NEW YORK -- With one phone call, Tye McGinn swapped jerseys from a minor league team without a glimmer of postseason hope to an NHL lineup in the thick of a Stanley Cup playoff chase.
The Phantoms (25-34-1-4) will hopelessly miss the AHL playoffs for the fifth consecutive season since moving from Philadelphia. But the Flyers, on the other hand, are just a few wins away from capping off a furious push for a berth.
“This is the best time of year to play hockey,” McGinn said after Wednesday’s morning skate at Madison Square Garden. “To go from one end of the stick to the other, it feels pretty good.”
McGinn, 23, is in the midst of his fifth call-up to the Flyers this season - and just his first since Jan. 12. The fact that he’s even back with the Flyers and getting another shot to prove himself in the NHL should mean something, given that winger Chris VandeVelde had been Craig Berube’s preferred replacement of choice of late.
Alas, VandeVelde is currently injured, paving a road for McGinn back to the NHL.
McGinn will play the 28th game of his NHL career tonight against the Rangers, a matchup that has numerous playoff implications. He’ll skate on a line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read.
Berube said on Tuesday that he’d like to find McGinn more minutes. He played just 7:52 against Los Angeles on Monday night, well below his career average of 13:31.
“For me, it got a little screwed up,” Berube said. “It got to the third period and we were down a few goals. I didn’t use him as much, I used (Claude) Giroux’s line and (Brayden) Schenn’s line more to try and get back into the game. He lost his ice time in the third period. But I thought he was fine.
“He got into the forecheck, made a couple plays in the offensive zone. He looked like he was moving well to me.”
McGinn has been able to contribute in the goal scoring department in most of his time in the NHL. He’s got 3 goals on just 9 shots this season, leading some to wonder why he was sent back to the Phantoms so quickly. In perspective, Steve Downie - the player McGinn is currently replacing - has scored the same amount in 49 games.
Right now, in his current role on a shutdown line, he will have to focus more on defense. Berube said he wants “guys playing on both sides of the puck here.”
In many ways, McGinn's current call-up is about much more than just these couple games. He's fighting to not only stick with the Flyers through the playoffs, but also to supplant VandeVelde in the pecking order and earn a new contract for next season.
“I’m just trying to do my best, wherever I am,” McGinn said. “I’ve just got to take every game, every shift. I’m starting to get there (more comfortable). But never too comfortable.”
Berube revealed that Downie could return to practice as early as tomorrow. Berube shied away from any discussion as to whether Downie has a concussion, however, since he suffered an apparent head injury 45 seconds into Saturday’s win over St. Louis.
Downie did not make the trip to New York. He is currently listed as out with an “upper-body” injury.
“He was feeling better yesterday,” Berube said. “It’s really just a day-to-day thing. Like I’ve said, he’s feeling better. There might be a chance that maybe he’ll skate tomorrow.”
As expected, Steve Mason will make his 55th appearance of the season when he starts against the Rangers (8 o’clock, NBCSN). Mason is 4-0-1 with a .932 save percentage and 2.39 goals against-average in 6 career games against New York.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers