Throughout the years, the Flyers found a way to come up with a crafty fourth-line journeyman center at just the right time.
Some say Terry Crisp’s acquisition from the Islanders with 12 games to play in the 1973-74 season proved to be the final piece of the puzzle in Philadelphia’s first Stanley Cup.
Years later, Jim Dowd – who won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 1995 – showed up for the 2007-08 season and gave the Flyers 73 games of stellar performances on the bottom line. Philly made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals after finishing dead last the previous year.
And then the following season, Glen Metropolit skated into town and provided some nice work with a checking unit as the Flyers began to build toward a trip to the Stanley Cup Final the year after.
Keeping with that tradition, the Flyers went after vagabond Nate Thompson at the trade deadline on Feb. 25.
While he got into only seven games before the pandemic hit, the 35-year-old Thompson showed he could be a valuable source of experience for young right wing Nicolas Aube-Kubel (veteran Michael Raffl mans the opposite side).
The 100-day break offered Thompson time to recover from a sprained knee he suffered just before the break. Like James van Riemsdyk (broken finger) and Philippe Myers (fractured patella), Thompson can look at the shutdown as a bit of a blessing.
“It (the knee) feels great,’’ Thompson said during an interview with the Flyers’ public relations department on Thursday. “You know I think in a way you could say when the break started it was good for me. . .to rest my knee. I had some time to relax and heal up. At the same time spend some quality time with the wife and family. But all in all, the knee feels good.’’
Thompson, a former sixth-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins (183rd overall, 2003) said he’s been working out with some other players near his home in Hermosa Beach, Calif.
Back here, he skated for the first time with some Flyers teammates on Monday at the Skate Zone.
“It’s good to be back with the rest of the guys,’’ he said. “Just being back gets you in the mindset we’re going to be playing. It was just good to get on the ice and feel the puck, feel like a hockey player again.’’
The Flyers tried all sorts of options at fourth-line center this year but most of the candidates (such as Mikhail Vorobyev and German Rubtsov) lacked enough experience for a team which seems to be in a win-now mode.
General manager Chuck Fletcher realized this and acquired veterans Derek Grant and Thompson to fill the third- and fourth-line vacancies.
Some believe those two transactions helped the Flyers extend their season-high winning streak to nine games before a 2-0 loss to Boston in the final game before the pause.
Whether the Flyers can keep that momentum going remains to be seen.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be easy to get back,’’ said Thompson, a native of Anchorage, Alaska. “But I definitely think we’re going to have the confidence that we know what we’re capable of. I think the biggest thing is guys are ready to go. When games resume, guys know everyone is at square one again.
“But I think having the confidence and knowing we were able to win that many games in a row and playing our best hockey I think will help us moving forward.’’
Healthy again, Thompson believes both he and the Flyers can pick up where they left off.
“I’m super excited,’’ he said. “I think it’s great that we’re going to be able to play a few games (in the round-robin tournament). It’s an unprecedented time. I don’t know what to expect. I expect us to do well. I think we have the team to do something special. So it’s just a matter of us going out there and playing with confidence. Play our game and the rest will fall into place.’’
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