Flyers' Carter making his presence felt after bout with flu

Mike Richards, Jeff Carter share a laugh during recent game.
Mike Richards, Jeff Carter share a laugh during recent game.
Posted: March 15, 2011

SUNRISE, Fla. - Jeff Carter has barely been able to catch his breath.

For Carter, it has been a wild 2 weeks - to say the least. And very few of the events have been a positive.

In the middle of a bout with the flu, when the Flyers forward was bedridden for almost 3 full days and quarantined from the team, about the only activity he was permitted was to fly back home to London, Ontario, for his grandfather's funeral.

Carter missed a game, was excused from practice to attend the funeral on a Friday, returned for a Saturday-afternoon game against Buffalo and then the lingering effects of the flu kept him out again a day later against the Rangers.

His team has been in a tailspin, earning just four wins in its last 10 games.

The flu zapped 10 pounds off Carter's frame.

"It may not sound like a lot, but I don't have 10 pounds to give,'' Carter said.

But Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said Carter has been one of the team's few bright spots in recent games.

"When you take Jeff Carter from the lineup, you notice it,'' Laviolette said. "It's not to slight the other guys he is playing with, but he skates so effortlessly. Jeff's play has been really strong, I think that's the best word to describe it.

"His speed in which he plays the game, to me, that's really important. To me, the teams that play with speed are the hardest teams to play against. With the puck and without the puck, it's all about skating.

"When he comes back in the lineup, and he's not battling the flu and he's feeling good, he's really noticeable.''

The numbers don't lie. If you remove the odd game in which he returned in the middle of his illness - and played more than 3 minutes under his season average - Carter has eight points in his last seven games. He has four goals in that span.

Few players have bounced through the lineup like Carter has this season, seemingly with new linemates every night, but he has recently created chemistry with Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk.

Giroux and van Riemsdyk have a combined seven points in their last three games.

"Even before I missed a couple games, I thought we were starting to work together and control pucks,'' Carter said. "We've been hanging on to them and making plays. It takes a while to get comfortable with guys sometimes. We've been really clicking now.''

Carter said his line has been focusing on creating opportunities starting from behind the net - the area that used to be called "Wayne Gretzky's office.''

"We've been using the back of the net a lot, that has really opened things up for us,'' Carter said. " 'G' is kind of like Danny [Briere], when he gets open space behind the net there, he's going to make plays. I just try and get open."

Even though he signed an 11-year, $58 million contract in November, Carter has maintained a low profile this season.

Despite all of the chaos of the last few weeks, Carter leads the Flyers with 30 goals. He has been remarkably consistent, already matching last year's assist total. This is his third straight 30-goal season, and he is on pace to finish with 36 goals and 34 assists for 70 points.

With all of the big names around him, Carter, 26, isn't always the focus of opponents' game plans. They sometimes prefer to key on Giroux, Briere or Mike Richards.

"I think when you're talking about our forwards,'' Laviolette said, "There's different people you can focus on or target. But he's been strong on his skating, jabbing away at pucks at the net. He's been getting second and third opportunities."

That's all right with Carter. He'd like to keep the attention elsewhere.

"It's always nice,'' Carter said. "It's been going well. We've got nine forwards in here who can put the puck in the net on any shift. It's always nice when it's a team effort.''

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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