MacEwen ‘works his nuts off,' giving Flyers more than just a physical punch

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VOORHEES, N.J. — Zack MacEwen is starting to show he's more than just a fighter at the NHL level.

But if anybody needed a reminder that he can throw 'em when his team needs it, he provided one Tuesday night.

With some bad blood still lingering between the Flyers and Islanders from last weekend's matchup, MacEwen and Matt Martin coordinated a fight during warmups at the Wells Fargo Center.

It didn't take much. And it didn't take long. The mutual respect and understanding made it happen rather easily.

"I just talked to him at the end of warmup, I just looked at him and he said, 'You want one?' And I just said, 'Yeah, let's do it,'" MacEwen said Wednesday after practice. "That was about it, really. Those guys have a lot of respect, they kind of knew what we needed to do that game. It was good on them to oblige and kind of give us one of those."

MacEwen and Martin dropped the gloves just seven seconds after the puck dropped. The Islanders' 33-year-old winger is one of the game's most experienced fighters.

"He's a veteran guy, he's been in the league for a long time, he plays a tough game," MacEwen said. "He's a pretty tough guy, too. He's definitely up there.

"I just kind of wanted to do my part to spark the boys, get the energy going in the building, just start it off and try to set the tone."

One second later, Nicolas Deslauriers and Ross Johnston handled business. Then, everything was settled and the game was on between the two clubs. The Flyers, absolutely desperate for a win, got one with a 3-1 decision to snap a 10-game losing streak.

While MacEwen answered the bell in the ring, he has also helped the Flyers on the ice with his game. The improvement has been impressive. After not making the club's season-opening roster, clearing waivers and starting the year with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, the 26-year-old winger made it back to the Flyers. Ever since, his role has expanded with effort and production.

Through 21 games, MacEwen has already matched his goal total of three from last season. With seven points, he's only three away from setting a new career high. Coming into the season, his career high in minutes per game was 9:40. Right now, as the Flyers have dealt with injuries up front, MacEwen is playing 14:32 minutes per game and has earned time on the power play.

"Mac, since he's been back here, he's shown that he belongs here," Carter Hart said Wednesday. "He's a big part of this team. He works his nuts off, he's one of the hardest-working guys. You see him on the ice, just how tenacious he is, like he's relentless.

"For us, as a team, to be successful, we need that, we need that out of guys. He's done a good job of showing other guys this is the way we need to play, we need to play hard, we need to be hard on the forecheck. And he's getting rewarded."

MacEwen's all-out physicality and forecheck are staples of his game. The way his role has grown almost makes you forget he was sent to the Phantoms to start the season.

"He got waived through the league when we waived him," head coach John Tortorella said Wednesday. "He was not know thyself, he was not playing the way he should play for what he is.

"To his credit, when he went down there, played really well. I think that coaching staff, [Ian Laperriere] and the boys down there, did a terrific job with him, putting him in situations, playing him a ton of minutes. And now he's come up here and I think has just stayed within himself. If he doesn't stay within himself, he can get pretty sloppy pretty quickly.

"I think he's done a really good job concentrating on being who he's supposed to be. He has improved, he's been a really good player for us as we've gone along the way here."

Last season, his first with the Flyers, MacEwen took on any challenge, fighting Zdeno Chara, Wayne Simmonds and Tom Wilson.

He has fought a lot so far in his career. Toughest bout?

"Probably Chara because I just was pretty helpless in that fight," he said with a laugh. "He's got the reach, he's a big, strong guy. There wasn't much I could do there."

MacEwen is giving the Flyers more offensive punch in Year 2. But don't expect him to step away from a fight because of it.

"It's nice to be able to try to contribute a little bit more offensively and have a little bit different role," he said, "but that's something that's never going to leave my game."

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