Flyers coach Alain Vigneault doesn’t usually institute significant lineup changes after a win, but Thursday night he made a valid exception to the rule.
Somewhat displeased with the play of veteran Robert Hagg and rookie Mark Friedman, Vigneault overhauled a complete defense pairing, bringing in long-time NHLer Nate Prosser for his Flyer debut along with the return of Erik Gustafsson.
Prosser experienced an excellent training camp, enough so to keep him on the six-man taxi squad.
The 34-year-old Prosser, who has played 354 NHL games – all but one with the Minnesota Wild – caught Vigneault’s eye in the preseason.
“I liked Prosser since the beginning of training camp,’’ Vigneault said in a late Thursday afternoon media Zoom call from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. “He’s an experienced player, a veteran player, he’s got quite a few NHL (regular-season) games and 25 playoff games.
“He knows the game and right now I believe he deserves an opportunity to play.’’
The 6-foot-2, 201-pound Prosser played for the Phantoms last season where he registered 10 points in 59 games. For his NHL career, he has 10 goals/37 points with a plus-25.
The Elk River, Minnesota native played four years at Colorado College before coming to the NHL.
Prior to Thursday night, three of the Flyers’ four wins weren’t exactly overwhelming or precision efforts. Vigneault sounds like he won’t be just satisfied with a “W’ if his team isn’t playing the right way. “I think from our ‘D’ group, we can play better,’’ Vigneault said. “Watching both Mark and Robert, the way they played in that game (a 5-3 win at N.J. on Tuesday night).
“I like the way Prosser has practiced, his attitude coming to camp and his experience, I thought it was the right time to make a switch and give those guys an opportunity to help us win.’’
Hagg continues to be among the Flyers’ leaders in hits and blocked shots but really hasn’t impressed his coach recently.
“I think ‘Haggs’ has been average the last couple games in my estimation,’’ Vigneault said. “I talked with him yesterday about his game. I believe he can be a much more effective defenseman, in killing plays and one-on-one battles, winning more and making the right decision with the puck.
“I’ve talked with him about making the higher percentage plays. He’s a good player but right now his game is not where it needs to be. It’s up to me and him to get his game to where he can be in the lineup and help this team win some games.’’
>Couturier still weeks away?
Defenseman Phil Myers and Sean Couturier remain sidelined with rib injuries. Vigneault said he wasn’t sure about a return date for either, but didn’t rule out a return for Myers this weekend when the Flyers play back-to-back home games against the Islanders.
“I know that he (Myers) skated today and skated well,’’ Vigneault said. “Felt good on the ice. We’ll have a better idea in the next 24 hours.’’
Couturier has been sidelined since Jan. 15 and originally was supposed to miss about two weeks. That prognosis might be a bit on the short side, according to Vigneault.
“I do know that Sean has been skating almost daily,’’ Vigneault said. “But we’re still a couple weeks away in my estimation.’’