NEWARK, N.J. – The last thing the Flyers want to do right now is pull that woe-is-me act.
The injury list might be long, the schedule might be daunting but no one around the NHL is shedding any tears of pity.
Given the opportunity, opponents would like to try to bury the Flyers while they struggle just a fourth of the way into the season.
Scott Laughton took his turn at the microphone prior to Sunday night’s game against the Devils at the Prudential Center and the center basically played the accountability card.
“Obviously missing Hayesy (Kevin Hays) all year has been a big piece for us,’’ Laughton said. “He brings a lot of elements up the middle. I haven’t been good enough and have to be better for our group. I have to create a little bit more in the offensive zone to give us a little bit more depth scoring.’’
Laughton could also have included another center, Derick Brassard, in that mix. He’s out at least another week of action.
The burden is also falling on some of the team’s development prospects such as Connor Bunnaman, Morgan Frost and Max Willman to fill in while the regulars are sidelined.
“They know our system pretty well,’’ Laughton said. “They’ve been around (in NHL games). They know how we like to play.’’
The season began with the Laughton line, including James van Riemsdyk and Oskar Lindblom, showing a lot of promise. But it’s been a disappointing campaign for both wingers. JVR has just two goals for the season and Lindblom none.
“I don’t think we’re creating nearly as much as we did at the start of the year,’’ Laughton said. “It seems like we’re almost stuck in the neutral zone or D-zone. . .trying to fight out of it. So, that’s when you have to work out of things. Obviously things haven’t been easy for us the last couple weeks. But we’re excited to get back on track against a division opponent (New Jersey) and play like we should.’’
The key here is to not let things spiral out of control. Frustration sets in and sometimes there’s even some finger-pointing. A five-game winless streak can do that to a team.
“There’s definitely frustration when we lose a couple in a row,’’ Laughton said. “It’s tough. You want to get back on track.’’
>Do small fines deter dirty play?
The NHL imposed a maximum fine of $5,000 on Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov for his kneeing infraction on Laughton during Friday night’s Hurricanes-Flyers game at the Wells Fargo Center.
No penalty was called on the play.
Laughton was asked if he believes a puny penalty of five-grand is enough to make players think twice before delivering a questionable hit. After all, it basically amounts to a parking ticket.
“I just wish there was a penalty, to be honest,’’ Laughton said. “It creates a goal and a bad line change by me. I’m hurt going off the ice. They went down and scored. It’s a different game. I’m not so sure about the fines and all that. Guys make pretty big money and can pay that off. I would rather see a penalty.’’
>Urgency for division games
If not for the Islanders game being postponed due to a COVID outbreak, the Flyers might have been playing three straight games against Metro Divison opponents.
No doubt, these games mean a little bit more in the standings.
“The division seems so good every year,’’ Laughton said. “You see a young team like Jersey play with a lot of speed. They’re trending the right way, same with the Rangers. You have to bring your best every night.’’
>Thompson outlook not bright
Center Nate Thompson’s shoulder injury underwent an MRI and now a second test is being run. According to Vigneault, the outlook is not very positive.
“I can say at this point it doesn’t look good,’’ Vigneault said. “Once we know something I’m sure the organization will say something.’’
For Sunday night’s game, Vigneault used Bunnaman in the middle on the fourth line and added Willman and MacEwen on the wings.
>Reaction to Islanders’ postponement
The Flyers were gearing up for three games in four nights when word came down that Tuesday’s game had been postponed due to a COVID outbreak on the Islanders. That changes Philly’s approach a bit.
“We were supposed to have six games in nine nights,’’ Vigneault pointed out. “Now it’s five in nine. Players are going to be taxed to do a lot and hopefully we can rise to the occasion. I can rely a little bit more on certain players (in the Jersey game).’’
>Players asking more of themselves
Shortly after Vigneault called out some of his players after the loss to Carolina, both Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier admitted they had to play better.
Is that what Vigneault wanted to hear from his leaders?
“There’s no doubt,’’ he said. “I really believe in the core group of this team and the dynamics. We might be missing a couple of guys from the core group but every team goes through that. You have to rise to the challenge.’’