Raffl makes everyone richer through his versatility

Posted: February 02, 2014

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - When Michael Raffl was bumped from the first to fourth line earlier this week, Flyers coach Craig Berube was careful to point out the move was not a demotion.

"He's been a good player," Berube said then. "Wherever he goes, people seem to play good around him. It'll be a better fourth line with him on it."

Raffl, 25, has provided Berube with some unexpected flexibility in his first half season in the NHL. Originally considered a player with a top-end skill set, Raffl has demonstrated an ability to play the all-important "elevator" role - meaning he can move up and down the lineup with ease.

Raffl centered Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo on Thursday night in Anaheim. It was his first game at center in more than three seasons.

"It was good," Raffl said. "You've got to be first back and take it real serious in your end. It's a little bit harder work. But I like the defense, too. I like the opportunity."

While it seems strange that Berube would take the Flyers' best faceoff man in Hall (60.1 percent) away from center, Berube said he prefers Raffl's speed in the middle. To him, Hall is a natural winger.

Raffl went 2-for-5 on draws, with Hall (4-for-5) taking faceoffs on his forehand side. With Raffl's speed, Hall and Rinaldo saw more minutes, which allows the Flyers to better compete against California's deep teams.

"He looks pretty comfortable to me there," Berube said. "The way he skates and handles the puck and stuff, it's kind of nice to have a guy like him in the middle of the ice. I think he evens out the lines a bit."

With so much attention focused on Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, it was lost on many that today marks Wayne Simmonds' first game back in Los Angeles.

Simmonds, 25, has more points with the Flyers (119) than both Carter (101) and Richards (111) since the deal. You could make the argument that Simmonds - easily the Flyers' most consistent player - is also their most valuable player.

There are 27 games left in the season, and Simmonds is 12 points from setting a new career high with 50. From his first season with the Flyers - a 28-goal performance in 2011-12 - Simmonds returns to Staples Center as a player whose game has grown significantly.

"Definitely," Simmonds said. "I was cast in a different role before. The Flyers have given me an opportunity to play more of an offensive role, and I've just kind of run with it."

Mike Richards said this has been the Kings' toughest stretch of hockey since winning the Stanley Cup. Los Angeles is 3-6-1 in its previous 10 games . . . The Kings have scored only three goals in their last five games - all of them from Anze Kopitar. They've netted more than four goals only four times in their last 20 games, creating a situation very similar to before Dean Lombardi acquired Jeff Carter in 2012 . . . The Flyers are 6-1-1 all-time at Staples Center since it opened in 1999.

"We played a good game. It was probably the hardest that we've battled all year. It was a physical game. Unfortunately, we came out with nothing, so we've got to draw from the negatives and know what we did wrong."

- Wayne Simmonds on Flyers' 5-3 loss Thursday in Anaheim.


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