The Flyers will be without Vincent Lecavalier for the month of December.
This is a big setback for the Flyers primarily because the team is struggling offensively and the players who need to step up and make up for Lecavalier's missing productivity are almost all slumping themselves.
Lecavalier is presently third on the Flyers with nine goals and 14 points despite the fact that he has already missed seven of the team's 29 games.
If you examine the numbers, you'll see how big an effect Lecavalier has on the Flyers. The Flyers are just 2-5-0 without Lecavalier in the lineup, while they are 11-9-2 when he does play. If Lecavalier scores at least a point, Philadelphia is 7-4-0.
General manager Paul Holmgren acknowledged how important their top-line star is to the team. "He does play a big role on our team," Holmgren told Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News. "It's hard to replace a guy like that. There's opportunities for other players to perform now that maybe wouldn't have gotten as many minutes with Vinny in the lineup. You've just got to hope that other guys pick it up."
Obviously, not having a first-line player on the ice means there will be changes to the team's line combinations and power play. With Lecavalier out of the lineup, a new trio was formed that included Michael Raffl, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.
Here's the problem, though. The Flyers are still 29th in the league in goals scored, averaging a mere 2.17 goals per game. Only the Buffalo Sabres have scored fewer goals. The very players coach Craig Berube is counting on to compensate during Lecavalier's absence are the players who are struggling to begin with.
Claude Giroux, Simmonds and Sean Couturier each have just five goals in 29 games which puts them on pace for just 14 goals over an full 82-game season. Jakub Voracek has scored only three goals, which puts him on pace for nine goals in 82 games. Scott Hartnell is doing only slightly better, with six goals in 25 games, which would equal 20 tallies over a full campaign.
These players have all been more productive in the recent past. Voracek scored 22 goals during last year's lockout-shortened season. Hartnell scored 37 goals just two years ago, while Giroux had 28 tallies just two seasons ago. Simmonds had 15 goals last year and 28 in his last full season.
The only line that has been productive recently is the third line of Matt Read, Couturier and Steve Downie, which has scored 12 goals in the 12 games they have been together.
But one line does not create a consistent offense. The Flyers will need some of their projected goal scorers to pick up the pace. The extra minutes of ice time could help them get into an offensive groove, or it could increase their frustration even more.
But the present roster is the group that will have to get it done in Philadelphia as Holmgren told Adam Kimelman of NHL.com that he does not expect to make a major move in Lecavalier's absence. "Other guys have to pick it up," Holmgren said. "There's an opportunity for other players to perform now. They wouldn't have gotten as many minutes because Vinny would have been in the lineup. We have to look for other guys to step up."
If they do, the Flyers have a chance to get back into playoff contention. If they continue to struggle, Philadelphia could fall even further off the pace in the Metropolitan Division.