More ice time for Luke Schenn leaves less clutter in his mind

Posted: November 15, 2013

PITTSBURGH - Last week, when Luke Schenn was scratched by coach Craig Berube for three straight games, he had plenty of time to think about his game. His conclusion was that he'd like to do less thinking.

"The old saying is, 'the more you think out there, the more you're going to get yourself in trouble,' " Schenn said. "Instead of going out there and thinking, you should just play."

Schenn wasn't complaining about his ice time, but thought that he was at his best when he played big minutes for the Flyers and their injury-riddled lineup last season. He averaged 21:52 last season after playing only 16:02 per-game in 2011-12, his last season with the Maple Leafs.

Less time on the bench between shifts means less time dwelling on mistakes.

"It's more mental decision-making," Schenn said of his early-season struggles. "More read-and-react. Maybe you're more hesitant at times, and it makes you seem slower. It's definitely not nerves. At times, maybe instead of being aggressive, you step back a little bit and you hesitate."

Schenn, who turned 24 on Nov. 2, was asked by Berube to better close the gap between attackers on the rush. He was criticized for his conditioning, but both Schenn and Berube said that wasn't the case. Schenn was drilled into shape after practices as a healthy scratch by fitness guru and assistant coach Ian Laperriere, who the scratches say runs the meanest "bag skate" in the NHL. And it's not called a "bag skate" because all of the pucks are put back in the puck bag.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Flyers' played their best "gap" game of the season on Tuesday in Ottawa - and Schenn played 20:30, with Nick Grossmann leaving the game early. Last night marked his third game in a row back in the lineup, with Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill watching from the press box.

"I was really impressed with the system play and skating," Berube said. "We're getting better. I think it starts in the offensive zone. We're not waiting to get back and our 'D' can be aggressive with all these guys getting back [defensively] and we can eliminate the play before it starts."

When Terry Pegula cleaned house in Buffalo yesterday, firing longtime general manager Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston, many wondered aloud whether new boss Pat Lafontaine would target Flyers assistant Ron Hextall as his next GM.

After all, when Hextall returned to the Flyers this summer from Los Angeles as assistant general manager, he reiterated his goal was to become the top man somewhere, wherever that might be. Hextall just doesn't appear to be on Buffalo's radar.

The Buffalo News reported Lafontaine's short list likely includes Boston's Jim Benning, Pittsburgh's Jason Botterill, Montreal's Rick Dudley and Toronto's Claude Loiselle.

Former Sabres coach Ted Nolan was brought back as the interim man, but Lafontaine said he will let his new GM hire the next coach. For now, it appears Peter Laviolette will remain without a head-coaching job.

Laviolette, fired by the Flyers on Oct. 7, crossed paths with Lafontaine throughout his career with USA Hockey. According to the Miami Herald, Laviolette was not interviewed for the Panthers' opening last week when Kevin Dineen was axed. The situations in both Buffalo and Florida are fluid, since Nolan and Peter Horachek have interim designations.

Laviolette is under contract with the Flyers through 2014-15, and teams would need permission from the Flyers to speak with him.

Sources close to Laviolette expect he will have an NHL job within the next 4 weeks, before Christmas. One-third of the NHL's 30 teams have changed coaches just since the lockout ended last January.

When the Flyers last traveled to Pittsburgh, on March 24, Ilya Bryzgalov was in net. This week, he has been in Oklahoma City, readying himself for a return to the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers. He did not play in Oklahoma City's matinee Tuesday, but could take his first step back tomorrow night.

Bryzgalov, 33, once called Edmonton the North Pole in a viral video - saying it's the coldest place he's ever been. Friday, he signed a 1-year, $2 million deal that included an immediate $1 million signing bonus. He could be pressed into NHL service quickly, given Devan Dubnyk's recent struggles.

"I said it's like North Pole, didn't say it is North Pole," Bryzgalov clarified to the Edmonton Sun. "It was an interview which went on YouTube. People loved it."

Whether Edmonton and his teammates love him is the bigger story. He wouldn't go into details about his tumultuous tenure with the Flyers, but said he will someday.

"I just can tell you when the time right. I will write the book. You can read it then," Bryzgalov told the Sun. "I am looking forward to showing people about me. At the end of the year, maybe you will make a statement about me."


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