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ON THE FLY...
Official PR Blog of your Philadelphia Flyers


The Philadelphia Flyers Public Relations staff will be keeping you up-to-date on all you need to know: daily updates, multimedia and behind-the-scenes information that you can only find here! For all other official Flyers news and press releases - click here
On The Fly archives:
2007-08 Season // 2008-09 Season // 2009-10 Season
2010-11 Season: Sept. 2010 // Oct. 2010 // Nov. 2010 // Dec. 2010 // Jan. 2011 // Feb. 2011 // March 2011


March 31

11:51 p.m.

PRONGER UPDATE
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren addressed the media following the game and announced that defenseman Chris Pronger has suffered a minor setback in his rehab.

“I think we probably pushed a little quickly in the rehab and we classified it as a minor setback,” said Holmgren. “We were kind of hoping that he would be able to play some games here at the end of the regular season, but that’s more than likely out of the equation.”

Pronger had surgery on March 15 on his right hand to insert a small screw to repair a small fracture. He was originally expected to be out three to four weeks and even began to skate with his teammates just five days later on March 20.

  Holmgren // Laviolette // Meszaros // Versteeg // GAME STORY

“We’ll monitor it on a daily basis,” added Holmgren. “He hasn’t done much in terms of rehab on his hand in the last two days.”

Once back in the line up for the Flyers, whether that be the last game or two of the regular season or the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Holmgren is confident that Pronger will be at 100 percent.

QUICKIES
The following are some News & Notes from the Flyers’ 1-0 loss vs. Atlanta & around the NHL…

* Tonight’s 43 shots were the most the Flyers took in a game in which they were shut out since December 21, 1980, when they took 44 shots in a 6-0 loss to Washington at the Spectrum.
 
* The Flyers are now 7-6-2 this season in games where they’ve had 38 or more shots.  Five of those six losses have been shutouts.
 
* Sixteen of the Flyers’ 18 skaters registered at least one shot on net tonight.

* Tonight was the Flyers’ 39th one-goal game of the season and 10th time in 15 games in the month of March. They currently own a 20-9-10 overall record and 3-3-4 record in March in one-goal affairs.

* The Flyers’ loss to Atlanta was the seventh time the Flyers have been shut out this season and second time by a score of 1-0 (vs. LA on Feb. 13).

* The Vancouver Canucks’ 3-1 victory over the LA Kings clinched the President’s Trophy as the top team in the NHL… The Washington Capitals improved their point total to 101 with an overtime win over Columbus, and are now one point behind the Flyers with four games left to play… The Pittsburgh Penguins dropped a 2-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning, dropping the Flyers’ “Magic Number” to clinch the Atlantic Division to 4 points to reach 106 points in the standings.

* Flyers & Hockey Hall of Fame member Bill Barber received his retired No. 7 Banner that hung from the rafters at the Spectrum in a special pregame ceremony. Barber is one of four members to have his number retired by the Flyers (Bobby Clarke – 16, Bernie Parent – 1, Barry Ashbee – 4).


March 30
4:24 p.m.

INJURY UPDATE: Kimmo Timonen
With the team enjoying a complete day off from the rink, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren updated the status of defensemen Kimmo Timonen, who left last night's game at Pittsburgh during the third period with a lower-body injury.

"Kimmo is feeling much better today. He is probable to play tomorrow," said Holmgren.

The Flyers face off against the Atlanta Thrashers tomorrow night at the Wells Fargo Center for the fourth and final time this season. They are 1-0-2 against the Thrashers thus far, having dropped each of their last two games, which have both been decided past regulation play.

* * *
2:19 p.m.

AND THE MAGIC NUMBER IS…
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the Flyers have a “magic number” of six points to clinch the Atlantic Division, meaning any number of points adding up to six that are gained by the Flyers or lost by the Penguins would clinch the division for the Flyers.  The Flyers have already clinched the first tiebreaker (overall non-shootout wins) over the Penguins.

The magic number for the Flyers to clinch the Eastern Conference outright is eight points over Washington, meaning any number of points adding up to eight gained by the Flyers and lost by the Capitals would clinch the conference for the Flyers. 

A magic number of seven points would guarantee at least a tie in points; however, the tiebreakers are still undetermined.  The Flyers currently lead the first tiebreaker with 43 non-shootout wins to Washington’s 40. 

The second tiebreaker, points in the season series between the team, is a tie with each team having gathered six points in the four-game series this season.  The third tiebreaker, overall goal differential, is currently led by the Flyers (+41 to +22).

GUS HONORED
The American Hockey League announced today that Adirondack Phantoms’ defenseman and Flyers’ prospect Erik Gustafsson has been named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team.

