Flyers analysis

Atkinson knows a Tortorella message, will ‘look in the mirror' with goal funk

The Flyers' veteran winger enters Thursday in a 16-game goal-scoring drought

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VOORHEES, N.J. — The second Cam Atkinson heard the name "Torts" come up in the question, he smiled.

He has been here before, having 1-on-1s with the bench boss.

He has been here before, challenged and reminded by the bench boss about a standard not being met.

"It hasn't gone my way as of late, but there's one thing I can control and that's my energy and my anticipation, which I kind of got away from," Atkinson said Thursday after morning skate. "Sometimes having a talk like that kind of sets you back in a good way. Kind of reflect and I've got to look in the mirror. I just have to get back to my old way."

The 34-year-old winger has gone 16 consecutive games without a goal. The drought is particularly noteworthy because of Atkinson's goal-scoring pedigree. He has a 41-goal season on his résumé from 2018-19 with the Blue Jackets and his 244 career NHL goals are more than any other Flyer has on the roster.

During the Flyers' 3-2 OT road win Tuesday over the Devils, John Tortorella moved Atkinson down to the fourth line in the third period. Atkinson finished with only 13:48 minutes. On Thursday, Tortorella said it was because Atkinson wasn't playing with his typical energy and the head coach felt other players gave the Flyers a better chance to win.

Atkinson will return to his regular line with Ryan Poehling and Joel Farabee to start Thursday's home game against the Predators (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP). Atkinson played parts of six seasons under Tortorella with Columbus. He vouched for him when the Flyers were conducting their head coaching search after the 2021-22 season.

The two have had their share of talks in the past, just like they did Thursday morning.

"He hasn't played well enough," Tortorella said. "The reason why Cam has been such a good player in this league is because you just notice his energy and quickness all the time. That has been inconsistent, it has been a struggle. I'm sure not scoring goals has weighed on him.

"I think he needs to be a big part of this. If we want to stay competitive, I think he needs to be a big part of it, so we're trying to figure that out."

Atkinson missed all of last season with a neck injury that required surgery in December.

"Honestly, I don't think about that," he said. "I'm not going to use any excuse. I just have to play with more energy. I feel good, I feel good enough. Just have to have more fun and smile a little bit more. There's no reason for me not to, especially not playing all of last year. I just have to get back to that."

Atkinson still has eight goals and eight assists in 31 games. He's third on the Flyers in shots (94), behind only Owen Tippett (106) and Travis Konecny (97). But the Flyers, despite going 18-10-3, still need more goals (2.90 per game, 23rd in the NHL) and desperately need help on the power play (10.2 percent, 31st in the NHL).

"Every goal scorer's energy raises when they score a goal," Tortorella said. "I want to find him more, I want to see him each shift. 'There he is.' Whether it be a mistake or not, I just want to see the energy. I don't think it has been there.

"It could be that he had that year off. He doesn't know, we just talked this morning about this, he doesn't know. But I know him well enough, he's going to try to figure this out. And he knows me well enough that it's not forever; I've been very patient. We're just trying to work through it and trying to find a way to get him going."

Atkinson is a player who has never shied away from playing around the net. He wants to get back to those hard areas.

"I've always been a streaky goal scorer," Atkinson said, "so once I get one, I get the confidence and I seem to score in bunches.

"If I'm not scoring, I've got to find ways to bring my energy and at least create chances for my linemates. I've got to be noticed somehow if I'm not scoring. I've always said, if I'm getting chances, they're eventually going to go in."

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