Travis Konecny was dropped to the fourth line for Tuesday’s game against Toronto, but the speedy Flyers winger didn’t view it as a demotion.
Entering the 4-2 comeback win over the Maple Leafs, he had scored one goal in his last 19 games.
“It’s not a demotion at all,” he said after Wednesday’s practice in Voorhees. “We have four steady lines in here, and we all play in every situation. There’s not one line that is particularly the fourth line. I think everyone plays the same amount of minutes.”
As it turned out, Konecny’s line, with Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier, played the fewest minutes, but it frustrated Toronto with its quickness and had numerous scoring chances. The unit played against all of the Maple Leafs’ lines.
Konecny, 20, scored the game’s most important goal, tying the score at 2 with 14 minutes, 24 seconds left on a wrist shot that caromed off two Toronto defenders as Leier set a screen in front. Laughton’s empty-net goal enabled the Flyers (12-11-7) to ice their fourth straight victory and end a six-game home losing streak.
“They get pucks in, grind away, and find a way to get the puck back,” Konecny said of his new linemates. “It’s nice playing with the puck, right? With those guys and their speed, it allows us to pressure their ‘D’ and play in the offensive zone.”
Laughton, whose team will host lowly Buffalo on Thursday, said the Maple Leafs did a good job of clogging the neutral zones in the first two periods.
“It was kind of jammed, and we couldn’t get much down low off the cycle,” Laughton said. “That happens against really good teams. I thought we did a good job of just sticking with it. We talked about it between periods. There’s so much speed on that line, and T.K. did a really good job and was really effective.”
“He’s a little waterbug. He’s quick, he’s tenacious, and that’s kind of the mold that line has been following this year,” Leier said. “Me and Scotty and the guys who have been with us like [Michael Raffl and Jordan Weal]. I think that’s kind of the staple of our game, that tenacious side. We can wear down the other team’s defense and make them play in their own ‘D’ zone.”
Konecny’s goal was originally credited to Leier.
“I don’t think either of us cared who scored it,” Leier said. “That’s a big goal for our team, and that was a turning point for our win.”
In the victory, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Konecny was at his agitating best, mixing it up with 6-2, 235-pound defenseman Roman Polak.
“A couple guys warned me to just leave him alone,” said Konecny, who scored 11 goals as a rookie last season and has four goals in 30 games this year. “I’m not necessarily trying to stir the pot with him, but it keeps me alert. I know that [if] he’s not happy with me, he’s definitely going to be looking to light me up. And I find when I get under somebody’s skin they tend to get out of position, and then they’re looking to make that hit and it might leave somebody else open.”
Buffalo (8-17-6) has the worst record in the Eastern Conference and has a minus-37 goal differential. The Sabres average just 2.16 goals, last in the NHL. … Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas played 14:03 and had two blocked shots and a team-high five shots Tuesday in his first appearance since a 10-game suspension. “I was really excited. It’s been way too long,” said Gudas, who needed a few shifts to regain his chemistry with defensive partner Travis Sanheim. “As the game went on, I felt better and better.” … Hall of Fame goaltender Bernie Parent, dressed as Santa, and student-athletes from the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation will present gifts to patients at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children at 10 a.m. Monday.