TAMPA _ After missing the last seven games, rookie winger Michael Raffl was told he would be back in the Flyers’ lineup Wednesday night against Tampa Bay.
“It’s never fun to sit and watch the game, so it’s going to be fun tonight,” Raffl said after the morning skate at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Raffl replaced Matt Read, who was sidelined by a lower-body injury that is not beleived to be serious. The Flyers list him as day to day.
Coach Craig Berube has wanted to play Raffl more, but he didn’t want to break up the team’s chemistry. The Flyers were 5-1-1 in the seven games Raffl missed.
“We won five or six games in a row, so it’s hard to make changes,” Raffl said.
“Sometimes, you just have to be patient,” Berube said.
Raffl, who will turn 25 on Sunday, had played in 11 games and collected just one assist before being sidelined because of the flu. He then missed six more games as a healthy scratch, giving him a seat in the press box.
“I tried to stay ready. Watch the game from up there, and try to learn as much as you can, and go hard in practice,” he said. “Eventually, you’re going to get a chance to go back in.”
Berube called Raffl “a positive kid, a happy kid. He works hard. He loves being around the team, and we really like him.”
Raffl, trying to make a jump from a lower-level Sweden league, had been the Flyers’ only extra forward. They could have brought up a veteran like Kris Newbury and had Raffl play regularly with the AHL Phantoms.
“I think he’s still developing even though he hasn’t been playing,” Berube said before the game. “He’s doing a lot of good stuff in practice, getting used to the pace. It’s a faster pace up here, even if it’s in practice. Right now, I don’t see it being a problem.”
Berube said he would decide on whom Raffle will replace at game time. Wednesday will be Raffl’s first game since Nov. 9.
Lecavalier homecoming. Flyers center Vinny Lecavalier, the Lightning’s former captain, will be honored Wednesday night for his community service in the Tampa area.
Lecavalier spent 14 seasons with the Lightning and is in his first year with the Flyers.
“Ever since he came into the league, you wouldn’t think of the Tampa Bay Lightning without mentioning Vinny Lecavalier,” said Lightning defenseman Matt Carle, a former Flyer.
“It’s going to be weird” to face him, said Lecavalier’s former linemate, Marty St. Louis, before the game. “Obviously, for what he’s done, on and off the ice, and what he’s meant to this franchise….it’s a special night with him here.”
Lecavalier and Matt Read lead the Flyers with eight goals apiece.
Getting defensive. The Flyers will begin the night having allowed two or fewer goals in 14 of their 23 games. In their last 11 games, they had yielded a total of 18 goals for a 1.64 goals-against average.
Overall, the team has a 2.39 goals-against average, placing them 10th in the 30-team league.
Breakaways. The game will be a battle of backup goalies _ Ray Emery (3-3, 2.54 GAA, .910 SP) and Tampa Bay’s Anders Lindback (1-5, 3.47, .872). Ben Bishop (14-3-1, 2.08 .931), one of the NHL’s best goalies this season, injured his hand at the morning skate, but the Lightning had been planning to use Lindback…..Emery has a 1.01 goals-against average and .960 save percentage in his last four appearances….The Lightning are 3-3-1 since their star center, Steven Stamkos, suffered a broken leg….. The Flyers begin the night with at least one power-play goal in seven straight games…. The Flyers will host Winnipeg at 11:30 a.m. on Friday before starting a six-game road trip against Nashville, Minnesota, Detroit, Dallas, Ottawa and Chicago...In his first 19 games this season, including 11 with Colorado, Flyers winger Steve Downie was plus-10.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.