Flyers' Matt Read trying to climb 'rookie wall'

Flyers forward Matt Read , who has a degree in Exercise Science, is diligent about eating right and getting sufficient rest.
Flyers forward Matt Read , who has a degree in Exercise Science, is diligent about eating right and getting sufficient rest. (Associated Press)
Posted: February 29, 2012

SAN JOSE - Matt Read is not a big believer in the "rookie wall."

Or, in alarm clocks, for that matter.

Still, after collecting just one goal in his last 15 games entering last night's game against the Sharks, Read is running into the clichè knock against first-year NHL players - that their bodies begin to wear down in February and March after adjusting to the professional grind.

Last night, Read set a new personal record for games played in a season, with his 59th as a member of the Flyers. His previous high was set in 2006-07 with the Des Moines (Iowa) Buccaneers of the USHL junior league as an over-age 20-year-old.

But that's not what is wearing him down. In fact, Read says he has felt healthier in the last 10 days than he has for most of the season.

He just hasn't had the results on the scoresheet to show for it.

After posting 11 points in 13 games from Dec. 23 to Jan. 21, Read had fallen off the map with just one goal and three assists in 15 games prior to last night.

"It's frustrating," Read said earlier in the Flyers' road trip. "But I've been told, even in college hockey, that you're going to go through slumps. I think the best thing you can do is to try to be the hardest-working guy on the ice."

For Read, in order to prevent any hint of hitting the wall, has applied his bachelor of science in Exercise Science from Bemidji State University. Read is the Flyers' only player with a college degree; Matt Carle left the University of Denver after 3 years to join the NHL and James van Riemsdyk left the University of New Hampshire after two seasons.

Harry Zolnierczyk, who played 36 games for the Flyers this season, graduated with a degree in economics from Brown University.

If Read wasn't a professional hockey player, he said he probably would be a personal trainer or strength coach. Playing in the NHL was a longshot.

Read, 25, may be the Flyers' most disciplined player off ice when it comes to nutrition habits and routine. All professional athletes are in tune with their bodies, but Read translates his textbook knowledge into practice.

On the ice, Read said he can tell which of his muscles are weaker on any given day, so he can pinpoint a routine to strengthen a specific area off the ice.

When it comes to eating, teammate Wayne Simmonds was able to lure him to Pinkberry - a frozen-yogurt chain - twice in San Jose, but that's a rarity.

"It depends on where we are," Read said. "I usually like having a salad with a vinaigrette dressing and as many vegetables as possible. Usually I get chicken or salmon with rice, potatoes, pasta and some veggies."

Read's pregame routine starts with breakfast in the morning. He usually wakes up before 8 o'clock, because he says he is a morning person.

"It's pretty tough when you're on the road," Read said. "Breakfast is obviously the most important meal of the day, so I try to eat as much as I can at breakfast time. After a pregame skate I'll have a pretty big meal and then another small meal before heading over to the rink. I try to eat all day, as much as I can, to get energy and nutrition."

His biggest weakness?

"Ice cream, for sure," Read said. "But I still end up eating it anyway. I try to stay away from dairy products. I like yogurt or a glass of milk with my food, but dairy takes a long time to digest. I like it but I can't really have it in the afternoon before a game."

As for sleep, Read isn't religious about a pregame nap. He doesn't believe in doing something for the sake of doing it. This season, Read has had the counseling of different sleep doctors the Flyers have brought in at various times.

"I try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time," Read said. "When you're on the road, you try to sleep as much as you can, but it's hard on the plane and with time zones."

The Flyers played four games in three different time zones on this road trip. Last night's game was their last game of the season outside of the Eastern Time Zone.

"I don't like waking up to an alarm too often," Read said. "If I set an alarm, it's for the last possible minute. I try to sleep until I wake up. The sleep doctor said to sleep until you've acquired as much rest as you possibly can.

"I try to enjoy my naps as much as I can . . . If I feel really tired, I'll take a nap, but if I don't feel tired and I don't need a nap, I won't take one. It's about reading how your body feels. It translates onto the ice."

Occupational hazards

Should Flyers coach Peter Laviolette start wearing a helmet on the bench?

For the second time during their four-game swing out West, the Flyers faced a team without its head coach - and not because he was sick. Both San Jose's Todd McLellan and Edmonton's Tom Renney are injured.

McLellan was knocked unconscious, according to Sharks captain Joe Thornton, after being hit with a stick in the head on Sunday in Minnesota. He has concussion symptoms, according to the team.

Renney was hit with a puck in the head in practice on Feb. 6 and has still not returned. His concussion is so bad that he reportedly has short-term memory loss, having a hard time remembering things that he just said.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff finally returned to practice yesterday after breaking three ribs in an on-ice collision.

Last night, assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft took over for McLellan.


Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com or @DNFlyers on Twitter. Read his blog at philly.com/frequentflyers.

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