The 22-year-old leads all rookie defensemen in assists (33) and points (38) in 64 games with Adirondack. His 33 points also lead the Phantoms while his 38 points rank third on the squad.

Gustafsson has been recalled to the Flyers on three occasions, making his NHL debut at Ottawa on Feb. 26 and appearing in two other games (Mar. 17 at Atlanta & Mar. 19 at Dallas) averaging over 10 minutes of ice time in those three contests.

A native of Kvissleby, Sweden, Gustafsson owns a plus/minus rating of plus-14 rating since Dec. 28, during which time Adirondack has posted a record of 20-13-2-6. He also represented the Phantoms in the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic.


March 29
11:47 p.m.

STATEMENT MADE
The Flyers played with desperation. The Flyers got key saves, great saves from their goaltender. The Flyers had a significantly less amount of giveaways. The Flyers defense shut down the opposition and the Flyers got the offense they were looking for.

The result was a 5-2 win over a hot Pittsburgh Penguins team that threatened their Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference supremacy.

As a result the regulation win puts four points between the two clubs for the division crown. The Penguins now have five games left while the Washington Capitals, who earned a point with a shootout loss tonight against Carolina, are now three points back for the top spot in the conference with five games left. NHL STANDINGS

“We needed to have a big effort tonight,” said Scott Hartnell, who had a goal, an assist and a plus/minus rating of +2 on the night. “We’ve kind of been slacking the last little while. Third periods haven’t been that great and to nail it down like we did and have fun doing it, it’s nice to put a little space between us and Pittsburgh.”

  Laviolette // Leino // Hartnell // O'Donnell //   GAME STORY

The win also puts an end to any doubts that led to their loss against the Penguins just a few days earlier. The Flyers won all the road games in a Pittsburgh season series for the first time since 1983-84, when they went 4-0 in four games at Mellon Arena.

“I thought it was a really good, really competitive road win,” said Flyers’ head coach Peter Laviolette. “It showed a lot to come back, I think on the road too, being down 1-0, then down 2-1 and then to fight back a couple times and get the lead.”

Speaking of the road, the Flyers accomplished something with tonight’s win never before in Flyers history – a 25th road victory.

The Flyers established a new franchise record tonight with their 25th road win of the season.  Their previous record was 24, held by the 2002-03 team.  Their current record of 25-9-4 is second best in the NHL, one win shy of Vancouver’s 26-9-4 record, however the Flyers will get three more opportunities to pad their road record before the regular season ends, with trips to New Jersey, Ottawa and Buffalo.

On top of everything, the Flyers may have found a new Penguin-killer. Claude Giroux had five goals in the season series against Pittsburgh this year. Three of which have been game-winning-goals.

At the new CONSOL Energy Center you can place that title on rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky is 3-0-0 in the Penguins new home with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage, stopping 80 of 86  total shots.

Throwing out an off-night against the Washington Captitals, Sergei Bobrovsky has gone six straight decisions without a regulation loss. (He was not the goaltender of record vs. WSH on 3/22)


March 28
5:18 p.m.

Tuesday’s night game has one theme to it for the Flyers. Bring on the Penguins.

“It’s a good thing, going to Pittsburgh and playing the Penguins. They’re hot right now and lets go in there and see how we do,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette following the team’s annual gathering for their team photo Monday morning.

  LAVIOLETTE

For the Flyers it will be their final shot at the Penguins in the regular season, having already gone 3-1-1 in their first five meetings, but dropped a shootout loss by the score of 2-1 that was easily there for the taking last Thursday.

“I would think that we would play a different game,” said Laviolette. “Nobody’s happy with the game that went on in here. We didn’t play very well and tomorrow’s an opportunity to go back in there and play a good hockey game and look for the results that we didn’t get the other night.”

Despite not getting the results that they want, the Flyers have managed to stay atop the Eastern Conference since early January and have even earned points in eight of their last nine games, going 4-1-4, but for the first time in a long time BOTH their conference and division supremacy will be challenged.

The Penguins and Capitals are sitting at 98 points and have an opportunity to catch Philadelphia tomorrow night in points, however the Flyers own the tie-breaker over both clubs with more regulation-overtime wins (Flyers – 42, Washington – 40, Pittsburgh 36). Beyond that, it will officially leave the Flyers with no room for error in the handful of games remaining.

Even that could be good thing according to Laviolette, as the Flyers have found it difficult to manufacture the desperation from which they played with last year in their fight for their playoff lives.

“We’ve talked about desperation for a while now and on some nights we’ve overcome that and on some nights we haven’t,” said Laviolette. “Teams have played more desperate than us, that are desperate. That’s something that you can fabricate. You need to go out and play good hockey because that’s what we’re here to do. We want to continue to be a top team in the conference; we want to push for home-ice. Those are the reasons we need to play good hockey.”

