Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Options galore for Berube

Flyers coach Craig Berube can tinker with his lineup multiple ways on Saturday without touching his top line.

Options galore for Berube

Craig Berube has some options on his bench. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Craig Berube has some options on his bench. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

When the Flyers begin their longest road trip of the season Saturday night in Edmonton, Craig Berube will have a few tough lineup decisions to make.

It appears Steve Downie (upper-body) will be healthy enough to play against the Oilers. Downie skated in a full practice on Friday, before the Flyers’ flight, and he is eligible to come off the injury list on Saturday.

Who will exit the lineup to make room for Downie?

Berube seems to have at least two obvious options: Chris VandeVelde or Adam Hall.

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Under normal circumstances, the clear choice would seem to be VandeVelde - a call-up from the Phantoms on Dec. 12 - since Hall plays nearly as many penalty killing minutes (3:03 per game) as Sean Couturier (3:19).

That might not necessarily be the case. Hall missed Friday’s practice because he was “under the weather the last few days,” according to general manager Paul Holmgren. Hall did make the trip to Edmonton.

However, Berube said he likes what VandeVelde has done in his six games in the lineup. VandeVelde, who played 28 games for the Oilers over the last 3 seasons, can also kill penalties.

“We’ve used him at times,” Berube said. “With him in the lineup, we can use six guys. Hopefully we don’t need it, but there’s games where you get five or six penalties and you don’t want to tax certain guys. He’s done a pretty good job.”

Berube said VandeVelde is “pretty decent on face-offs and moves well.”

Berube seemed reluctant to tinker with any of his other forward lines, which means the fourth line on Saturday could include Zac Rinaldo, Downie and VandeVelde.

He didn’t want to move things around so much so that last game he moved Vinny Lecavalier to the wing with Couturier and Matt Read.

“It didn’t mix up the lines so much,” Berube said. “You don’t want to change too much sometimes. It’s tough for players. You get used to someone, then you’re changing things around again. You’ve got to do something if it’s not working and you’re not producing and getting results.”

Right now, the Flyers are producing. The top line of Claude Giroux, Michael Raffl and Jake Voracek has 26 points in their last 8 games. The second line with Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell and Brayden Schenn has points in four straight games.

Simmonds has four goals in his last two games.

“They’ve done a better job,” Berube said. “They’re producing. Simmonds is scoring but the other two aren’t. If you’re getting opportunities to score, you’re doing something right. It’s not just about that, though. It’s about playing both ends of the ice, and I think they’ve been doing that pretty good. That’s just as important, for me, as a coach. 

“Like I’ve said a hundred times, everyone can play the same without the puck.”

The options are limitless. With Hall out, Lecavalier could center the fourth line and Downie could be reunited with Couturier and Read. VandeVelde can also play center. If Hall is in, he is likely to center the fourth line, leaving Lecavalier with Couturier and Read.

Raffl - Giroux - Voracek
Hartnell - B. Schenn - Simmonds
Lecavalier - Couturier - Read
Downie - VandeVelde - Rinaldo 

or

Raffl - Giroux - Voracek
Hartnell - B. Schenn - Simmonds
Downie - Couturier - Read
VandeVelde - Lecavalier - Rinaldo

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

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Frank Seravalli Daily News Sports Columnist
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