Flyers surprisingly drop Lecavalier to fourth line

Posted: March 30, 2014

SINCE TAKING his seat at the Flyers' master controls three games into the season, coach Craig Berube hasn't really pushed too many buttons.

Calm and collected, Berube has let his players play, for the most part.

Lines have rarely been overhauled, except in the case of injury. Only on very few occasions have players been criticized publicly. In turn, Berube has restored the confidence of a once-fragile team that would crack under the first hint of pressure.

So, it came as a bit of a surprise yesterday when Berube decided to drop highly paid veteran Vincent Lecavalier to the fourth line before game No. 73 of the season.

Seldom does a star who will earn more than $100 million over the course of his career find himself skating a regular shift next to players such as Zac Rinaldo (six career goals) and Adam Hall (69 career goals).

Lecavalier, 33, had been playing on the second line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds over the last few months. His awkwardness on the wing - after 14 NHL seasons at center in Tampa Bay - had been duly noted.

Yet, Lecavalier said he didn't ask for the swap back to center - on the fourth line of all places. The usually garrulous Lecavalier was a man of few words after the morning skate, clearly bothered by the demotion.

"I'll do my best tonight to make sure my line is ready to go," Lecavalier said. "They work really hard. I'll do the same. Like I said, I'll be ready to go."

Lecavalier wasn't kidding.

Playing his most passionate hockey since November, Lecavalier was one of the Flyers' most noticeable forwards against Toronto in last night's 4-2 win. After missing out on a prime scoring opportunity on his second shift, Lecavalier blasted his 16th goal of the season a few minutes later on a 5-on-3 power play.

Lecavalier's emotional celebration was the release of a season's worth of frustration.

"It's my natural position," Lecavalier said with a smile after his goal. "We had a great first period, lots of chances."

The power-play strike was the 399th goal of Lecavalier's career - good for eighth among active players. He will become the 90th player in NHL history to hit the 400-goal plateau with his next tally.

For Berube, the gamble to flip his lines - and express his displeasure in Lecavalier's season - paid off as another brilliant use of his instruments in a season full of them. Berube acknowledged he has expected more of Lecavalier, in the first season of a 5-year, $22.5 million deal.

Lecavalier now has 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points - far off the 67-point average of his career.

"I think he expects more. I think we all did," Berube said. "I still think he can. That line wasn't doing what it was intended to do, so I made a change. It wasn't working where it was, so I put him back in the middle. I just made a decision."

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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