VOORHEES, N.J. – When the boss says a team needs to pick up its compete level, the players better be listening.
Let’s see if the Flyers take general manager Chuck Fletcher’s request/command to heart when they take on the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Fletcher referred to his team’s need for a better compete level more than once.
A day later, veteran Cam Atkinson agreed there has be greater tenacity on the ice, especially because the Flyers are trying to end a franchise-record 13-game winless (0-11-2) streak.
“I think we have to have a little more edge to our game,’’ Atkinson said after practice at the Flyers Training Center. “We still have a little ways to go. Everyone can bring a little more tenacity to their game. It doesn’t mean we have to go out there and fight, but it gets you engaged. If your top guys do that (be more intense), it will drag out to a fight. From top down, we need to bring a little more jam.’’
Certainly enough frustration has to be building up. The Flyers have yet to win in 2022, their last win coming way back on Dec. 29 at Seattle.
Interim head coach Mike Yeo also heard the message and understands there has to be a more consistent high energy level. The Flyers play one good period, then take the next one off. In the second period of Tuesday night’s game at the Islanders, they got off to a 2-0 lead, couldn’t hold it by the first intermission, then went out and got outshot, 14-3, in the second period.
What the Flyers need is more energetic performances like the one journeyman Gerry Mayhew gave in that game.
“I see a lot of things where the compete level has been a lot higher lately,’’ Yeo said. “I think we’re a team that’s learning how to work. We’re not quitting on plays. But that (tenacity) is an area we have to continue to grow.’’
Mayhew was all over the ice at UBS Arena and wound up scoring the tying goal early in the third period before the Flyers eventually lost, 4-3.
“Tenacity is probably the best way to put it,’’ Yeo said, “and that’s what Gerry illustrated last game for me. He’s tenacious. It’s that mindset that you’re never out of a play. It’s that pressure mindset and he got rewarded for an outstanding effort.’’
>Ratcliffe gets a chance
Rookie left wing Isaac Ratcliffe will make his NHL debut on Saturday and it’s been quite a journey to get here.
The 2017 second-round (35th overall) draft pick has spent the last four seasons with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He’s been hindered by several injuries but he’s played so well this season that he’s earned a chance.
Yeo said he plans to use the 6-foot-6, 200-pound Rafcliffe on a line with two other big men, Connor Bunnaman and Zack MacEwen. That promises to be one physical unit.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity,’’ Yeo said. “It’s a chance to play and for a guy like Ratcliffe, he should be thrilled about this opportunity. We’re excited to see what he can do. He impressed me in training camp. He certainly seems to be a guy who has the tools of an NHL player – his size, his hands. I’m excited to see if he can compete. He’s strong on the puck.’’
The London, Ontario, Canada native has four goals/10 points in 31 games with the Phantoms this season.
>York draws high praise
Rookie defenseman Cam York has now played 11 NHL games and shows signs of getting more comfortable each day.
Atkinson, a former Columbus player, compared York to NHL All-Star defenseman Zach Werenski of the Blue Jackets.
“I think every game he (York) gets better and better,’’ Atkinson said. “He looks more confident, more comfortable out there, making plays, holding on to the puck, take a hit to make a play. I talked to a couple guys – he reminds me of Werenski in a way. Just the way he kind of moves with the puck, that confidence you can see in each and every game. He’s going to continue to get bigger, more mature and get better. He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.’’
York sounded flattered by Atkinson’s assessment.
“I train with Zach in the summers,’’ York revealed. “I’m kind of able to learn some things from him. We have a pretty good relationship off the ice. He’s obviously a real good player, does a lot of things really well. We’re not the exact same player but that’s pretty cool to be mentioned like that.’’