Regardless, this Flyers club knows that desperation is just around the corner in the form of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where all teams start from scratch and four quick losses means the end of the road.

“If you want to talk about what you need to do… You need to lay with a lot of intensity,” said Laviolette. “When the playoffs roll around, there should be and will be desperation in our game because now you’re talking about either winning four or losing four and then you become desperate.”

March 27

11:54 p.m.

LOOKING FOR O
The Flyers are looking for more offense. In their loss tonight at the hands of the Bruins, the offense managed just one goal. It wasn’t for lack of effort or even quality scoring chances it was more about puck possession.

“I would definitely agree with that. Our offensive zone time, really is, I think, the staple of our identity,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette when asked if the offense has been getting shots in bunches. “That grind and that attack…  it’s a lot of work, a lot of movement, a lot of opportunities at the net, fighting for second opportunities, fighting for space in the tough areas.  Our opportunities I think have been low for a while now, probably a few games, except for the one [Washington].”

Laviolette // Versteeg // Timonen // GAME STORY

The Flyers have allowed 30 or more shots in three consecutive games. They also committed a season-high 20 giveaways. Who really knows if it is a trend lately, or if it just happens to be the Bruins themselves. Their previous season high was 18, also at home against Boston, on Dec. 1.

“That is when we start turning pucks over is when we don’t get those scoring chances,” said Flyers captain Mike Richards. “We are chipping pucks in and being physical and that is what gets us in trouble too. We can be so aggressive and so physical that it seems like it is so unstoppable but we start turning pucks over and are not playing the body. It is pretty easy when you come off the ice and play in the red zone for a while. It is something that we have talked about but it is obviously something we need to put more work into.”

In the month of March, the Flyers have recorded three goals or less in nine of their 13 games thus far. Despite the erratic play as of late, the Flyers maintain their Top 5 position in the NHL for goals-scored per game at 3.13 (posting 235 goals over 75 games).

It’s hard to call the Flyers play a slump considering that tonight was the first game since Mar. 6 vs. Rangers that the team failed to gain at least one point in the standings. Previously they had gone 4-0-4, earning 12 out of a possible 16 points in that span, with their most recent game against Washington standing out as the most complete game they have played despite the loss.
Tim Thomas stopped 27 of 28 shots to shut down the Flyers' offense.

“You know it was one of our better games in a while and that’s the type of game we’re looking to play and the identity of the game we’re looking to play,” said Laviolette. “I think some lines generated, Mike’s line probably generated the most tonight, but as a group we need to go over the boards and consistently bring it line after line in the attack.  Because of that missing in our game, the game’s gotta be played somewhere else, and it’s being played in our end.”

However the inconsistent play and bad habits the players and coaching see with the team’s play over the last few weeks can’t be cured overnight. It needs to be a work in progress, but the progress needs to happen fairly quickly with just seven games remaining in the regular season.

 “Hopefully soon,” said Kimmo Timonen. “We can’t go into the playoffs playing up and down hockey.  It’s not going to work.  For example, tonight I think they were a better team.  They had more energy, and they deserved two points.  Back to back games, we traveled last night, it’s one of those things that’s hard, but we can’t use that excuse. I still think we can play better.  It was a tight game.  Overall I think we could have done a better job.”

The Flyers face another tough test on Tuesday when they travel across the keystone state to take on their rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are right on the Flyers heals with 98 points in the standings, two behind the Flyers.


March 26
11:58 p.m.

THAT’S A HUNDRED
The Flyers have returned to the century club.

With their 4-1 win over the New York Islanders at Uniondale, N.Y., the Flyers reached a 100 points in the NHL standings for the first time since the 2005-06 season when they had 101 points with a 45-26-11 record.

It is the 18th time in the franchise’s history that they have reached the 100 point mark and they join the Boston Bruins (an original six team) as the only two NHL teams to ever post 18 100-point seasons. (Boston is trying for 19th this year, it has 92 points with eight games remaining.)

The Flyers reached the plateau in their 74th game, which is their fastest run to 100 points since the 1985-86 season.  That club reached 100 points in its 73rd game when it picked up its 48th win (48-21-4 after 73 games). 

Laviolette // Richards // JVR

Going off topic for a brief flashback… In the 2005-06 season, six of the eight teams that made the playoffs had 100 points with the top spot owned by the Ottawa Senators who had 113 points, while the last place team was the Pittsburgh Penguins with just 58 points.

Tomorrow night the Flyers will get a chance to break the 05-06 (and 2003-04) team’s mark as they take on the Boston Bruins for the second half of games on back-to-back nights. Should they walk away with a victory for 102 points, it would be the highest mark since the 2002-03 season when the Flyers put up 107 points and a record of 45-20-13-4.

