VOORHEES – Earlier this season, when he was a healthy scratch for a handful of games, Tyler Pitlick took the initiative and knocked on coach Alain Vigneault’s door.
Essentially, Pitlick wanted to know why he wasn’t playing.
It wasn’t like he hadn’t been performing well. And eventually he did get back into the lineup and has been competing well ever since.
Vigneault didn’t seem to mind that spunk and that could be one of the reasons why he had no problem promoting him to the Flyers’ top line with Claude Giroux and Morgan Frost for the upcoming three-game road trip, which starts Wednesday night in Colorado.
Pitlick will replace injured right wing Travis Konecny (concussion), who is not making the trip — which includes stops at Minnesota and Winnipeg.
The coach had thought about using veteran James van Riemsdyk on that Giroux-Frost unit but ultimately went with Pitlick, who has two goals, four assists for six points with a minus-3.
Vigneault’s official reasoning for keeping left-handed JVR on a fourth line was to have scoring “balance,’’ but having the right-handed shooting Pitlick up top seems to make more sense anyway.
“It had to do with the balance of the lines and the comfort of the position,’’ Vigneault said after Tuesday’s practice at the Skate Zone. “There’s no doubt that Tyler has been playing well, working extremely hard.
“JVR has also been playing hard. Today I thought he skated real well. It was the best I’ve seen him skate in a long time.’’
Also contributing to the decision was trying to avoid having two right-handed shooters on the fourth line with center Mikhail Vorobyev, now that Chris Stewart is back in the lineup to fill Konecny’s roster spot.
Vigneault said he didn’t have to explain anything to van Riemsdyk.
“I have to look at what’s beneficial to the team,’’ Vigneault said. “Not just one or two players. This, to me, was a pretty common-sense situation.’’
Pitlick is grateful for the chance to further prove himself. When he came over from Dallas in the trade this past June, he was hoping for an opportunity like this.
The chance to play alongside Giroux should be a plus.
“He always tells me, ‘I (Giroux) am no good if I’m not grinding. . .if I try to play a skill game, I’m no good,’ and that’s why he’s having success,’’ Pitlick said. “He’s helped me in that aspect. I’m excited about it.’’
Pitlick saw some top line duty in Dallas, so he’s no stranger to this rarified air.
“It’s not something that’s not in my toolbox,’’ he said. “But I have to play my game, I can’t change that, can’t play a skill game. I need to get pucks and do the same thing I’ve been doing.’’
>Myers skates but not ready to play
Defenseman Philippe Myers is recovering from back spasms which flared up late in Saturday’s game against Ottawa.
He’s making the trip but won’t be playing against the Avalanche.
“He skated today but did not take part in the physical aspect of the practice,’’ Vigneault said. “So he definitely won’t be available tomorrow. The doctors don’t think it’s too serious. In 24 to 48 hours he should be good to go.’’
With Myers out, Shayne Gostisbehere was paired with Robert Hagg at Tuesday’s practice.
As for Myers, he’s cautiously optimistic.
“It’s kind of a first-time thing,’’ he said. “My muscles just tightened up and it limits me from having good mobility. I just have to work through it I guess.’’
Myers leads the Flyers at plus-14. Having to sit is frustrating.
“It’s a little setback,’’ he said. “It’s day-to-day. I’m trying to stay positive.’’
>No call-ups from Phantoms
Vigneault and general manager Chuck Fletcher have decided to take the minimum 12 forwards and six defensemen (plus Myers) for the start of the trip.
Any concerns there if someone should get hurt, say, in pre-game warmups?
“We have 12 healthy forwards and six-and-a-half healthy ‘Ds,’ so we’re going to leave with that and if something happens, we’ll make those decisions later,’’ Vigneault said.
The coach also pointed out that if a forward gets hurt, he could go with 11 players up front and seven defensemen to fill out his lineup.
>Farabee’s teeth episode
Joel Farabee had two wisdom teeth extracted on Monday and was back for Tuesday’s practice.
Such is the life of a hockey player.
“They actually came out pretty smooth,’’ he said. “I’m not in that much pain right now. Eating is the only thing I have to focus on.’’
Right now it’s mostly mac and cheese, plus ice cream. Actually that doesn’t sound too bad.
Farabee took a couple selfies at the dentist’s office.
“I didn’t have any videos,’’ he said. “But I do have a funny picture of myself that I don’t remember taking.’’
>Stewart ready for return
Stewart has sat 18 of the last 19 games dating back to Nov. 1 but he hopes to shake off the rust in a hurry against a speedy Avalanche team which features burners Nathan MacKinnon, Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky.
“It’s been a long month, a ton of (practice) skating, that’s for sure,’’ Stewart said. “If I hit the ground running, hopefully I can experience some success.’’
Stewart is a veteran and knows that keeping ready conditioning-wise, etc., is the key to a positive return.
“It’s part of being a pro,’’ he said. “If you get the call, you have to be ready. These skates with (assistant coach Ian) Laperriere haven’t been easy. You either use it or lose it.’’
Carter Hart will start in goal vs. the Avalanche. . .The Flyers are four for their last 35 on the power play. Vigneault might start a revamped first unit of Gostisbehere, Giroux, Sean Couturier, Jake Voracek and Oskar Lindblom against the Avalanche.