Meszaros pleased he's adjusted to Flyers' physical style

Posted: March 26, 2011

One of the first things Andrej Meszaros thought of when he received the call July 1 from Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman that he was traded - besides the fact he would need to pack all of his things and move again - was the Flyers' history.

He reminded himself of the Broad Street Bullies, and pictured fitting in.

In Ottawa and Tampa Bay, the first two stops of his still-young career, Meszaros was always known as a solid skater and puck mover. But never as a human mallet in the corners.

In the last few weeks, in the absence of Chris Pronger, Meszaros and Braydon Coburn have formed the Flyers' latest version of the Bash Brothers by turning up the physical play.

"This is the most physical I have ever been in the NHL so far," Meszaros said. "This is the year that I told myself that I wanted to do that. I knew when I got here that this team worked hard and played physical, so I didn't want to stick out.

"I want to hit people, even if it's harder on your body. But that's the way I want to play, and this is the way the team wants to play."

Meszaros and Coburn have combined for 28 hits over the Flyers' last three games. Meszaros alone has 14 hits over the last two games, which, when you put it in perspective, is not far off from the season totals of Kris Versteeg, Ville Leino and Danny Briere.

With 164 hits this season, Meszaros has quickly climbed up the Flyers' leaderboard and now trails Darroll Powe by only 15. Powe is 23rd in the NHL in hitting.

Hits have a wow factor. There's no denying that. But for Meszaros, the bone-crunching bodychecks have translated into a confidence and presence that is visible on the score sheet. He also has three assists in the last three games and has easily been one of the Flyers' most noticeable players, along with Coburn.

Here's proof that Meszaros' numbers and production are up: More than 11 percent of all fantasy hockey geeks added Meszaros to their rosters in the past week alone.

And coach Peter Laviolette has translated the strong play into more ice time. Meszaros is averaging 27 minutes per game over the last five games, almost 7 minutes above his season average.

"It's a good challenge," Meszaros said. "I want to show them that I can play. When you play a lot and you're on the ice pretty much all the time, you have more opportunities to do something and make an impact. It makes it fun."

Coburn, at 6-5, and Meszaros, at 6-2, both have the size to be menacing figures on the Flyers' back end. But they haven't always used it to their advantage.

"When you have size like that, you need to play physical," said Kimmo Timonen, who is generously listed at 5-10. "And they've been playing physical the last few games. They have to keep playing like that."

Coburn said the games recently have called for more physical play. He had a season-high six hits last Saturday in Dallas.

"Sometimes, things happen in a game," Coburn said. "It's a physical game. There's more opportunities to play physical at this time of year. And I think that's right up my alley."

Meszaros, meanwhile, chalks his recent success up to finally feeling comfortable with his new surroundings. He isn't worried about moving again.

"I feel better," Meszaros said. "When you're here every day, you learn something. When you're with the guys more, you get comfortable. You know what to expect from everybody. Every day has been great here. Hopefully, I'm going to stay here for the rest of my career."

Power play woes

The Flyers' abysmal power play is cranking along at a snail's pace, with only seven in the last 57 opportunities. That's a pitiful 12.3 percent efficiency.

"We had a good little stretch before we hit Dallas, where I think we had one power play," Danny Briere said. "As we get closer to the playoffs, power plays are tougher to [come] by. We are only getting two or three per game. I wish we could've scored one either [Thursday vs. Pittsburgh] or in the Washington game [on Tuesday]. It could've given us an extra point."

Laviolette said yesterday, as the Flyers did not practice but still prepped for this weekend's back-to-back games with the Islanders and Bruins, that the power play Thursday was a "direct reflection" of their total game.

"We need to do a better job on recoveries from shots, those are crucial," Meszaros chimed in. "They have four guys on the ice and we have five. We need to take advantage of that and support each other. It's all about working hard."

Slap shots

Chris Pronger skated on his own yesterday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. He handled the puck, but said he did not take as many shots as he did on Thursday, because his hand was "sore" and "tight." Pronger acknowledged he probably "overdid it" on Thursday . . . The Flyers are 4-0-0 against the Islanders this season . . . Jody Shelley had successful surgery Thursday to repair a fractured left orbital bone in his face. Paul Holmgren said Shelley will be able to return to practice in about a week, likely with a full facial shield. *

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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