Flyers shuffle the deck

DAVID W. UNKLE -- For SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 8:14 PM ET

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Missing the opportunity to roll out his starting line-up during the preseason, Philadelphia Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock is taking a different approach to the start of the season.

"We're a team of 23 guys, and the only thing that's going to be a constant is the centre-ice position," said Hitchcock. "The rest is going to move and move quickly. I don't think you can cast in stone, even from day to day the line combinations."

The pivots will be Peter Forsberg, rookie Mike Richards, Keith Primeau and Michal Handzus. As for the different permutations, Patrick Sharp and R.J. Umberger figure into the mix with the regulars as does injured forward Sami Kapanen (shoulder surgery).

"If it's working, then we'll stay with it," said Hitchcock. "If not, we'll move (combinations around) and, quite frankly, in the first five games we do want to see other combinations either during games or during practices."

Garnering the most attention is the top line of Forsberg with Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne on the wings. Carter is a natural centre who is quietly adjusting to a new position.

Having watched from the opposing bench, Hitchcock is trying to mimic Forsberg's success with the Colorado Avalanche.

"I try to envision what worked in Colorado and the thing I know that worked there is that (Forsberg) had scoring players who could also protect the puck," said Hitchcock.

"(Peter) worked with (Alex) Tanguay and (Milan) Hejduk, and in desperate situations he had (Joe) Sakic, but (Forsberg) always worked with good one-on-one players, people who wouldn't throw (the puck) away."

"We already know that (Simon) Gagne is that player," Hitchcock added, and "we're hopeful that Jeff (Carter) gets up to speed."

That's when Hitchcock threw out another name that raised a few eyebrows in the dressing room.

"We just saw one game with Jon Sim (on Forsberg's line), and it was excellent, so we know that that combination has potential," said Hitchcock.

Sim finished the preseason with a league-high eight goals, including two hat tricks in two games gainst the Washington Capitals.

Last season, Sim scored 35 goals in 63 games with the Philadelphia Phantoms, averaging almost a point per game after his arrival from the Utah Grizzlies.

Singled out by Hitchcock as one of a few preseason surprises, Hitchcock feels that Sim has the tools to score at the NHL level.

According to Hitchcock, one of the keys to Sim's success is maturity and work ethic, traits that were absent earlier in the 28-year-old Nova Scotian's career.

"That's what this league is going to be -- whoever chops the most wood at the end of the day is going to win," said Hitchcock.


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