In Kubina, Flyers finally have a righthanded shot from the point

Newcomer Pavel Kubina provides an element the Flyers haven't had in years - a righthanded-shooting defenseman.
Newcomer Pavel Kubina provides an element the Flyers haven't had in years - a righthanded-shooting defenseman. (TOM SZCZERBOWSKI / GETTY IMAGES)
Posted: February 23, 2012

EDMONTON - Before Tuesday night's win in Winnipeg, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette warned his troops about the lethal weapon on the Jets' blue line in the form of Dustin Byfuglien's slap shot.

Byfuglien ended up burning the Flyers in the first period with one of those blasts.

But Laviolette also realized that he may now have a similar threat in newly acquired defenseman Pavel Kubina - and it's one that the Flyers haven't had in nearly a decade: a righthanded shot from the point.

The Flyers haven't had a righthanded shooter on defense since Eric Desjardins.

"He's got a big shot," Laviolette said. "That's a big guy out there. I know him more [than fellow newcomer Nicklas Grossman], just because he's been in the Eastern Conference. And I know he can shoot the puck. Hard."

Laviolette just slightly whet Kubina's appetite on Tuesday night with 45 seconds of extra-attacker time. Kubina rarely played on the power play in Tampa Bay this season, averaging just 1:17 a game. That would put him 14th on the Flyers.

But his power-play time is expected to rise significantly, to add a secondary punch to a power-play unit that has scored 20 goals in its last 23 games (21.7 percent) since Jan. 1.

"Whatever they need from me, I'll be there," Kubina said. "I'm still learning. The coaches will work with me and show me clips. They were really smart with me, I hadn't skated in over a week."

Overall, the Flyers' power play entered last night's action ranked fifth in the league. When you take away an awful 0-for-13 hole in four straight games from Feb. 7-12, the power play has added at least one goal in 10 consecutive games.

Kubina is a proven scorer. In 2008-09 alone, he scored nine power-play goals for the Lightning. Put in perspective, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jag have just six power-play goals each this season.

Kubina, 34, has 54 career power-play tallies - more than his 51 at even strength - as he puts all 258 pounds of his 6-4 frame behind his shots.

Is a righthanded shot from the point an overrated feature?

"I think there's something to the fact . . . if you don't, you lose the one-timer," Laviolette said. "Having a gun back there helps. When he's not shooting, you need to see what else is opening up . . . you've got [players] popping in . . . Pick your poison."

Previously, with the exception of when they used forward righthanded Matt Read on the point, the Flyers were limited to setting up only on one side of the ice for a dish on the one-timer. That's why you haven't seen very many of them this season, as they would rather work a play down low. Danny Briere said he couldn't remember the last time he played with a righthanded player on the point on the power play - even in Buffalo.

Jagr, who is lefthanded, now can feed a player like Kubina on the far side.

"It changes a lot, actually," Jagr said. "You know, when you have a one-timer, people have to respect that. If you have a lefthanded shot, and you pass to the defense, they don't really [care]. They're not going to take him away. Why? Before he shoots a slap shot, he has to shoot a wrist shot. It's not going to score.

"If he plays righthanded, they have to cheat on him a little more because the shot can come that quick. And they will give you more room down low. That's why most of the time, we play from the other side."

Before scattering to the West Edmonton Mall in unseasonably warm Alberta, the Flyers skated for an hour yesterday at Rexall Place. Laviolette wouldn't make any promises about the power-play setup tonight, but the new wrinkle is definitely an option.

"We'll see where it goes," Laviolette said. "We haven't had a lot of time to work on it in practice, guys have been sick or injured and leaving practice early. It brings different options into play."

Slap shots

As is Peter Laviolette's policy, the starting goaltender has not been named for tonight's game. The Oilers were by far Ilya Bryzgalov's worst Western Conference opponent (3.00 goals-against, 8-6-0 record) during his 6 years spent with Anaheim and Phoenix. Sergei Bobrovsky allowed just one goal in his only appearance against the Oilers, though it was in Philadelphia last season . . . The Flyers have won just three times in their last 17 trips to Rexall Place (3-13-4) dating back to 1985. They have not won in Edmonton since March 19, 2001 . . . With Pavel Kubina, the Flyers' six defensemen have a combined 3,645 games of experience in the lineup on a nightly basis.


"I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun. I was a little nervous before the game. It was an honor to put this jersey on me and play for the Flyers."

- Pavel Kubina, on his first game as a Flyer on Tuesday night in Winnipeg.

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