Flyers' Coburn playing with confidence

Posted: February 17, 2011

SUNRISE, Fla. - It was around this time, almost 4 years ago - during the season that shall not be named - that Braydon Coburn was welcomed to the Flyers.

The deal, moving aging defenseman Alexei Zhitnik back to Atlanta in exchange for Coburn, remains the best of Paul Holmgren's tenure as the Flyers' general manager. It will be hard to top.

Zhitnik, now 38, has been out of the NHL since being bought out by the Thrashers in 2008.

And it's hard to believe now, watching Coburn's polished finish as a 25-year-old, that Atlanta would have ever given up so soon on the 6-5 bruiser whom they had selected eighth overall only 4 years prior.

"I've been here for a while now," Coburn said yesterday. "I think I've been able to get more confident as a player, so I think I've grown that way in the fact that I'm more comfortable with my game as a whole."

Coburn credits a lot of his confidence on the ice - whether it is rushing the puck, making a solid outlet pass, or most recently laying the lumber on opponents - to playing with experienced partners. Coburn's five brothers of the blue line have combined to play nearly 4,000 career games.

"I've had some great partners along the way," Coburn said. "As a defense corps, we've got some veteran guys back that. I think we're able to help each other out and we're pretty balanced. We have three solid pairings."

But as much as Coburn has been aided by playing as a cog of the deepest defensive unit in the league, his stock is sometimes overlooked when viewed as part of the whole.

His coach, Peter Laviolette, is able to view Coburn, though, in his own light. Same with Paul Holmgren, who signed Coburn to a 2-year, $3.6 million extension last season.

"I see a real good defenseman, with real steady play," Laviolette said. "He does a lot of real good things for us. I think you constantly learn, constantly gain experience, you gain experience from watching players with experience. I think Braydon continues to grow that way."

Laviolette said Coburn was "every bit as good as any one" of the Flyers' defensemen during last year's playoff run to the Stanley Cup finals. Quietly, Coburn is having as solid of a season as any defenseman for the Flyers. He has a 10 points, has played in all 56 games and is a plus-14.

Coburn chalks it up to playing more confident. That's what happens when you fit in just fine - even with all of the big names.

"I just try to do things that are in our system that make us successful," Coburn said. "I try and be physical, skating and always moving the puck. I try to focus on those aspects. I just feel more comfortable and more confident in my abilities and what I'm doing out there."

Leino hurt

At first glance, everything appeared normal with Ville Leino on Tuesday night in Tampa Bay. He did not pick up any points, but skated 15:53 in the Flyers' shootout win over the Lightning - just about his season average in ice time.

His movements, though, in timeouts and in between stoppages, painted an entirely different picture. Leino took every opportunity to stretch his legs and skate, even stretching as deep as the Flyers' tunnel in between the bench and their locker room.

As it turns out, Leino was scratched for last night's 4-2 win over the Panthers with a lower body injury, according to general manager Paul Holmgren. The issue appears to be a groin strain.

"It's nothing major," Holmgren said. "I'd be surprised if he doesn't play the next game."

Record rating

Tuesday night's shootout win over Tampa Bay was the most-watched regular-season Flyers game on Comcast SportsNet since Oct. 22, 2002, against Buffalo. The game peaked with a 5.0 rating (152,000 households) at 10:15 p.m.

Flyers broadcaster Jim Jackson will be making his NBC debut on Sunday, calling Washington and Buffalo in one of the networks' four regional telecasts as part of Hockey Day in America. Sunday is NBC's first collaboration project with Versus and Comcast SportsNet as a joint venture since their Jan. 28 merger. *

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