Thursday, December 25, 2014

Versteeg settles in; Boucher hot

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Versteeg was nervous.

Versteeg settles in; Boucher hot

Kris Versteeg recorded 2 shots in his 17:44 of ice time in his first game with the Flyers. (Chris O´Meara/AP Photo)
Kris Versteeg recorded 2 shots in his 17:44 of ice time in his first game with the Flyers. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Versteeg was nervous.

He said his heart was beating fast and his mind was racing during his first few shifts as a Philadelphia Flyer last night in Tampa Bay. But as the game wore on, Versteeg settled down and seemed to fit in more with his teammates and Peter Laviolette’s system.

“I think I was more over-thinking things and being nervous than anything,” Versteeg said. “I just tried to be in the right place at the right time, trying to mesh with my new teammates and line mates.

“I think it the third period, it started to come a long way.”

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Last night - more than most other nights - was a particularly tough game to jump into head first, as the Flyers employed a different breakout and style to combat the Lightning’s unique neutral zone trap.

“They are a tough team to play against,” Versteeg said. “They sit back and make you come to them. But I think we did a good job at being patient and playing the game and executing the game plan. You could tell it was like a playoff game right from the puck drop.”

Versteeg, who couldn’t convert on his shootout attempt, finished the night with 2 shots on goal as a minus-1 with 3 hits, 2 give-aways and two wins in the face-off circle.

Versteeg played the entire night (17:44, more than every forward except Mike Richards, Danny Briere and Claude Giroux) on a line with Richards, though his wingers swapped between James van Riemsdyk and Andreas Nodl.

He was nearly sprung on a breakaway in the game’s final minutes, but Lightning defenseman Randy Jones made a diving stop to swat the puck out of Versteeg’s path.

Versteeg said he was almost salivating at the opportunity.

“That would’ve been nice,” he said. “Their defenseman made a great play.”

Overall, Laviolette was happy with Versteeg’s first game as a Flyer. He knows, from his own past experiences, that sometimes it takes a while for players to click in a new environment.

“I’ve gone through this situation, it’s never an easy thing,” Laviolette said. “I think by the end of the game, he really started to find his stride out there generating offense. His line started to get that cycle game going and they had some offensive opportunities.

“He’s got an eye for offense, and he started to feel a little bit more comfortable. I’ve been there, it’s an intimidating thing.”

Here were the Flyers’ lines last night to start:

Versteeg - Richards - Nodl
Hartnell - Briere - Leino
Carter - Giroux - Van Riemsdyk
Carcillo - Powe - Betts

Scratched: Jody Shelley, Nik Zherdev and defenseman Oskars Bartulis.

As the Flyers did not have a morning skate here in the Fort Lauderdale area in preparation for tonight's game with the Panthers, we are not yet aware of who is in net tonight for the Flyers.

BOUCHER ON FIRE: Brian Boucher was superb in last night’s game, despite the fact that few have mentioned the Flyers coughed up a two-goal lead to Tampa Bay in a matter of just 53 seconds in the second period.

Neither of those goals were Boucher’s fault, as one went in off Andrej Meszaros’ shin pad and another was on the power play.

In all, Boucher stopped 24 of 27 shots to pick up his third win in a row. He is now 14-6-2 this season with a .920 save percentage and 2.27 goals against-average.

Last night, he was most impressive in the shootout.

Boucher stopped 6 of 7 shots in the shootout and he is now 11-for-14 this season, though he still couldn’t compare yesterday’s win to the shootout win against the Rangers last April 11. Still, Boucher stopped Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos all in a matter of minutes.

“It’s still not as big as the Ranger one,” Boucher said. “But it was a big win for us, a team we haven’t beaten all year, it was nice to get a win against them.”

Hilariously, Boucher said he chose yesterday - of all days - to not study goaltending coach Jeff Reese’s stats and tendencies of opponents in shootouts. No matter.

“I didn’t study it [yesterday],” Boucher said with a laugh. “I was ill-prepared for this test. But fortunately I was able to pass with flying colors. So I’ll have to talk to ‘Reeser’ about getting that book in my hands.”

OVER / UNDER? How many trades will occur on the Feb. 28 NHL trading deadline? Vegas has set the over/under at 25.5, according to Bodog.com. The over/under on number of players involved is set at 46.5, which sounds like I may take the over on that one. What do you think?

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers


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Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black. Reach Frank at seravaf@phillynews.com.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Staff Writer
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