Laughton back at center as Flyers look for right mix

Scott Laughton

VOORHEES – With Mikhail Vorobyev getting sent back to the Phantoms, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault decided to move Scott Laughton back to center for Saturday night’s game against Tampa Bay.

Laughton, who has played center throughout much of his career, appeared to be comfortable at left wing this season and was productive at that position.

But with Claude Giroux on a wing and Nolan Patrick out indefinitely, the Flyers continue to rotate players such as Laughton and Michael Raffl in and out of the pivot.

“I think (general manager) Chuck (Fletcher) was obviously disappointed in ‘Misha’s’ progression,’’ Vigneault said of Vorobyev. “Especially his last game, he didn’t execute, he didn’t play well.

“That (Laughton to center) looks like our best option, who can help us on that line. For tonight, that’s what we’re going to do and then we will re-evaluate. We’ve had a lot of moving parts this year. I think there will be moving parts right down to the end.’’

The Flyers bounced back from a disappointing 1-4-1 road trip with a solid 3-2 regulation-time win over Washington on Wednesday night and Vigneault is hoping that gets the Flyers going in the right direction.

“I thought for the most part we did a good job against that skill level,’’ Vigneault said. “We tried to take away space and time; manage the puck the right way.

“I thought we did a good job defending and I thought we got some good looks.

>Home sweet home

The Flyers took a 14-2-4 home record into the Tampa game and Vigneault said goaltending has a lot to do with it.

“I like the pace we have at home,’’ Vigneault said. “And there’s no doubt in my mind that a big part of our home success has been the play of Carter Hart (12-1-2, 1.52 goals-against average, .945 save percentage at WFC before Saturday night’s game).

“In most of the games he’s played, he’s played extremely well. He’s got total control of his play. He’s a young goaltender with so much potential. Everytime we put him in a game, he improves. He’s 21 years old, that’s a tough position to play at such a young age.’’

Hart was scheduled to start against the Lightning.

“He’s found his groove at home,’’ Vigneault said.

The road numbers aren’t quite so pretty: 2-9-1, 4.01.

“I think he’s going to find ways to win everywhere,’’ Vigneault said. “I’m sure he’s done that in the past, in junior. I think it’s just a matter of time, experience.’’

Vigneault worked with veterans such as Roberto Luongo in Vancouver and Henrik Lundqvist in New York. Hart offers a rather unique opportunity.

“This is the first one growing up before my eyes,’’ Vigneault said. “I’m really enjoying it. I don’t just like the good times. I also find it’s good that (in his) struggles that a professional athlete has to put himself through to become the best he can be. . .that’s not easy.

“If it’s easy, everyone would do it. It’s a battle, it’s a grind. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. And there’s no doubt that Carter is doing all that work.’’

>Giroux on Couturier

The Flyers have had their ups and downs this season but one thing that has remained pretty much constant is the pairing of Giroux and Sean Couturier.

Giroux’s star power sometimes tends to overshadow Couturier’s work, but his skill level is not lost on the former.

“When you think of an elite player, you start thinking if he wasn’t in the lineup, how would your team look?’’ Giroux said. “You know he plays in so many situations, he’s huge for us offensively, defensively.

“The last three years his game is really elite. He brings it every night. He’s a leader not just off the ice but on the ice. When the games get tighter and physical, his game just gets better.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2437 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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