With a slew of bodies fumbling for the puck behind the Flyers’ net, Zac Rinaldo came in and dropped the hammer with his shoulder.
It was only after he flattened the unsuspecting Nashville Predators’ forward that he realized who he had hit.
Rinaldo, 21, got revenge against the Predators’ Jordin Tootoo the right way, in really his first game back in the lineup since he hurt his neck trying to hit Tootoo in Nashville on Jan. 14.
VIDEO OF THE HIT IS BELOW
Rinaldo actually played a week later in New Jersey on Jan. 21 but re-injured the herniated disc in his neck. He had been on the injured reserve until yesterday.
“I didn’t know I hit him until I connected with him and I was like ‘Ohhh, that’s Tootoo,’ ” Rinaldo said. “I thought it was a pretty clean hit, so that’s cool.”
Tootoo played it cool, too, not trying to run around and retaliate for the clean shoulder check. (Ed. note: if we can find video of the hit we will post below.)
Rinaldo said he felt “great out there” and that it was almost like he “hadn’t missed a game.”
It showed. He provided the spunk in the Flyers’ lineup that even Predators coach Barry Trotz noticed.
“I thought the line of Rinaldo, [Brayden] Schenn and [Wayne] Simmonds were probably their most effective line,” Trotz said. “Against us tonight, they seemed to be getting the majority of the chances. The [Jaromir] Jagr, [Claude] Giroux, [Scott] Hartnell line didn't seem to be as dangerous as the other line.”
The Flyers won at home for just the first time in 4 games. Rinaldo is 5th on the team in hits this season but has played 13 fewer games than those ahead of him on the list. Even when he’s in those games, he rarely plays more than 5 to 8 minutes per game.
Rinaldo is one of the NHL’s leaders in hits per 60 minutes of ice time.
“I thought that we came out banging,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “Zac was back in the line-up. I mean that’s what he's capable of bringing. We talked about how in order to hit, you have to skate. When you're skating and you hit, you're usually near the puck. That creates turnovers and ultimately, offense.”
Rinaldo benefitted from that offense, adding his first point - an assist on Simmonds’ first goal - since Dec. 15. He now has 1 goals and 5 assists on the season as he continues to try and dispel the notion that he is a one-dimensional player.
“I try and be the complete package of a player, trying to bring energy,” Rinaldo said. “Sometimes, you don’t need those big hits every game. Hopefully I can try and put more pucks in the net.”
IMPRESSIVE NIGHT: Wayne Simmonds was a force for the Flyers on Thursday night against Nashville. He collected a career-high 10 shots, best a previous personal record of 7, with the Kings back in 2009.
It was the third two-goal game of his career. It was also Simmonds’ 4th point in the last 3 weeks against Nashville, since he also collected a pair in the Music City on Jan. 14.
“He gets the goals and the deflections because he deserves it,” goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov said.
RECORD SETTER: Edmonton’s Sam Gagner posted 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists) in the Oilers win over Chicago on Thursday night. It was the NHL’s first 8-point game since 1989. For a second, some thought Gagner was wear No. 99 instead of No. 89.
ALL-STAR RATINGS: The television networks have had a chance to digest the ratings from last weekend’s All-Star festivities in Ottawa. Not surprisingly, the numbers in Canada were mind-numbing.
Overall, CBC pulled in the highest rating since metered audience measurements began in 1989-90. More than 10.2 million Canadians - 30 percent of the country’s entire population - tuned into some part of All-Star weekend.
In the US, the All-Star Game averaged 1.3 million viewers and the Super Skills competition drew an average of 1.1 million eyeballs on the NBC Sports Network. All told, it was the second-most watched All-Star weekend in the United States since 2004.
DID YOU NOTICE ... that Matt Read skated on the Flyers’ fourth line for the bulk of the night? He scored an even strength goal on a breakaway, beating Anders Lindback for his 16th goal of the season, which is tops among all rookies.
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