he does, it will make him a better candidate to come up here.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2473 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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