One of the revelations early on this Flyers season has been the resurgence of Matt Read as a scoring threat.
After scoring just 11 goals last season and 19 the past two seasons combined, the veteran forward already has six tallies this season and has showed the burst and energy reminiscent of the 20-plus goal-scorer he was in years past.
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His head coach has taken notice and now Read will be rewarded with top-line minutes.
Read will play alongside Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center when the Flyers try to extend their home win streak over the Detroit Red Wings to 13 games.
"You have to put yourself in position because they're both playmakers," Read said of his new linemates Tuesday morning after the Flyers' optional morning skate. "They're both going to get the puck, and if you're open, they'll find you. You have to put yourself in those areas. But you just have to have fun with it, play hockey and not let your brain take over and not think too much."
Read began the season floating among the Flyers' bottom-six forwards on the third and fourth lines. But now fully healthy after offseason thumb surgery, the 30-year-old has taken off. His six goals place him in a tie with Simmonds and Jake Voracek for most on the team. And he'll surely have his chances to add to that total alongside Giroux, who's in a six-way tie for most assists in the league with 11.
"I was told at the beginning of the year to be ready to play on any line," Read said.
"My point production wasn't there [last season] so you try extra hard or do things you wouldn't normally do. And when you do get opportunities, you squeeze the stick a little too hard or don't put the puck where you want to put it. But I felt good coming into the season. I felt in shape and felt ready to go. A couple bounces go your way and you score a couple goals and your confidence raises. But it's the same thing every night. You don't play your best game every night, but you've got to come into every game with the attitude that you're going to help this team."
Simmonds and Read have been teammates for six seasons now, so Simmonds knows the skill Read possess and feels Read can be a nice fit on the Flyers' top line.
"What Reader brings to our line is a nice little changeup," Simmonds said. "We just want to have sustained pressure in their zone. We just want to get pucks deep and go to work."
Read's move to the top line is the latest turn in a revolving door of wingers who have played alongside Giroux and Simmonds this year. Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl have each had their turn, but head coach Dave Hakstol is still looking for more chemistry and consistency on the top line, which is interesting considering the Flyers rank third in the NHL with 3.49 goals scored per game. But a deeper look into the stats shows that the Flyers' second line of Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and Voracek has accounted for 12 of the team's 45 goals this season (almost 27 percent).
So hence the latest change to the top line to try and generate more scoring.
"Reader is a very responsible player but he can bring speed, pretty good structure and some playmaking," Hakstol said. "Not to mention he's one of our leading goal-scorers.
"We're continuing looking for chemistry there. ... Reader's a little different player and will bring a little different mix to that line."
Time will tell if this incarnation of the Flyers' top line will stick.
Steve Mason will start Tuesday against the Red Wings for the first time in five games. Mason last played Oct. 29 in the 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh when he was pulled after a first period in which he gave up three goals in 55 seconds.
Michal Neuvirth started the last four games and earned three wins, but was very shaky at times and had a rough night in Montreal on Saturday when he gave up five goals on 17 shots in the 5-4 loss to the Habs. In the last four games, Neuvirth has given up 13 goals, an average of 3.25 per night.
"We'll get a good performance from Mase," Hakstol said. "He's been sharp the last few days out there in practice."
It's no secret both Mason and Neuvirth have struggled this season. Mason is 2-4-1 with a 3.46 goals-against average and .878 percentage, Neuvirth is 4-2-0 with a 3.56 goals-against average and .859 save percentage, and the Flyers are giving up 3.69 goals per game, 29th in the entire league.
Hakstol is looking for one of the two get hot and run with the job, and Tuesday will mark Mason's latest chance.
Tuesday morning was an optional skate for the Flyers. While most participated, Giroux, Couturier, Mark Streit and Radko Gudas were among those who did not. So here's our best guess at the Flyers' line combinations for Tuesday night's game.
Matt Read-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds
Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jake Voracek
Michael Raffl-Brayden Schenn-Dale Weise
Chris VandeVelde-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Roman Lyubimov
Michael Del Zotto-Shayne Gostisbehere
Mark Streit-Ivan Provorov
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas
Scratched: Nick Cousins (healthy), Nick Schultz (healthy), Andrew MacDonald (lower-body), Scott Laughton (LTIR/lower-body), Boyd Gordon (LTIR/upper-body)
Election Day results
No, not about that one you've been hearing about forever now.
But, actually, there are no Flyers Election Day results. That's because Tuesday will mark the first time the Flyers will play a game on a U.S. Presidential Election Day. Remember, 2004 and 2012 were lockout years. But that still marks 10 presidential Election Days without a Flyers game.
Considering the Flyers have been around 50 years now, that's a fascinating stat.