A solid coaching debut for Craig Berube, all things considered. The Philadelphia Flyers earned their first victory of the season -- a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers -- in Berube’s inaugural game as replacement for the recently fired Peter Laviolette. And it didn’t take long for the former enforcer they call “Chief” to exert his own influence on the squad, starting with the lineup.
After Berube's shuffle, Wayne Simmonds ended up on a line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell, resulting in Jakub Voracek skating alongside centers Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn (the third forward line consisted of Sean Couturier, Maxime Talbot and Matt Read). Once Giroux gets going -- an inevitability -- Simmonds, in particular, should benefit in the production department. As long as Berube sticks with this current mixture, of course.
On the blue line, Berube opted to pair Kimmo Timonen and Luke Schenn, Braydon Coburn and Nicklas Grossmann, and Mark Streit with Andrej Meszaros. Choosing to spread power-play minutes fairly evenly among Timonen, Streit and Meszaros, the Flyers’ new head coach didn't demonstrate any particular affection for one puck-moving defenseman over another.
But it’s in Philly’s goaltending department that Berube may have the biggest impact. Committed to making his team better defensively, netminders Steve Mason and/or Ray Emery will eventually reap the rewards of a shrunken goals-against average (and maybe more wins).
"I want them to play as a team. I want them to play for each other – for their goalie, the defensemen, the forwards. Play together as a team with or without the puck. That's what I want," Berube said before Tuesday’s game.
And after Mason’s splendid performance against the Panthers on Tuesday, Emery may not get an equal share of opportunities to strut his stuff for his new bench boss anytime soon.
Quick hits from around the NHL
• Anticipate more Josh Harding and (much) less Niklas Backstrom between the piping for the Minnesota Wild in the near future. Backstrom suffered a lower-body injury Tuesday while falling awkwardly into his own net during a collision with Eric Nystrom of the Nashville Predators. The Wild’s perennial No. 1 still has to be re-evaluated, but was spotted limping after the incident. Owned in just 1.5 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Harding is a useful fantasy option as the starter -- if only temporarily -- for a Minnesota squad that is better than its current 0-1-2 record.
• Defenseman Fedor Tyutin is due back in the lineup for Saturday’s tilt between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins. Nursing a lower-body injury, the veteran blueliner has yet to suit up for the Blue Jackets this regular season. Even though David Savard has performed well to date, the young lad could lose his spot in the lineup once Tyutin is set to return.
• Look for Max Pacioretty to reclaim his spot on a forward line with David Desharnais and Daniel Briere when his Montreal Canadiens visit the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. Dealing with a minor arm injury, Pacioretty didn’t play Saturday against the Flyers.
• Goalie Tuukka Rask should be fairly busy through the next fortnight. Free of back-to-back games until Oct. 23 and 24, the Bruins see no pressing need to utilize Chad Johnson in the meantime. That amounts to six contests for Rask within two weeks. Boasting a 1.00 goals-against average and .966 save percentage after two wins to start the regular season, the Bruins' No. 1 has looked sharp to start.
• As long as Sam Gagner remains on the injured shelf (likely until late November) for the Edmonton Oilers, center Boyd Gordon will continue to play a top-six role on a line with Ales Hemsky and David Perron. With two goals and an assist, Gordon is more than holding his own.
• A slight groin strain is what they’re calling it. And the Panthers don’t believe Tim Thomas will be out long after falling hurt during Tuesday’s loss to the Flyers. Jacob Markstrom will shoulder the bulk of the goaltending load for the Panthers -- with a little help from Scott Clemmensen, perhaps -- as long as Thomas remains injured.
• The Ottawa Senators may exclude Jason Spezza from the lineup for a little while, starting with Wednesday’s game versus the Los Angeles Kings. Concerned Spezza’s groin injury may become “chronic,” Senators coach Paul MacLean wants to take the better-safe-than-sorry approach during this week’s road trip.
“We have to evaluate and make sure we’re not just adding to the problem and have him play (Wednesday), and then not on the weekend (Saturday against the San Jose Sharks and Sunday versus the Anaheim Ducks),” MacLean said. “We don’t want Jason Spezza in and out of the lineup for the next 80 games. We want him in the lineup. So if he’s in the lineup for 70 games, that’s way better than if he’s in and out of the lineup for 80...”
• ‘Tis just a headache, according to Rick Nash. Not long after taking a Brad Stuart elbow or shoulder to the head during the Rangers’ 9-2 loss to the Sharks on Tuesday, Nash insisted he didn’t feel concussed. But he “didn’t feel right,” either. Stay tuned.
• Trade rumors regarding Jake Gardiner continue to float about. Although the Toronto Maple Leafs have reportedly yet to receive a tempting offer for the young, puck-moving defenseman, the club won’t shut the door on the possibility of such a transaction, either. If he manages to secure a top-pairing role with another squad, Gardiner’s fantasy value could increase substantially.
• Adam Oates isn’t about to bust up his unproductive-to-date second line anytime soon. The head coach of the Washington Capitals is determined to remain patient with the Brooks Laich-Mikhail Grabovski-Troy Brouwer trio and so should most fantasy owners. To this point, they haven’t had much time to develop chemistry.
• Although it doesn't qualify as rumor by any stretch, Tuesday’s four-goal performance by the Sharks' Tomas Hertl is too precious to overlook. Mentioned often in this space since the start of training camp, Hertl was recently bestowed the compliment of having “all the attributes of a perennial All-Star” by his linemate Joe Thornton. Nice call so far, Joe. The Sharks’ rookie won’t be owned in only 63 percent of ESPN.com fantasy leagues for long.