Veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen understands his demotion to the Flyers’ second power-play unit.
But that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it.
When the Flyers host the injury-plagued New York Rangers on Thursday, Timonen will be not be with the top power-play group for the first time since he joined the club in 2007. That means he will get less time while the team has a manpower advantage.
Looking to improve a power play that is 1 for 21 in the last six games, coach Craig Berube has replaced Timonen with Mark Streit at one of the points.
“I’ve made my living doing that. You know, everything ends sometime,” Timonen said after Wednesday’s practice in Voorhees. “I’ve played power play for 15 years, so it is a big deal, but I’m an old-school type of guy. …When I came in the league, I had to earn my spot there. I was able to keep it for a long time. But now I have to earn it back. I need to play better.’’
Flyers winger Scott Hartnell, who is doubtful for Thursday’s game with an unspecified injury, said when he was demoted in the past, he came back with “fire in my belly. I definitely came out with an attitude the next game, and I think that’s one thing we have to play with a little more _ an attitude and a little bit more fire.”
Berube said Timonen wasn’t alone in his struggles.
“There’s a lot of guys that know they can play better. It’s not just him,” he said. “…You don’t get too many free games in this league. If we don’t get everybody’s best, from the coaching staff down, on any given night you’re not going to win too many games.”
Playing on the top unit is “the way you get into the game and that’s the way you get the confidence back,” said Timonen, adding he was “fine” with the demotion, “But being on the second unit, that sends a message.”
Timonen, 38, has zero points this season; he had 17 power-play points last season, which was third among NHL defensemen.
“I’m mad about it, yeah….It’s one of those things, if you’re not mad about it, you don’t care,” Timonen said. “I’m not mad about the guys, I’m not mad about the coaches. I’m just mad about myself. Need to be better out there.’’
The top unit Thursday figures to have Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Vinny Lecavalier, Jake Voracek and Streit.
“Both units are pretty good and have good personnel. It can be an advantage if he uses it the right way,” Streit said. “Sometimes the one unit is hot one night and a game later, the second unit makes an important push. We can challenge each other.”
The Flyers (1-7) will be facing a 2-5 Rangers team that will be without goalie Henrik Lundqvist (3.45 goals-against average), along with forwards Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin. All are injured.
Cam Talbot, a recent AHL callup, will make his NHL debut for the Rangers.
“I don’t care how beat up they are. They’re a good hockey team,” Berube said. “…It’s gonna be a tough game. Our players better know that.”
Both teams have been offensively challenged, scoring just 11 goals each.
Breakaways. Lecavalier is expected to return to the lineup after missing three games with a lower-body injury; he would replace Brayden Schenn on the top PP unit. The second PP unit could include Schenn, Tye McGinn, Matt Read, Timonen and Erik Gustafsson. Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl could also get time…....In the 30-team NHL, the Rangers are 28th (1.57 goals per game) and the Flyers are 29th (1.38)…The Rangers have played all seven games on the road because Madison Square Garden is being renovated….Lundqvist is 9-2 against the Flyers in the last two seasons...Kris Newbury was sent back to the Phantoms..
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.