The Flyers reached another franchise record with the win over the Isles. It marked their 24th win on the road, which ties their all-time win total, again also reached by the 2002-03 team. They currently own a 24-9-4 mark on the road, which ties the Vancouver Canucks for the most road wins and winning percentage (.703) in the NHL.

“That’s impressive because it’s always harder to win on the road and I think that says a lot about the guys,” said Laviolette. “You get your home wins and work on your home record, but it’s always tougher for the road record, so 24 and counting is really a good record to have.”

James van Riemsdyk poses with his third goal of the night, giving him his first ever NHL hat trick.
HATS OFF TO YOU
James van Riemsdyk recorded his first career NHL hat trick in his 145th game in the NHL.

“Yeah it’s something pretty special, but first and foremost you dream about winning the [Stanley] Cup,” said van Riemsdyk. “But stuff like this is definitely pretty cool to accomplish and obviously it comes from all your teammates.”

“He was good tonight. JVR was really moving his legs,” said Laviolette. “He used his speed down the wing and he was really using his feet and that’s what makes him dangerous.”

He also broke a record of his own with the victory on Long Island.

His three goals broke his career mark for points set in his rookie season last year (35). That year he had 15 goals and 20 assists, while this season he has improved on his goal-scoring with 19 tallies and 17 assists for 36 points… and counting. He will have eight games remaining to break take a run at his assists mark.

van Riemsdyk will take the hat trick even though it might seem a little bittersweet, being on the road for one, and secondly, his dad and brother were unable to make the game, due to visiting his alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, who is currently playing in the NCAA Men’s hockey tournament.

However that may not sound as bad as you would think. Plenty of the 16,000+ fans at Nassau Coliseum were wearing Orange & Black and even gave van Riemsdyk a proper showering of hats after his third goal. Also among the crowd, were over 10 members of the van Riemsdyk family, so all’s well that ends well.


March 25
5:06 p.m.

TOUGH STRETCH
The Flyers were given a day off from skating prior to departing for Long Island, N.Y. today.

Their game tomorrow night against the Islanders is just the first of games on back-to-back days and in a string of three games in four days.

  NHL.com's Power Rankings

After having played 73 games, rest might be more critical than getting on the ice. That’s not to say the team was completely off.

Meetings and dry-land workouts still brought the team to the practice facility, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are letting last night’s play in their shootout loss to the Penguins linger.

“Our game was off-the-mark last night,” said head coach Peter Laviolette. “We lost a lot of areas of the game. We weren’t sharp. What we need to do is to be able to get ready to play this weekend. I think one of the most important things that we do is prepare ourselves for this weekend.”

A traded deadline acquisition, Nick Boynton has stepped into the line up for the Flyers as a much valued 7th defenseman.
Looking past the Islanders, waiting in the wings are the Boston Bruins, who are atop the Northeast Division with a 41-22-10 record for 92 points and own a 2-0-1 record against the Flyers this season.

The third and final game in that stretch will give the Flyers a little extra motivation with revenge in mind against the Penguins in their own building. A game that is sure to have a significant impact in the Atlantic Division standings.

Revenge and schedules aside, the Flyers are more focused on their game and as much as they were disappointed, and even a little angry about last night’s effort, it’s something they don’t see being a reoccurring issue.

“Nobody’s happy about last night’s game, but we played a couple good games before that,” said Laviolette. “Over the course of an 82-game season, [there were] four off-nights where we were completely off as a group. I have a lot of confidence because of what we’ve done last year as a group, what we’ve done this year and we’ll come out as a sharper group over the weekend. I think that’s what we always strive for is consistency.”

Although the Flyers didn’t have practice today, that doesn’t mean everyone was kept off the ice.

Rehabbing defenseman Chris Pronger chose to skate solo to work on some puck handling and shooting.

“Well I haven’t really done much with it to be honest with you,” said Pronger. “[It's a] little sore, probably overdid it a little bit yesterday in the skate, but that’s to be expected with a surgery and injury like this. We’ll have some good days and bad days, but hopefully more good than bad.”

What may seem like Pronger is bouncing right back, isn’t necessarily the case. Pronger is still scheduled to keep with the original timetable of 3-4 weeks, which puts him right on the cusp of the postseason. But for right now he's taking things day-to-day.

“I can’t look into the future. I wish I could. I’d like to be back to get two-three games in before the playoffs start. It’s a lot stronger now than it was before the surgery because it was broken. I couldn’t really grab my stick. Now I can kind of grab my stick, but I still can’t fully squeeze my hand or do anything with any kind of strength. Until I get that strength back I’m pretty much stuck in neutral.”


March 24
11:38 p.m.

SOME UNLIKELY STREAKS
Until recently the Flyers had just five of their previous 69 games go to a shootout.

