Read ready to bust slump

Flyers rookie Matt Read has just one goal and two assists in his last 13 games. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Matt Read is not a big believer in the “rookie wall.”

In fact, Read says he has felt more fresh and healthy over the last 10 games than he has all season. The only problem for Read, who looked like a Calder Trophy candidate exactly a month ago, is that comfort has coincided with his worst statistical stretch of the season.

Heading into tonight’s contest in Oil Country (9:30 p.m. start), Read has just 1 goal and 2 assists in his last 13 games. His line before that? 10 points (4 G, 6 A) in 11 games.

“It’s frustrating,” Read said. “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.”

And it’s not like Read hasn’t had the opportunities. He’s averaged nearly 2 shots on net per game during the last 13. He’s been active in the offensive zone. It’s just that he says the “little things” haven’t gone right.

Danny Briere said every player has a stretch where “you’re not feeling it, there isn’t that swagger there, you start thinking about things too much.”

“I don’t have a problem with his game, at all,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “For me, it’s always been about how you play the game, how you’re skating, how you’re involved, how you’re moving. Everyone goes through stretches like this at some point.”

Laviolette said he liked Read’s line - skating with Jaromir Jagr and Briere - over the last 2 games and said he would keep the trio together “for the time being.”

Read, 25, knows he is still learning. After almost every shift, Read said Briere and Jagr spend time on the bench talking over the play.

“They let me know what I can do to be better,” Read said. “They’re about 3 or 4 steps ahead of me, and I’m just trying to catch up with them. As much advice as they can give me, they will make me a better player.

“I just want to be the hardest working guy on the line. I want to win those opportunities for loose pucks so that I can get them to those guys and have them make plays.”

While they’ve been active, Briere said his line needs to be more productive.

“I think our line needs to get going to give [Claude] Giroux’s line some support,” Briere said. “When you’re losing or not playing well, you need a lot of guys to chip in. Lately it seems like, myself included, that we’ve been struggling a little bit more than we have in the first half of the season. But I’m really excited about the look of our line right now.”

Briere added that he is sure Read is “worried about” not getting his name on the scoresheet.

“He’s having a great season,” Briere said. “You don’t want to make him feel like he’s playing terrible, because he’s not. It’s just that people focus on stats and goals. Look at the last 2 games. It’s right there.”

Read gets that same sense.

“The last 2 games, I think we’ve been good,” Read said. “But I know we can be a lot better. I think once we get clicking, you’re not going to be able to stop our line.”

SLAP SHOTS: Ilya Bryzgalov will start in net tonight at Rexall Place, even though the Oilers (3.00 GAA, 8-6-0 record) were by far his worst opponent during his 6 years in the Western Conference ... Three of the Flyers’ fathers were at the morning skate on Thursday, including Alberta residents Ned Shelley (Sherwood Park) and Bill Hartnell (Lloydminster). James van Riemsdyk’s father, Frans, was also in town on a previously scheduled business trip.

“I don’t know if people like the truth. I have always been speaking from the heart. Some people don’t like it, but I can’t change it. I’m too old to change. Accept me as I am, or not. It’s people’s choice. It’s hard to change people.”
-Ilya Bryzgalov to Edmonton reporters on his outspoken demeanor.

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