ANAHEIM, Calif. _ After sitting out 10 games with a left high-ankle sprain, Zac Rinaldo will be back in the Flyers’ lineup Thursday night against the team with the NHL’s best record, the Anaheim Ducks,
“I’m soooo excited; it’s been too long. Three weeks is too long for me,” the sometimes-frenetic winger said after the Flyers’ morning skate at the Honda Center.
The original prognosis was that Rinaldo would be out six weeks. He will be on a line that will have a new wrinkle: Michael Raffl, who has been used at left wing, will play center for the first time in his NHL career. Raffle has played center in Austria.
Adam Hall will be the other wing on the line.
Rinaldo said he felt “a little nervous after being out of the lineup for 10 games, so to me it’s good I’m a little nervous, though. I bring a little more energy when I’m nervous.”
The Flyers were 3-5-2 without Rinaldo, and they played a lot of those games without much emotion.
Rinaldo should change that.
“It’ll be nice to have him back in there with the energy and the skating and physical play,” coach Craig Berube said.
Kimmo Timonen says the Flyers need to stay out of the penalty box against the strong teams they will face on this three-game West Coast trip: Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose.
“They can make you pay on their power play,” he said.
That means players like Rinaldo, who has lacked discipline at times, need to play smart.
“He’s got to watch his hitting,” Berube said. “With that power he has in his skating ability, he tends to get there so quickly and somebody turns a little bit and it’s a penalty. He’s got to be careful that way and control his hitting.”
“I’m not going to run around like I’m a nervous wreck, trying to hit everyone,” Rinaldo said. “I’m not a little kid anymore, so I’m going to go out there and play the game of hockey. I’m just going to take my nerves out on the puck.”
The Flyers are the NHL’s most penalized team.
“Every game, we should stay out of the penalty box. We got carried away there, and there were multiple games where we had too many penalties,” Rinaldo said.
Sbisa faces ex-teammates. Former Flyer Luca Sbisa will be on the Ducks’ third defensive pairing Thursday, with Mark Fistric. Sbisa, who turned 24 today, returned Tuesday after missing two months because he tore tendons in his hand during a fight.
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound defenseman says the Ducks have been on a mission this season. “I think it’s been a big learning experience that we carried over from last year,” he said. “We weren’t happy with the way things ended last year in the first round against Detroit, losing Game 7. Guys were still angry about that, and I think we just carried that anger into this year and turned it into positive energy.”
Breakaways. Steve Mason (20-13-5, 2.57 GAA, .915 save percentage), coming off a 5-0 win over Detroit, will face Anaheim backup Frederik Andersen (13-2, 1.87, .933). Andersen has faced mostly inferior teams because the Ducks rely primarily on Jonas Hiller (24-7-4, 2.39, .914)….Defenseman Kimmo Timonen (bruised left foot) is not quite 100 percent, but he will play tonight…..Chris VandeVelde cleared waivers and will head to the Phantoms.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.