Over the last four games, each of them has been decided by the shootout, a new franchise record.  Their most recent, a 2-1 loss to their Atlantic Division rival, Pittsburgh Penguins.

As a result, the Flyers went 1-3 in the recent shootouts, bringing their season record to 3-6.

Despite coming up short, the Flyers stole a point in the standings against Pens, and many of the Flyers called it just that – stealing a point.

“Yeah we didn’t play good the whole game, not just the third period,” said defenseman Andrej Meszaros. “The first two they outskated us, outbattled us, they outshot us.  They did everything better than us in our building, so that was embarrassing.  We talked about after the second [period] to come out hard, and we just couldn’t get it going. Luckily we had Bob [Sergei Bobrovsky].  He kept us in the game.  He was unbelievable, but we can’t have those kind of games close to the playoffs.”

  Laviolette // Briere // Meszaros // GAME STORY

Meszaros, who had a team-high 26:45 of ice time in last night’s game, wasn’t the only one to praise Bobrovsky.

“It was great. It was a definition of a pro, every game bouncing back and responding extremely well,” said Flyers captain Mike Richards. “It was great to see. He got us that point tonight and it should have been two.”

Perhaps more important was the bounce-back ability of Bobrovsky, who stopped 30 of 31 shots on the night, most of which were point-blank opportunities and even two break-aways.

“Every time the coach trusts me to go out it is important to me,” said Bobrovsky via translator. “Every time you stop the puck you actually get more confident.”

The valuable point gained extends another streak for the Flyers. For eight straight games now the Flyers have earned at least a point in the standings, going 4-0-4.

The decision creates a two-point separation between them and Washington, with still one-game in-hand over the Caps.
Richards & van Riemsdyk connected on the lone Flyers' goal vs. Pittsburgh.

“It was a little disappointing with tonight’s game,” said Danny Briere. “There’s no doubt about it.  We wanted to get things rolling and roll along longer than just two games, especially with the playoffs approaching.  It is a little disappointing.  Last game we deserved two points, we didn’t get one.  I didn’t think tonight we deserved one, but we got one back.  I guess that’s the positive.”

With the final nine games looming and teams getting hot down the stretch, more so than ever will consistent play be the key and no one more than Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette knows that.

“I would agree with that,” said Laviolette when asked if there was a significant drop in play from their game vs. Washington. “There is no excuse for it. We were not sharp tonight. We got beat in most areas and if it weren’t for our goaltender, we wouldn’t have gotten any points tonight.”

If there was a message that Laviolette sends to his team as the regular season dies down, its preparing for the playoffs. Another streak that bears resemblance to playoff hockey was also continued. The Flyers have now played seven straight contests that have all been decided by one goal, as well as 14 of their last 20 games.

“Through the course of the year there’s a lot of things that get addressed for different reasons and they continue to get addressed and then other things will pop as the playoffs take shape, said Laviolette. “And we’ll address those situations and those circumstances.  Tonight, certainly there’s a lot to talk about from our end.  On where we go, what we did, and what we certainly need to do better.”


March 23

4:21 p.m.

10 TO GO
After last season’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody if you were to tell the average fan of where the Flyers sit with 10 games to go in the regular season.

They sit atop of the Eastern Conference with 97 points and a 44-19-9 record. They are unbeaten in regulation in their last seven games, going 4-0-3, with six of those contests being decided by one goal, including three straight shootouts.

They have two games in-hand on the Washington Capitals who are just one point behind them, and one game in-hand on the Penguins, who are five points behind with tomorrow night's match up looming.

“Tomorrow’s a big challenge for us to kind of make a lot of room between us and Pittsburgh and really hang on to that Atlantic Division spot,” said Scott Hartnell. “It’s going to be a big game. It’s going to be pretty intense; we haven’t played them it seems in 3-4 months.”

“They’re a hard-working, hard-skating team,” said Laviolette. “They have a good goaltender and with regards to injuries… everybody has injuries, we have our own, so injuries are part of the game and they’ve done a good job without some of their big guns out of the line up.”

  Laviolette // Coburn // Hartnell // Holmgren

The final 10 games are not without meaning however. While the Flyers have already punched their ticket to defend their Eastern Conference championship, just five points separate the No. 1 seed from dropping down to the No. 4 seed and playing a dangerous No. 5 seed in the first round.

Six of the ten games remaining are Atlantic Division opponents as the team plays the Islanders and Penguins twice and has one more bout with the Devils and Rangers. The Flyers currently own a 14-3-1 record against their own division.

The games are split in the home/road comparison with five each remaining while six of the games are a part of back-to-back contests which involve travel the next day, including the season finale which sees the Flyers play at Buffalo on Fri., Apr. 8, then travel back home to end against the Islanders on Sat., Apr. 9.

