Tony DeAngelo gives it all he’s got. Sometimes a lot can be almost too much.
The Flyer defenseman’s recent demotion from first to second pairing might be a reflection of the aforementioned issue.
His plus-minus rating of minus-12 is poorest among backliners and second-worst on the team.
Also, he’s the quarterback of the power play which, to virtually no one’s surprise, has sunk to 32nd (last) in the NHL at under 14 percent.
During a press briefing prior to Saturday morning’s pre-game skate at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J., coach John Tortorella confirmed DeAngelo’s struggles aren’t due to a lack of trying.
“I think he’s struggled,’’ Tortorella said, “I thought all our defense struggled the last game (a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay).
“Tony can be better. Ultra-competitive, love the way he plays, but positionally is something I think we need to help him with.’’
DeAngelo did not participate in the optional skate and was not available for comment.
“I think a number of our ‘D’ were really trying to concentrate on structure,’’ Tortorella said. “When you’re not one of the top teams in the league and you’re fighting your way to competitiveness and stay afloat, structure is something you need to lean on.
“That’s what was frustrating to me in the last game after the two prior ones. We were taking steps in structure and then it just kind of fell off the map the last game. I think taking some of Tony’s minutes away, at least I hope that happens (and will help). We rely on him for so many things.’’
Ultimately, if the Flyers have hope of rebounding from a recent 10-game winless streak and sustain some success, much will depend on DeAngelo’s play.
“We trust him,’’ Tortorella said. “Sometimes when you’re in the battle you end up throwing him out there. But we’re going to try it this way (Rasmus Ristolainen in DeAngelo’s usual spot alongside Ivan Provorov on the top pairing).
“I think Tony’s structure, it has to be there without getting in the way of just the way he plays. I think we need to allow him to be instinctive also. We’re trying to find a fine line.’’
>Atkinson cleared for contact
It sounds like Cam Atkinson, now wearing a “cleared for contact’’ jersey in practice, is getting pretty close to returning to action after missing the first 24 games of the season due to an undisclosed upper-body injury.
“It’s good to be back with everyone,’’ Atkinson said after taking part in the Saturday morning session. “Took a little bit of the licks and see how I do. Just day-to-day for me right now.’’
The Flyers have three games remaining on the current five-game homestand so perhaps the Wells Fargo Center faithful will get their first glimpse of last year’s MVP before the team goes back on the road.
“It’s been pretty good,’’ Atkinson said of his preparation and conditioning for a return. “It’s been a little bit of an adjustment but I’m just working out the kinks. I’m getting close but not enough to where I can help this team right now. I’m closer than not.’’
Even when Atkinson is ready to play, he knows he’s more than a little behind players who have already seen action in a couple dozen games.
“Other than play in the exhibition games, I was able to participate in all of training camp,’’ Atkinson pointed out. “The heavy skating. The last couple weeks I’ve been slowly but surely revving it up.’’
For Saturday night’s game against the Devils, the Flyers were scheduled to have defenseman Justin Braun return to the lineup while rookie Egor Zamula takes a seat. Also, Patrick Brown is scheduled to play and take the spot of Tanner Laczynski.