NHL

Flyers' Meszaros fits right into team's image

FOX Sports By Sam Carchidi; Inquirer Staff Writer, The Philadelphia Inquirer
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Bob Clarke, the Flyers' senior vice president, went on XM radio earlier this week and extolled the franchise's physical image.

"You have to have an identity . . . and we're going to keep ours," he said. "Too many teams are nondescript."

In the season's first three games, newcomer Andrej Meszaros has fit right into the Flyers' image. The sturdy 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has seven hits - including a team-high four against Colorado on Monday - and has looked more like the defenseman who once excelled in Ottawa than the one who struggled in Tampa Bay the last two years.

"When you play with good players, it's easier," he said after Tuesday's practice in Voorhees.

The Flyers have arguably the league's deepest defense. It's so deep that Meszaros, who made the NHL's rookie all-star team in 2006, is on the Flyers' third pairing, along with Sean O'Donnell.

Meszaros downplayed Thursday's meeting against his former Tampa teammates at the Wells Fargo Center.

"I'm going to know a lot more guys, but it's just going to be a normal game for me," he said. "I'll prepare the same way. The management and coaching staff all changed, so it's not like I have hard feelings for them."

Meszaros has been used in all situations and has been a big contributor on the penalty-killing unit, whose 88.2 percent success rate has helped the Flyers start the season 2-0-1.

More times than not, Meszaros has knocked forwards off the play around the net.

"He's got a lot of power in his game," coach Peter Laviolette said. "One or two strong strides and he's engaged in a battle, and I think he's done a really good job in those battles with his power. He contains people; he breaks things up. He moves things in the right direction and has enough skill to jump in on the power play."

When he was dealt to the Flyers for a second-round 2012 draft choice, Tampa Bay officials said they were glad to be free of his $4 million annual salary. The Tampa media piled on, calling him an albatross.

"I don't read that stuff, so I don't know what they're saying, and I really don't care," said Meszaros, who had 10 goals, 29 assists and a plus-34 rating in his rookie season with Ottawa.

But he was a combined minus-18 in two seasons with the Lightning.

"I know I didn't have two very good seasons there, and I've said it," he said. "But I feel great here. Everything is great for me so far. It's great to be playing good hockey again like I did in Ottawa."

Meszaros has only been with the Flyers for a short time, but he said he feels more comfortable than he did in Tampa.

"I think we have structure; we have consistency," he said. "Everybody knows what to do and buys into the system."

LW shuffle In the second half of Monday's 4-2 win, left winger Dan Carcillo was replaced by several players, including James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux and Danny Briere, on a line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

Laviolette said he was happy with Carcillo's play but was looking for "a little more pop offensively."

Walker ailing Spare defenseman Matt Walker, acquired from Tampa Bay in the Simon Gagne trade, visited a hip/groin specialist Tuesday because of an injury suffered in the preseason opener. The Flyers hope to release more information on Wednesday, GM Paul Holmgren said.

Walker has yet to play this season.

Breakaways Chris Pronger, who made his season debut in Monday's 4-2 win over Colorado, Carter and Blair Betts were given a day off Tuesday - the ever popular "maintenance day." . . . Betts and Matt Carle lead the Flyers at plus-3. . . . Tampa has three former Flyers: Gagne, Steve Downie and Randy Jones. . . . The Flyers have won just 43.9 percent of their face-offs, placing then 27th in the NHL. . . . Nik Zherdev, whose power-play time was reduced to 1 minute, 10 seconds in Monday's game, is still looking for his first point with the Flyers. . . . Carter (14), Briere (13) and van Riemsdyk (10) lead the Flyers in shots on goal. . . . Gagne is still wearing his No. 12, which was given to him by teammate Ryan Malone. "He's done some great things with that number, and I thought it was time for a change myself," Malone said.

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter/BroadStBull.

Tagged: Flyers, Lightning, Simon Gagne, Matt Walker, Jeff Carter, Andrej Meszaros, Dan Carcillo, James van Riemsdyk

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