For Flyers, Simmonds in, Voracek out

Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds. (John DiGiacomo/AP)

When the Flyers play the New Jersey Devils in Newark on Thursday night, winger Wayne Simmonds will return to the lineup, but Jake Voracek - who led the team with 22 goals last season - will be sidelined with a lower-back injury.

Simmonds, who has been battling the flu since last week, was back on the Wells Fargo Center ice for Wednesday's practice. Voracek was in street clothes and seemed in a jovial mood but declined requests to talk to the media.

"I'm status quo," he told the team's public-relations staff.

Voracek was injured when he was pulled down from behind and crashed into the left post during Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the visiting Devils. The injury is not serious, the Flyers said, and Voracek may play Friday in Washington.

Simmonds missed Tuesday's loss, but he will be in the lineup Thursday and likely on a line with Vinny Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn.

"The last couple days obviously I wasn't feeling too well, but I'm feeling good now," said Simmonds, a slender winger who missed most of the training-camp sessions in Lake Placid and lost about six pounds during his illness. "I got a good skate in [Tuesday] before the game and another good one today."

Simmonds, 25, coming off his second straight impressive season since being acquired from Los Angeles in the Mike Richards deal, last played on Sept. 17, a 3-2 loss to the Rangers.

"You don't want to miss too much in training camp and feel like you're behind a little bit," coach Peter Laviolette said, "so to get Wayne back out there is important. He looked great. He was popping around the ice; he had great snap in his stick and he was jumping around on his skates."

In Wednesday's practice, Adam Hall took Voracek's spot on the top line, with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell.

The Flyers are 1-3-1 in the preseason and have managed a total of 11 goals. They have two preseason games remaining, and they open the regular season Wednesday against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I want to make sure we leave training camp healthy and we're in good shape," Laviolette said. "If we can control the back-to-backs, we will."

In other words, some veterans will likely sit one of the next two games.

"We're still evaluating as well," Laviolette said. "Training camp is still going on. . . . But just from monitoring the players' point of view, I want to make sure we're not overdoing it with the back-to-backs."

The Flyers have 27 players left in camp and are expected to get down to 23. Several players appear to be on the bubble, including forwards Scott Laughton, Chris VandeVelde and Michael Raffl, along with defensemen Hal Gill, Bruno Gervais and Oliver Lauridsen.

Of that group, Raffl seems like the best bet to stay with the big team. The Flyers could also decide to keep Laughton for nine games and then have the option to send him back to juniors without starting his entry-level contract.

Breakaways. Goalie Steve Mason, battling Ray Emery for the starting job, is expected to start Thursday. In two preseason games, Mason has a 4.09 goals-against average and an .850 save percentage. . . . Emery made 17 saves in the 2-1 loss to the Devils on Tuesday. "I thought he was good," Laviolette said. "There wasn't a lot of action and there were some big saves he made. I think the two goals that went in, we could have done a better job in front of him. We got a little antsy with our coverage." . . . It appears defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who was paired with Luke Schenn last season, will be matched with Braydon Coburn when the season starts.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.