PHILADELPHIA – After missing 22 games due to a foot injury, Noah Cates says getting back in the Flyers’ lineup is almost like starting a new season.
Actually, the numbers back up his contention because he had played only 21 games before he was hurt in a game at Long Island on Nov. 25.
No doubt the Flyers have welcomed him back because a team can always use a young, talented, healthy center.
A year ago it looked like the 25-year-old Minnesota native was enjoying a breakout season. He tied for the rookie lead in games played (all 82), was one of only several freshmen who scored a shorthanded goal and registered 13 goals/38 points with a plus-3 on a team which was a horrific minus-55.
So the Flyers are pleased to add Cates back into a lineup which includes centers Sean Couturier, Morgan Frost, Ryan Poehling and, if need be, Scott Laughton.
Cates didn’t look too out of place when he returned to action on Monday night in St. Louis. Now it’s just a case of getting more of his game back in the weeks ahead.
“I feel strong, maybe my wind wasn’t where it was if I had played those 20 games,” he said after the morning skate at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. “To have that strength, that confidence, you know, feeling good (is positive). I’m in a good spot, feel a bit stronger.”
Cates said one thing he has to realize is that he might have a little more time and space to create a play. There’s no reason to get rid of the puck if he has some room to work and that’s when he’s at his best.
“I’m trying not to rush things, have a little more poise with the puck,” he said. “That’s something I took from watching games. I tried to make the most (of time off).”
As for offense, Cates wants to improve on his numbers. He managed only a goal and three assists before he got injured.
“My offense got started last year,” he said. “At the beginning of this year maybe I was trying to do too much, got kind of outside myself. I think being simple is how I’m effective. That’s what I need to contribute to help this team win.
“Guys might add value to the team in different ways. Mine might be different than a lot of these high-octane guys. I think playing the way that I play might help.”
>Tippett a force again
Owen Tippett’s game-winner with time running out in the 4-2 victory over the Blues the other night showed just how powerful player he can be.
Tippett scored off the rush, lifting a highlight-reel backhand shot into the net. He’s got 16 goals and now is on pace for a 30-plus goal season and shows no signs of letting up.
“The last game he created a lot of offense, made a lot of plays,” coach John Tortorella noted. “I think he’s been more consistent that way, as far as creating offense.
“He needs to play away from the puck. The biggest thing is I want him to create offense. The last little while he’s been looking that way.”
Plus, he seems to be shooting more accurately. In the St. Louis game, he missed the net only one time out of his 11 total shots.
“Usually it’s a bunch missing the net,” Tortorella said. “Just an unbelievable (winning) goal. He has a chance – and I don’t know where it goes – an opportunity to be a really good player in this league.
“He’s kind of all over the place away from the puck. I try to balance that and teaching him that part of the game without getting in his way offensively because he’s so dangerous. We’re just trying to spoonfeed him a little bit as far as some stuff away from the puck. The limit there, I have no idea where it goes. He’s a really good player.”