NHL

Carcillo a victim of Flyers' penalty crisis

FOX Sports By FRANK SERAVALLI; seravaf@phillynews.com, The Philadelphia Daily News
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Penalties affect an entire team.

They create scoring chances for the opponent, tax star players and cut down on the ice time of others.

Through the Flyers' first five games, their league-leading 37 minor penalties have affected no one more than forward Dan Carcillo. They cost him his spot in the lineup on Saturday, when Peter Laviolette decided to scratch him in favor of Andreas Nodl.

Even when Carcillo was in the lineup - skating on the top line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter - he played fewer minutes than any other player except heavyweight Jody Shelley.

"It's frustrating," Carcillo said. "We had four games together. And I think I played like 6 minutes in two of those four games. It's hard to get going when you play that amount of time. There are a lot of penalties. The message I got is that, 'We want to get a guy in there that can play the PK,' when we're taking a lot of penalties."

Carcillo averaged 8:25 of ice time in four games with a minus-3 rating. Carcillo, whose role is to dig for pucks to feed Carter and Richards, had four shots on goal while his linemates posted a combined 33 shots.

Laviolette said Carcillo - who signed a 1-year, $1.075 million deal in the offseason - was lacking his usual physicality and grit that made him so valuable last season. His aggressive nature allowed him to draw more penalties last year than any other player in the NHL.

"He can bring more to the table with his physicality and creating some havoc," Laviolette said. "He's best when he's getting under the skin of the opponent. I've seen it at times. I've seen it at times and I'd like to see it with more consistency."

Nodl, on the other hand, was a point-per-game scorer in college but has retooled his game to cater to the defensive responsibilities of the NHL. His skill set is deep and diverse. The Flyers are hoping his offensive brilliance will return as his comfort level increases. But Carcillo shrugs off any doubts about whether he is miscast on the top line with Carter and Richards.

"I think I can play in that role," Carcillo said. "I don't know if I got a really fair crack at it just because the way those games went. I think that I'm an NHL player. And in my mind, I think I can play and be effective in this lineup. I'll just need to work harder."

In the Eastern Conference finals last season, Laviolette said one of his toughest calls was the decision to scratch Carcillo in favor of Ian Laperriere. Carcillo's unwavering positive attitude made him a poster boy for team sacrifice in the playoffs.

Carcillo knows a positive attitude could be what helps get him back into the lineup sooner rather than later.

"I know he's not happy about it," Laviolette said. "He's a competitive guy. I wouldn't expect him to be happy about it. But it's what you do from here."

Paying the priceOne by one, as the Flyers skated back-and-forth in sprints during yesterday's lengthy practice, Peter Laviolette called out the players who took mindless penalties in recent games and made them skate alone while everyone else rested.

Jeff Carter, Kimmo Timonen, Claude Giroux and Mike Richards were just some of those singled out for a lack of discipline.

Afterward, Laviolette said it was nothing more than "just a good practice." But his players got the message.

"It's got to stop," Danny Briere said about the Flyers' league-leading number of penalty kills. "The last four games, we have been taking too many penalties. It's been happening since Game 1. We put ourselves in trouble. Our power play to penalty-kill ratio is lopsided and we have to do something about it."

Slap shotsThe only player missing from yesterday's practice was defenseman Matt Walker, who has been nursing a hip/groin injury. General manager Paul Holmgren said he was hoping for an update on Walker today. Walker could need surgery and miss up to 3 months . . . The Flyers will not practice on-ice today . . . Other than a gap from Dec. 20-28, this current stretch from Saturday until Thursday is tied for the Flyers' longest number of consecutive days off this season.

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

Tagged: Flyers, Matt Walker, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Dan Carcillo

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