PRONGER SHOOTING

For the third straight day Chris Pronger skated with his teammates in the yellow no-contact jersey. What was different about today, and rather unexpected, was that he handled the puck and started firing shots to test out his surgically repaired hand.

“I was surprised to see him shooting the puck today,” said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren. “I know he didn’t shoot it very hard, but that is encouraging.”

Holmgren did go onto say that the timetable for Pronger’s return is still roughly the same as it had been predicted.

The hope may be to have him for the last weekend of play leading into the playoffs, but the goal is to have him back at full strength for the playoffs, which the NHL doesn’t officially kick off until Wed., April 13.

SYVRET RETURNED
Holmgren also announced earlier today that defenseman Danny Syvret has been loaned back to the team’s AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms.

Syvret was recalled yesterday morning to be available to play in last night’s Flyers-Capitals game.

“There’s no real need to have a guy practicing if he’s not going to play,” said Holmgren on keeping a seventh defenseman around. “They’re better off playing with their minor league team. Right now everybody’s good, so we’ll just stick with the six that we have.”


March 22

11:57 p.m.

OH SO CLOSE
No one would blame the hockey gods if it worked out to an Eastern Conference Final between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.

Fans would almost be assured of a Game Seven if the series were played anything like the regular season series, which concluded tonight with a 5-4 shootout victory in favor of the Capitals.

In fact, a Game Seven would definitely be necessary to determine a winner seeing how close the season series turned out.

Tonight it was the Capitals, despite the Flyers’ monumental attempt at a comeback.

  Briere // Giroux // Nodl // GAME STORY

If the teams played tomorrow night it would most likely be the Flyers, and so on and so forth as each team owns a 2-0-2 record against each other and all four, yes that’s right, all four meetings this year have been decided past regulation play.

Two of the four meetings were decided in overtime, with each team winning once, and two of the meetings were decided in a shootout, again, with each team winning once.

If you need any more scary parallels consider this, each team has scored exactly 13 goals in the season series and as much as we would love the shots to work out exactly even that’s where you might be disappointed. The Flyers fired exactly 123 shots on net during the season series, but were out-shot by the Capitals’ 124 shots on net.

Back tracking to the game itself, it certainly didn’t look as if it would follow the rest of the match ups, with the Caps jumping all over the Flyers in the opening period to earn a 2-0 lead. An early goal in the second period made it 3-0.

“I thought that the guys have been through a lot,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette on the team’s bounce-back ability. “They know how we play in order to be successful.  If you put the first period behind us and you focus on the second period; that 20-minute period, we set it up for the third period.  We came out with a really solid attack in the second period.  We scored some goals, got back into the game, and set it up for the third.”

If the first period was all Washington, then naturally the second period had to be all Philadelphia… and it was.

The Flyers tallied two unanswered goals, which eventually at the 5:45 mark of the third period turned into four unanswered goals to take a brief 4-3 lead.

“The way we played, the way we put the puck down in their zone, we cycled them, the amount of chances compared to what they had, I think most of it was positive,” said Danny Briere, who tied his career high in goals tonight. “Obviously the score, the ending was not, but overall I thought it was a solid effort from our team.”

The Caps would eventually score the equalizer and record three goals in the shootout to upend the Flyers, however more than a few players in the Flyers’ line up could boast of their best game.

Andreas Nodl in one of his strongest game of his entire season.

“Yeah, we played well.  We did a lot of good things after we were down,” said Flyers captain Mike Richards. “We just kept with the program and started strong.  I thought we played a great game. We had a couple unlucky bounces and the puck ended up in our net.  That’s hockey.”

Andrej Meszaros played a season-high 29 minutes after playing 28:22 on Saturday in Dallas.  He directed 10 shots towards the net – 3 on net, 6 that were blocked, and one that missed – and blocked five Washington shots, while also recording six hits.  He was +1 and is now +6 in his last four games.

Andreas Nodl was another standout for the Flyers tonight, recording a goal and an assist to go along with a +3 rating.
 
“Playing as a team I think, working together,” said Claude Giroux, who also posted a goal and an assist on the night. “Offensively, I think it was one of our best games moving the puck. We just played faster than we used to. We knew this game was going to be a test for us so it’s great that guys showed up and were ready to go.”

Regardless of the score, the month of March has all been about preparation for the playoffs and tonight’s game, despite the outcome, was as huge step for a team that could very well see the Washington Capitals again down the road.

* * *
12:19 p.m.


The Flyers have recalled defenseman Danny Syvret from their AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, earlier today.

Syvret ranks third on the Phantoms with 34 points, while ranking second on the team with 26 assists. He currently leads the defense with nine goals and has 38 penalty minutes in 53 games split between the Syracuse Crunch & Phantoms this season.


March 21
4:44 p.m.

