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BUDDING CONFIDENCE

Flyers starting to feel like a team ready to break out

Friday, 03.1.2013 / 4:07 PM ET / News
By Anthony SanFilippo  - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter
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BUDDING CONFIDENCE

VOORHEES, N.J. – There’s certainly a different feeling in the Flyers locker room these days then there was even two weeks ago.

It’s hard to put a finger on the reason why, but just being in there, you get the sense that they know something that no one else does. There are smiles. There are positive attitudes. There is confidence and a belief in the team.

Heck, even Peter Laviolette is joking around with writers lately.

But why?

The Flyers still sit a game below .500. They still are on the outside looking in of a playoff spot. They still have not won three games in a row.

So, why the optimism? Why the positivity? Why the shift from pervading uncertainty to burgeoning confidence?

It’s hard to say really, but it’s there.

Maybe it’s the break in the schedule. After playing 15 games in 27 days in February, the Flyers have just 13 in the next 34 days. Having time to relax and recover as well as time to work and practice will only be beneficial for the Flyers moving forward.

Considering the team went two full weeks without having a chance to have a full practice, the break in the schedule is welcome.

Friday, the Flyers practiced for nearly two hours, and coach Peter Laviolette was thrilled about it.

“It’s been a long time,” Laviolette said. “It was really good to get out there. There were 12 things we were able to touch on. The power play, the breakout, the shootouts… everything. It was a real productive day, but it was a busy day because we were still preparing for Ottawa tomorrow. It was good though that after having an off day yesterday to put in the work today.”

Maybe it’s also because the team is getting healthier.

Scott Hartnell has been back, but he’s started to look more like himself in the last game or two and is showing no lingering effects of fractured foot.

“It took a couple games to be comfortable and up to speed with (Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek),” Hartnell said. “They were hitting the blue line four or five strides before I got there. (Wednesday) I was right there with them if not ahead a couple times… I felt pretty good.”

Not just Hartnell, but it looks like Erik Gustafsson’s lower-body injury was minor enough that he won’t miss any time and is expected to be back in the lineup Saturday against Ottawa.

“It’s good to see Gus out there,” Laviolette said. “Just moving the puck, moving himself and [being] mobile back there, he’s really come in and done a nice job since coming back from his injury.

“He was finding his game. It was good to see him back out there and not hung up from the other night.”

Then there’s Andrej Meszaros, who is ever-closer to returning as well. Only Matt Read is sidelined long-term, but the fact that he skates with the team regularly suggests his recovery from torn rib cage muscles will be closer to the four week portion of his diagnosed return than the six week portion.

Maybe it’s the calming influence of a more veteran team. Sure, the Flyers are still young up front. But when you consider the roster moves that have been made to this team during the season – adding Brian Boucher, Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne – all three veterans who get what Flyers hockey is all about and can impart that on the younger players in the group – you can sense that they, along with the leadership group, keep things on an even keel and don’t let panic set into the locker room.

That’s why even though the Flyers are 10-11-1 and have yet to reach the .500 mark this season, the team isn’t focused on getting the one win needed to achieve that level of… well… mediocrity, but instead have their sights even higher.

“I don’t know if there’s a lot made of the .500 level,” Laviolette said. “Five hundred is not going to do anything for us. If we finish .500 we’re going to be looking back at this year saying, ‘What a mess.’ We need to win hockey games and get way above the .500 level if we’re going to have an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. We continue to chip away at things and move in the right direction and try to put wins in the column.”

To contact Anthony SanFilippo email asanfilippo@comcastspectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
4 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 49 16 27 -3 43
J. Voracek 49 8 33 3 41
W. Simmonds 49 18 16 -4 34
B. Schenn 47 14 15 -1 29
S. Couturier 40 9 15 9 24
S. Gostisbehere 31 8 16 4 24
M. Read 48 9 9 -5 18
S. Laughton 49 4 10 -6 14
M. Raffl 49 6 6 4 12
M. Del Zotto 47 3 9 -8 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 12 12 6 .916 2.71
M. Neuvirth 11 6 2 .933 2.14
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