VOORHEES – It never hurts to have an “informant’’ when you’re getting ready to play an NHL powerhouse team.
That’s why the Flyers are picking the brain of ex-Washington Capital defenseman Matt Niskanen, now a Flyer regular, for their game on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Niskanen was a key figure on the Capitals’ Stanley Cup championship team and knows what makes Alexander Ovechkin’s gang tick.
At Tuesday’s practice, Niskanen sort of downplayed his role as an insider, but did acknowledge he might know some stuff that could be helpful.
“There are some things that really aren’t secret,’’ the 32-year-old backliner said. “How their power play runs for example. I think everybody in the country knows what they’re going to do. But there’s a tip here or there maybe.’’
When he was asked if he had this game circled on his calendar, he paused.
“I was aware of who we were playing,’’ he said, an answer evoked laughter throughout the circle of listeners.’’
Niskanen confirms he expects things to be a little “weird’’ when the game first starts.
“It was a good group in my time there,’’ he said. “Won a lot of games and two years ago was obviously special. It will be different for sure.’’
Niskanen came over in the trade which sent Radko Gudas to Washington. When he arrived at training camp, he said he hoped to offer help through his experience to the young backliners.
Has that been the case?
“I don’t know, that stuff is kind of hard to measure maybe in real time,’’ he said. “But the team’s doing pretty well here the last stretch. That’s a team thing. And I’m working to be a part of it. We’re on a good roll and we’re trying to keep that going.
“I’m guessing it’s going to feel weird once I see them on the other side. For now, it’s just win the game. But I’m sure it’s going to feel a little odd.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault did learn on thing from Niskanen: Washington is pretty darn good.
“We talked to ‘Nisky’ this morning and we’ve got quite a task ahead of us,’’ Vigneault said. “Not only are they playing extremely well but you know they’re a team that knows how to win.
“So I’m looking forward to this game. We’ve been playing some good hockey, we’ll be tested and I’m anxious to see how we respond.’’
>Laughton skates with team
Scott Laughton, out since Oct. 26 with a broken finger, skated with the Flyers for the first time on Tuesday.
He’s still not allowed to shoot pucks but he’s making progress and hopes to be ready for the game against Calgary on Nov. 23.
“That’s what I’m hoping for but we’ll see what happens,’’ Laughton said. “I’ve got another meeting with the doctor. Everything is on track right now. I’m continuing to skate and trying to get some strength back in it (finger).’’
Laughton said the most important thing is getting back in the flow of day-to-day hockey operations and feeling like part of the team again.
“Just being out there with the guys,’’ he said. “That’s what you miss most, being in the room and seeing everyone. Everything is on track, just looking forward to getting back.’’
Laughton had surgery on the finger which is why he stayed off the ice for about 10 days. There was swelling and soreness involved and he just wanted to let thing heal.
“You try to get some movement back in it,’’ he said. “That’s the biggest thing. Once you get movement in it, the doctor isn’t worried about you falling and doing some more damage.
“I just can’t wait to get back with the guys and hit someone.’’
>Hart to start vs. Capitals
Carter Hart is suddenly one of the hottest goalies in the NHL and that’s one of the reasons why Vigneault is going back to him for the Washington game.
Hart has won four games in a row, including two shootouts and an overtime decision.
>Penalty kill keeps rolling
The Flyers continue to kill it on the penalty kill. Since Nov. 1, they’ve stopped all but two of 30 power plays, a span covering 11-plus games back to Oct. 21. They are now seventh in the NHL at 85.4 percent.