Richards trade working in Flyers' favor

Wayne Simmonds, a part of the Mike Richards trade, has 16 goals this season. Richards has six.
Wayne Simmonds, a part of the Mike Richards trade, has 16 goals this season. Richards has six. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: January 19, 2014

Wayne Simmonds plus Brayden Schenn would be better than Mike Richards - that's what Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren told the hockey world 21/2 years ago when he stunningly traded his in-his-prime captain, Richards, to Los Angeles for two young forwards.

Simmonds and Schenn have blossomed, while Richards has dipped.

Bottom line: Holmgren was right.

Richards, a 31-goal scorer for the Flyers in 2009-10, has just six goals this season with the talented Kings. Simmonds (16) and Schenn (13) have combined for 29.

Richards, who turns 29 next month and did win a Stanley Cup with Los Angeles his first season there, has 30 points (six goals, 24 assists), compared with 35 for Simmonds (16-19) and 30 for Schenn (13-17).

Simmonds, 25, has been the Flyers' best player in the last month, and Schenn has rebounded from a 16-game goalless drought. Simmonds has 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in his last 15 games, while Schenn has six goals in his last 10 contests.

Schenn, 22, has been centering a line with Simmonds and Scott Hartnell (15 points in the last 15 games), and the unit has been the Flyers' most productive line recently.

"A lot of it is chemistry between the three of them," coach Craig Berube said after Friday's optional skate in Voorhees. "I think it took some time, but they have got it now. Little things like puck support and battling in the corners for pucks, and people at the net all the time. All their goals are [because of] guys around the net."

The Flyers, who are getting more days off recently because of a compacted schedule, will host the surging New York Islanders on Saturday night. The Islanders are 4-1 on their road trip, which ends at the Wells Fargo Center.

"They're doing a good job defensively and getting some timely goals," said Berube, whose team has a pair of 5-2 wins over the Islanders this season, including an empty-net goal in each game. "They have some good, skilled players and their goalie is playing good."

The Isles, who are led by John Tavares (21 goals, 57 points), have won eight of their last nine road games.

Kevin Poulin, 23, has been the primary goalie because veteran Evgeni Nabokov is sidelined with a quadriceps strain. Poulin has started all five games on the road trip. Overall, he is 10-13 with a 3.01 GAA and .898 save percentage.

But Poulin has won five of his last six decisions, allowing just 13 goals in that span.

"Obviously they have a ton of confidence on the road right now," Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn said. "They're playing well as a team, and we know how good that Tavares line is. It'll be a huge test for us."

The Flyers are 32-4-2 against the Islanders since the start of the 2007-08 season.

Breakaways. Berube was pleased with the play of Steve Downie, who had 10 minutes, 38 seconds of ice time in Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss to Nashville. The winger had been benched the previous two games because of what Berube called a lack of intensity. "He did a good job. He was in people's faces; he was physical and he made a couple good plays," Berube said. . . . The Flyers' power play has clicked at 24.5 percent on the road (fifth in the NHL) and just 12.5 percent at home (27th).


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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