Schenn eager to improve on disappointing first half

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"I just want to put the first half out of my mind," Flyers rookie Brayden Schenn said. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

BRAYDEN SCHENN shudders every time he hears the question.

"Do you finally feel like you are getting comfortable after what you went through in the first half of the season?"

After more than a month since his last injury, Schenn has strung together 14 straight games. He still knocks on the wooden bench in the Flyers' dressing room, but Schenn would like to believe he is past the shoulder injury, the salary-cap squabble, the broken foot and concussion that marred his supposed-to-be storybook beginning with the Flyers.

He spent the All-Star break at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas with his older brother, Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn, and about 25 other NHLers. The trip served as both a vacation and a chance to clear his mind.

Now, Schenn has his sights set on one thing: moving forward. That's what makes the questions so hard to answer.

"I get asked that question a lot," Schenn said. "I just want to put the first half out of my mind. I just want to think about the positive things. For me, that's having a strong second half and helping the team win."

On the ice, Schenn's confidence is apparent. Peter Laviolette pointed to Schenn's monster game against Boston on Jan. 22 - with 25 shifts, two shots, two attempts blocked, a fight, and none of his six hits bigger than the one that nearly knocked Bruins defenseman Stephen Kampfer back a week in time - as Schenn's coming-out party.

He's followed that up with goals in his last two games to go along with six shots.

"He's been involved offensively," Laviolette said. "When players miss training camp, it's tough to jump back into the season. I think it's even more difficult doing what he's trying to do, which is miss substantial amounts of time, and as you get further along, the games get harder and harder to play. Space gets harder to find.

"I do think he's finding his way a little bit. He's contributing, which is a real positive for us."

In last summer's trade with Los Angeles for Mike Richards, Wayne Simmonds was supposed to be the wild card. Schenn, a No. 5 overall pick by the Kings in '09, was the can't-miss prospect.

He has only four goals and two assists in 21 games, but he's only begun to scratch the surface. Along the way, he's gotten invaluable help from roommate Claude Giroux - who has already learned how to temper expectations in Philadelphia and produce.

"I try and play with more confidence every day," Schenn said. "I want to get better game by game. 'G' has helped me a lot with that. There's nothing better than to learn from a guy like that, who's been around but not too long, and he's one of the top players in the league.''

 

Rinaldo battling

After battling through a herniated disk in his neck over the past few weeks, Zac Rinaldo might finally be ready to return to the lineup tonight against Nashville. Coincidentally, he suffered the original injury when colliding with the Predators' Jordin Tootoo in Nashville on Jan. 14.

It flared up again in New Jersey a week later in his only attempt back. Yesterday, the Flyers sent Ben Holmstrom back to Adirondack, and Rinaldo was activated off the injured reserve in his roster spot.

He could be the spunk the Flyers' lineup has been missing.

"I really needed the time off," Rinaldo said. "I wanted to play, so I kept coming back without being 100 percent. It just kept getting worse and prolonging the injury. In the meantime, I was here every morning getting my neck treated. But I feel good now; it's just a matter of getting back in the lineup."

After being on the bubble to make the roster out of training camp, he's made an impression on Peter Laviolette and the coaching staff as a tireless worker and heavy hitter who can make the opposition nervous with the puck. He's already played in 36 games.

Rinaldo, 21, is only 35 penalty minutes behind Ottawa's Zenon Konopka for the league lead, despite averaging a little north of 6 minutes per game. Even checking in at just 5-11, 185 pounds, Rinaldo has dropped the gloves with the best of them. He is seventh in the league with 10 fights.

"This season has been a real eye-opener for me," Rinaldo said. "I think I've done a lot with the minutes I've been handed."

 

Slap shots

Both James van Riemsdyk and Danny Briere missed practice after previously skating for 2 consecutive days in their concussion rehab. "I guess you can call it a setback," Paul Holmgren said. "I don't know. We're dealing with concussions. They didn't feel as good [yesterday] as they did [Tuesday]. I'm not sure what that means." Briere has been out since Jan. 21; Van Riemsdyk has been out since Jan. 12 . . . Nashville, winner of five straight, is 13-2-0 in its last 15 games, the NHL's best mark since Dec. 28. The Predators have allowed only 1.86 goals per game during that stretch . . . The Predators and Flyers have executed more trades (17) than games played (14) between the franchises. Nashville is 3-4-1 all-time in Philadelphia.

 


For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.