VOORHEES, N.J. – For a hockey coach, there’s like handing out a good old-fashioned benching to get a message across to a player.
In the Flyers’ case, make that two players.
First it was forward Morgan Frost sitting out last Wednesday’s game at Toronto. On Saturday night at Ottawa, Rasmus Ristolainen was the latest to get on John Tortorella’s bad side.
Frost returned to the lineup for the Senators match and responded with an energetic effort.
Now let’s see if Ristolainen can get his mojo back when the St. Louis Blues visit on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Asked about his expectations for Ristolainen’s play, Tortorella’s reply was blunt.
“Well, he just hasn’t met them,’’ he said after Monday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center. “I think he needs to play better. I don’t think he’s played well enough. He’s going to get another crack at it. But I think everything about his game he needs to be better.’’
Tortorella wouldn’t confirm Ristolainen would return to action against the Blues but he was practicing with some top pairings on Monday.
Ristolainen had missed a lot of games due to injury but the coach said that’s not an excuse.
Frost got off to a hot start this season, scoring twice in the opener against New Jersey but hasn’t connected since.
With No. 1 center Sean Couturier sidelined indefinitely due to a pair of back surgeries, Frost was projected as a second-line pivot. But so far, he hasn’t been able to recreate some of the magic he enjoyed with Noah Cates and Owen Tippett on a “kid line’’ last spring.
“Obviously it (a benching) is not a position you want to be in,’’ Frost said. “Going into that next game I wanted to show a little better. It’s ‘more compete’ and do some things a little better. That was my main focus going into that game against Ottawa.’’
Making the situation even more disappointing was that Frost’s parents (who live in the Toronto area) came to the game to watch their son play.
“It stinks but it’s part of the process,’’ Frost said. “I don’t think I was playing my best hockey leading up to that. I think that’s what happens. I just have to stick with it, hopefully improve my game and stay in the lineup.’’
Frost has had opportunities to score but has either hit a post or missed the net completely. That has to change.
“I’m an offensive player and as much as it’s good when you’re creating chances, you have to finish them,’’ he said. “I just have to stick with it and stay positive.’’
Ristolainen was not made available for comment.
>Annual U.S. military personnel visit ‘special’
On Monday, the Flyers partnered with USO to host 20 active-duty service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard to take in Flyers practice and join the team on the ice for a special skate at FTC.
After the on-ice session, the U.S.-born Tortorella said the visit was special.
“I’m an American and they do their thing to let us do our stuff,’’ the coach said. “You know we talk about mental toughness and going into the battle as we’re playing an entertainment sport.
“I’ve even changed my language, how I talk to the team out of respect to those people that do the real stuff. I talk about mindset. . .we can’t get to their mindset as far as what those people in the military do for us. We don’t even understand those real-life situations in our little bubble here in the National Hockey League. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what they’ve allowed us to do.’’
As player advocates for military initiatives for the Flyers, Kevin Hayes and Tony DeAngelo presented the group with custom military-themed Flyers jerseys with courageous adjectives on the back to honor their service.
James van Riemsdyk (fractured finger) skated on Monday but is still several weeks away from action. Patrick Brown (back surgery) and Artem Anisimov (injured) also are skating but with no timeline for a return.