Flyers Anxious to Play After Long Layoff
Team hits the road for two games in Canada
by Kevin Kurz, philadelphiaflyers.com
Voorhees, NJ – After a week off, which wasn’t much of a week off at all due to
the team’s trip to West Point, the Flyers are ready to get back into game action on Saturday when they visit the Air
Canada Centre to face the Toronto Maple Leafs.It will have been a full
week since the Flyers defeated the New York Islanders at the Wachovia Center, 5-1, improving their record to 3-2. It was the
second straight victory for the team, which was playing well when the layoff began. It will be important to get off on the
right foot early in the game on Saturday for the Flyers, who are not exactly adored by the Toronto crowd after knocking them
out of the playoffs the last two seasons.
If there were ever an atmosphere to get them thinking about competing
again, this would be it, according to Head Coach Ken Hitchcock.
“It’s Saturday night, it’s Hockey Night in Canada and it’s in Toronto,”
said Hitchcock, referring to the national broadcast of the game across Canada.
“The first five minutes are going to be very important to come out
strong,” said Simon Gagne. “[The time off] is something we need to face, and you don’t like to have early in the season. We
had a good start to the season, and now we have to get that back in the first couple of shifts tomorrow.”
game has to be out there quickly,” said Hitchcock. “Our start is going to be important because we haven’t
played in a long time and we’re really going to have to work to get our level up right away. Our players know that.
I think we expect Toronto to be really good.”
During the time off, the Flyers spent three days and two nights
bonding on the campus of the United States Military Academy. Some spirited military workouts along with team functions were
meant to bring the team closer together, but now it is time to get back to work, according to Keith Primeau.
“What we accomplished this week [at West Point] we think will benefit us in the long term. It
will go a long way to bring us some success,” said Primeau. “More importantly though, we have to make sure we’re
prepared and focused for a difficult game tomorrow night.”
One player in particular who has been affected by
the time off is defenseman Derian Hatcher. The towering defenseman has had an odd schedule since training camp began. First, he was injured which caused
him to miss most of camp and all but one preseason game. He then had to serve a three-game suspension that carried over from
the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings. After playing in his first two games for the
Flyers last weekend, scoring a goal and registering a +2 rating, he again has had to wait to get back into game action.
it felt like it’s been a month since I played a game,” said Hatcher. “In my mind, it’s almost like
I didn’t play those two games. I’m definitely anxious to get back going.”
Despite riding a two-game
winning streak into the game, the Flyers will be looking to improve on their special teams play. The team is just 5-for-39
on the power play (12.8 percent) and has allowed eight goals on 34 attempts while on the penalty kill (76.4 percent).
spent time in both of those areas every day,” said Primeau. “If it’s not on the ice, it’s in the video
room. I also thought that we started to play better in both of those regards in the last weekend. It was a matter of sorting
some things out with the new ice surface due to the rules changes. I think we’ll be on an upward trend now.”
Hitchcock announced on Thursday that Robert Esche would play in goal on Saturday. … Chris Therien is healthy and will be in the lineup on Saturday after missing the last three games with back spasms, while
Dennis Seidenberg will be the healthy scratch as the seventh defenseman, according to Hitchcock.