After failing to score a goal in his first 40 games, Flyers winger Jori Lehtera has made an impact in the last three weeks.
Lehtera has three goals in the last 11 games, including a shorthanded tally, and has done a solid job on the penalty kill.
“I’ve been feeling way better,” the 6-foot-2, 212-pound Finn said after the Flyers’ morning skate Monday at the Wells Fargo Center, where they were preparing for Monday night’s game against visiting Vegas. “I’ve been on the roster for a long time now. I haven’t been a healthy scratch for a while, so it gives me confidence. Scoring a couple goals brings confidence, and I know better now what the coach wants from me.”
Acquired with a pair of first-round picks last June in the deal that sent Brayden Schenn to St. Louis, Lehtera said it took him a while to get acclimated to his new team.
“At the start, I didn’t know my role and what the coach wanted from me,” he said. “… It was frustrating because I didn’t know what they wanted from me. Now it feels like I’ve found my spot and it’s easier.”
Lehtera, who lately has been on the Flyers’ fourth line with Scott Laughton and Matt Read, said coach Dave Hakstol wants him to play “steady defense and keep it simple and win the battles. Play smart in the defensive zone and on the PK.”
Hakstol called Lehtera “such a constant presence in all the little things he does, the important areas of the game. It starts with his intelligence and his competitiveness. And when you add the consistency he brings, he’s just a real effective player regardless of the combination of the forwards we have him with.”
Peter Mrazek will face the Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury, who is aiming for his 400th career win.
Fleury, 33, has been outstanding this season. The former Penguin is 24-9-3 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. But he has struggled in his career against the Flyers, compiling a 2.89 GAA and .899 save percentage.
Mrazek, 26, has been up and down in his eight games with the Flyers, putting together a 4-3-1 record, 2.82 GAA, and .899 save percentage. He is coming off a strong effort in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Winnipeg.
Former Flyer Pierre-Edouard Bellemare returned to Philadelphia for the first time since Vegas picked him in the expansion draft. After Vegas’ morning skate Monday, Bellemare revealed that the Flyers told him before the draft that he was going to be exposed.
“I was 32 years old. … I had eight points [last year], so it’s not like I was a guy they couldn’t replace,” said Bellemare, who turned 33 last week. “I understand it. It doesn’t mean I was happy about it because my life was in Philadelphia, but I knew it was a great opportunity.
“If they would have protected me, it would have been ludicrous. You have young guys [like Scott Laughton to protect].”
Bellemare, who still owns a home in Philadelphia, had dinner with some of his ex-Flyers teammates Sunday and said he was “excited” to return to the Wells Fargo Center.
Having broken into the NHL in Philadelphia, “this is a special place,” he said.
Bellemare said it seems as if every time the Golden Knights play an away game, one of their players is returning to face his former team. That, he said, has helped the players rally together because they want to win the game for that player.
“Every night, we’ve been helping that guy win against his old team,” Bellemare said. “Maybe that’s also one of the reasons we’ve been so focused every night.”
He said his teammates want to “help him win” Monday.
“Every night. we’ve had something that’s added a little extra,” he said. “There’s has not been one night where we’re like, ‘Ah, we don’t care about this one.’ It’s been working quite well.”
In 59 games, Bellemare has five goals and 13 points, and he has been one of the team’s top penalty killers.
Elliott on ice
For the first time since he had abdominal surgery Feb. 13, goalie Brian Elliott was on the ice before the Flyers’ morning skate Monday. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall hopes Elliott can return to action before the end of the regular season.
The Flyers will use the same lineup that produced Saturday’s 2-1 win over Winnipeg. … The Flyers entered Sunday with a league-best 53.6 percent success rate in faceoffs. … In the last eight games, the Flyers’ power play is just 2 for 26 (7.7 percent) and their PK is 17 for 22 (77.4 percent).