It’s not easy for a 19-year-old kid to handle the daily stresses of playing in the National Hockey League. The grind of the schedule is enough as it is, and becomes that much tougher when you factor in the media, fans and pressure to succeed both individually and as a team.
Throw in an injury that is projected to have to you out of the lineup for 4-6 weeks, and it’s hard to imagine how a kid can manage to keep it all together so well.
But Travis Konecny is doing just that.
Konecny made his return to the lineup on Saturday night against the Washington Capitals a little earlier than anticipated as his recovery from multiple lower-body injuries was timely and without setback. The downfall of his return, if you want to call it that, is that Konecny found himself on the fourth line with grinders Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde on Saturday night and will be paired with them again tonight against the Buffalo Sabres.
The young forward logged 10:48 of ice time; 5:45 at even-strength and 5:03 on the power play in the Flyers’ dreadful 0-6 night on the man-advantage. VandeVelde (9:46) and Nick Cousins (10:11) were the only two forwards that saw less time on the ice than Konecny, who is being eased back into action from the ankle and knee injuries that he suffered back on February 6th.
He’s handling his part-time role with maturity and keeping it in perspective, which isn’t always easy to ask from a teenage rookie.
“I’m playing the same game. Still trying to make things happen,” Konecny said via philly.com. “I’m not going to change my game according to where I’m playing in the lineup.”
While the fanbase may not be excited about the offensive abilities of the Flyers mainstays on the fourth line and penalty kill, Konecny has confidence in the fact that his newfound linemates can make things happen on the ice.
“They’re very capable of making nice plays, and they both have a lot of skill, so I don’t think it’s fair to say I’m going to change my game just because I’m on the fourth. I’m hoping we can get some chemistry and start feeding off each other,” Konecny said. “At the same time, it’s good playing with them because I’m learning a lot on the defensive side; just little details that are important as you move on.”
Konecny is handling the transition back into more involved full-time role well, and it’s good to see that the focus is there for the young kid with loads of potential and a long hockey career ahead of him. He stayed late after the morning skate on Tuesday to help “get his hands back,” although he has a much better idea of what works and what doesn’t work out there at this level and at this point of the season.
“I’ve even noticed that every shift, there’s no room; it’s just about capitalizing on mistakes,” Konecny said. “There’s no toe drags. It’s too tight out there and there’s no space to move around and you just have to be careful with the puck and be smart.”
Konecny’s return, along with the addition of Valtteri Filppula, provide a nice boost for the Flyers up front as the season is reaching its most crucial point.
“It’s probably the biggest week of our season so far,” said Konecny as he prepares for his first taste of what life is like in the NHL when the schedule is winding down and every team is desperate for those two points that will get them closer to the playoffs.
The Flyers will face Buffalo tonight, Toronto on Thursday night and Boston on Saturday.
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