WHAT LIES AHEAD
If the Flyers are looking for any reason to get motivated for games now that they have official clinched a playoff spot this couldn’t be a better week to do so.

Beginning on Tuesday, the Flyers will match up against their closest pursuers, followed by their biggest rival in the game today.

The Flyers take on the East’s second seeded Washington Capitals, who come into the Wells Fargo Center just two points behind the Flyers for the Conference lead.

“It’ll be an emotional game for sure,” said Scott Hartnell. “I know Washington has their sights set on us and obviously our greatest concern is creating more separation between us and them. Tuesday night is going to be a big game. The building is going to be packed I’m sure and it’ll be a lot of fun.”

  Laviolette // Hartnell // Carle

The Flyers haven’t seen the Caps in over two months when they earned a 3-2 win on Jan. 18 at Philly and despite owning a 2-0-1 record in the season series, the match up couldn’t be any closer. In fact, two of the three times these two teams have met this season it has been a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the Eastern Conference.

All three games were decided by just one goal, with the first two going past regulation play. Both teams have scored nine goals apiece in the season series and are separated in the shots column by just 11 shots on goal (PHI – 90, WSH – 101).

“They’ve been consistent with their wins,” said Flyers’ head coach Peter Laviolette. “They’ve done a good job playing the game tough defensively and a good job generating the offense that they need to in order to be successful. They’ve gotten good goaltending and they’ve done it as a group.”

Washington also comes in as one of, if not the hottest team in the NHL having won 10 of their last 11 games, including a nine-game winning streak.

What did come as a surprise to most of the team is that the Caps will be without star forward Alex Ovechkin. It was announced earlier today that Ovechkin will be out of the line up for the next week or so due to a nagging, undisclosed ailment. It will be the second time that he has missed a game against the Flyers in his career playing in 21 of the 22 Flyers-Washington meetings since 2005.

That’s not to say that the Flyers will change their approach to either game in the slightest.

“Washington’s the hottest team in the League right now,” said Laviolette. “Pittsburgh has proved that you can continue to win with one of your best player and another good player out of the line up.”

The Flyers aren’t too far off from being considered back in the League’s hottest team category either. They have gone unbeaten in regulation in their last six games, posting a 4-0-2 record in that span.

Five of their six games have been decided by one goal including their last five games, which has also included three games going past regulation play.

The Caps sit at 42-21-10 and have 94 points with nine games remaining in their schedule, while the Penguins own a 41-23-8 mark for 90 points with 10 games remaining, including tonight when they face off against the Detroit Red Wings.

PRONGER SKATING
Chris Pronger skated for the first time since having surgery on his hand. He wore a yellow, no-contact jersey out there with his teammates.

“He’s got protective gear on right now,” said Laviolette. “Guys know to stay away from him. There’s a lot of things in life that come with risk, but we do our best to manage that risk and we have to keep him in shape and get him ready for the playoffs.”

Pronger is still expected to be out of action another three weeks after having surgery last Tuesday (Mar. 15).

March 20
1:01 p.m.

GUS LOANED BACK TO ADI

The Flyers have loaned defenseman Erik Gustafsson back to their AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, according to Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. Gustafsson appeared in two games since his most recent recall to the parent club, the 4-3 shootout loss at Atlanta on Thursday and the 3-2 shootout win at Dallas last night.

* * *
4:49 a.m. ET

WE EXPECTED THIS
For the second straight year the Flyers have clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a shootout victory… albeit this one's a tad less dramatic than last year.

With their 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars, the Flyers became the first team in the Eastern Conference to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is the fourth consecutive year and 35th time in 43 seasons of play since 1967-68 (excluding the 2004-05 lockout season).

  Laviolette // Bobrovsky // Leino // GAME STORY

Not that this comes to a shock to anybody on the team or even the fans considering the Flyers have led the entire Eastern Conference since Jan. 8. What you might consider a shock is that clinching wasn’t even on the minds of the team before the game.

“We’ve never talked about it,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette about his team. “We’ve always talked about having home-ice, all rounds, starting in our building and Game Seven, if it comes to that, is in our building and that’s why we continue to push. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Braydon Coburn has picked up minutes since Chris Pronger has been out of the line up

With all the focus on the Flyers recent struggles and clinching a playoff berth, few may have realized that they’re on a bit of a roll right now.

“We have a long way to go and every man in this room knows that,” said defenseman Braydon Coburn. “We expect ourselves to be in the playoffs and we want to get to the point where we’re happy and we’re playing at our level at playoff time.”

The Flyers are now unbeaten in regulation in their last six games, going 4-0-2 in the process with five of the six games decided by one goal including three past regulation play (two in a shootout and one in overtime).

JUST AWESOME
The word ‘awesome’ was shared by more than one person in the locker room after the game tonight.

