PHILADELPHIA – Although the Flyers are well into the second half of their season, they’re still trying to establish some lasting chemistry on their lines.
Case in point: For Monday night’s game against the Boston Bruins, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault made a big change up front, switching Kevin Hayes into the top center spot and moving Sean Couturier to a second line.
Hayes was slated to skate with Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny while Couturier was scheduled to go with Jake Voracek and Michael Raffl.
“I just felt whoever plays with ‘Coots’ (Couturier) seems to play well,’’ Vigneault said at Monday morning’s skate at the Wells Fargo Center. “I think ‘TK’ and ‘G’ have got some chemistry. By putting Kevin Hayes there, and Coots with Jake and Raffy, they’ve had some success in the past, so I’m going to try that.
“We’re playing against another top team in the league. It’s a good opportunity for us to come up and have a real strong game.’’
Also, at the morning skate, Hayes substituted for Voracek on the first power-play unit, which entered the Boston game 0 for 13 going back to the start of the Vegas game on Jan. 2.
Additionally, Vigneault and his coaching staff changed the scheme of the first power-play unit, using two players (James van Riemsdyk, Konecny) down low near the net.
“Just a little bit better net presence,’’ Vigneault said. “Simplify, get pucks to the net and jump on the second opportunities.’’
Added Giroux: “If it’s not working, we try different stuff. If we want to be in a good spot in the playoffs, we need to get going. We don’t really care how we do it, we just need our power play to be big for us, especially tonight.’’
Currently, the Flyers are ranked 21st in the NHL at 18.7 percent.
Meanwhile, Hayes has enjoyed a good stretch of play.
“I’m going to play with G and TK and they’re elite players,’’ Hayes said. “Get them the puck, go to the net and it should be fun. Hopefully we can build some chemistry and have a good start.’
>Lower line center shuffle
The recall of Connor Bunnaman on Monday highlights the fact the Flyers are still searching for lower line centers.
“At this time I’m not sure that’s going to stop unless we get performances that give us the confidence to use the same people,’’ Vigneault said. “Misha (Mikhail Vorobyev) has had a couple looks, hasn’t quite done it for us.
“In talking with (Phantoms coach) Scott (Gordon) yesterday, I felt with the teams we’ve got coming up, I wanted a little bit more size. ‘Bunny’ had started with us this year and played well, went down, got hurt, took him a while to get going but for the last week, Scott has been happy with his play.’’
Bunnaman made the opening night roster and played the first four games of the season before he was sent down, suffered a high ankle sprain and missed more than a month of action.
“He gives us skating ability, he gives us size in the middle,’’ Vigneault said. “Hopefully he can make the right decisions with the puck.’’
Bunnaman said he’s close to a hundred percent recovered from the injury.
“It’s a little sore but my skating is all there,’’ he said.
What’s the mood like in Allentown? Do players talk among themselves about who might be next to get a chance?
“We’re all buddies, we all want to see each other move up,’’ he said. “Live their dream.’’
Vigneault conceded the Flyers have been discussing the possibility of a trade to bolster their depth at center.
“It’s something we’ve looked at,’’ Vigneault said. “There’s no doubt that it’s evident by the number of people we’ve tried out in that bottom six in that role. . .at the end of the day, that’s one area, but in the big picture we need our big boys to come up big for us.’’
The Flyers have made at least nine first-time call-ups this season.
Any danger of causing a bit of instability in the lineup?
“I think what we’re trying to do is give some players an opportunity to show they can play in the NHL,’’ Vigneault said. “That they can contribute to a team winning. We’re going to continue until we find the right guys that are going to be part of that winning formula.’’
>Fletcher to give mid-season evaluation
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher is scheduled to hold a mid-season press conference on Tuesday morning at the Skate Zone.
It is expected he will discuss the state of the team entering the stretch run, including thoughts on the NHL trade deadline, which is set for Feb. 24.
>Flyers partner with Penn Health
Penn Medicine and Comcast Spectacor announced a major partnership on Monday making Penn Medicine the official health care system of the Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center.
According to the Flyers, Penn Medicine will become the team’s official medical services provider, including on-ice orthopaedic and general practice.
>Cheers for Oskar
Oskar Lindblom, battling a rare form of bone cancer, took in Saturday night’s game against Tampa Bay and received a warm ovation when he was shown on camera.
“It was outstanding,’’ Vigneault said. “You could tell he was a little not at ease there, he’s a shy young man. But it was great to see the fans’ support. I expected nothing less from these great fans.’’