The stellar play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was praised by Flyers captain Mike Richards.

"Awesome,” said Richards. “He made some big saves in critical times in the hockey game and that’s what we need from him. It’s a high task, but I think he’s a confident guy and he can handle it.”

Bobrovsky stopped 28 of 30 shots, including 5 of 6 players in the shootout to earn his 26th win of his career.

Even more impressive was the saves he made on countless one-timers from in close and a breakaway on Stars’ forward Steve Ott.

Bobrovsky was also quick to praise his D-men in front of him and Laviolette agreed.

“He was awesome tonight,” said Laviolette of Braydon Coburn. “I thought all of our guys were good, but Braydon certainly was good. He was physical, strong in battles and logged a lot of minutes.”

Coburn played his second straight game of over at least 27 minutes (27:38 at Dallas & 28:35 at Atlanta) which include time on the penalty kill and late in games.


March 19
9:54 a.m. CT

Danny Briere said it as simple as can be yesterday. "We control our own destiny."

That's exactly what tonight's playoff scenario is. A win of any kind in Dallas, Texas and the Flyers will punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, becoming the first Eastern Conference team to do so.

Remaining idle last night, the Flyers came close, but did not clinch as the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to force overtime, giving them a much needed point to take the playoffs off the table for the night. The Canes in fact, won their game over the Islanders, 3-2, in OT giving them two points in the standings and forcing the Flyers to win tonight's game rather than just picking up a point of any kind.

Game time is 8 p.m. ET on CSN in HD or listen live on 610 WIP radio.


March 18
4:14 p.m. CT

UPDATED:
IS TONIGHT THE NIGHT?

The Flyers arrived late night in Dallas, Texas after a heartbreaking 4-3 shootout loss at Atlanta last night. It is the third and final leg of their three-game, six-day road trip.

The team practiced today at Dr. Pepper Arena in the town of Farmer’s Branch before they take the ice to battle the Dallas Stars tomorrow at 8 p.m. ET.

Although idle tonight, the Flyers can officially clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after this evening’s games. The scenarios are as follows:

If the New Jersey Devils do not beat the Capitals in regulation (New Jersey claims less than two points) and if the Carolina Hurricanes lose to the New York Islanders in regulation (Carolina gets no points), then the Flyers are in.

It leaves a little bit of curiosity for the Flyers who no doubt will be keeping at least one eye on the scoreboard tonight.

“Well, obviously you look at the score every night and hope that those team lose, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” said Giroux.

  Laviolette // Briere // Giroux

His roommate back in N.J. and now his line mate is looking at it the complete opposite way.

“Not really,” said Danny Briere. “For us it’s about finishing first in the Eastern Conference and setting ourselves up nicely for the playoffs and having home-ice advantage. We’re still in control of our own destiny, which is nice.”

It would be the Flyers’ 35th trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs in their 43 seasons of play (not including the lost lockout season of 2004-05), and fourth consecutive trip to the postseason.

Speaking of Briere and Giroux. An experiment of putting the two together on once line, along with Jeff Carter seems to be working out on the score sheet better than expected.

Both Briere & Giroux have put together five-game points streaks. Giroux has five assists and seven points during the streak.

“Anytime you get to play with different players you try and get the chemistry going,” said Giroux. “We’ve been shuffling the lines a little bit and you want to play good with everyone.”

Carter has recorded points in four of his last five contests for a total of four goals and six points.

Briere has recorded an assist in each of his last five games to go along with three goals giving him a total of eight points and a plus/minus rating of +5 during that stretch.

However that doesn’t surprise head coach Peter Laviolette given the time of year.

“I think he’s picked it up the last couple games,” said Laviolette. “The speed and the intensity by which he’s playing the game… He’s been proven to be a playoff player over his career, and last year as well, and we’re getting close to the playoffs so it’s good to see that.”

* * *
12:06 p.m. CT

The Flyers arrived late night in Dallas, Texas after a heartbreaking 4-3 shootout loss at Atlanta last night. It is the third and final leg of their three-game, six-day road trip.
The Flyers arrive at Dr. Pepper Arena for practice.

The team will practice today at Dr. Pepper Arena in the town of Farmer’s Branch before they take the ice to battle the Dallas Stars tomorrow at 8 p.m. ET.

Although idle tonight, the Flyers can officially clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after this evening’s games. The scenarios are as follows:

If the New Jersey Devils do not beat the Capitals in regulation (New Jersey claims less than two points) and if the Carolina Hurricanes lose to the New York Islanders in regulation (Carolina gets no points).

It would be the Flyers’ 35th trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs in their 43 seasons of play (not including the lost lockout season of 2004-05), and fourth consecutive trip to the postseason.


March 16
3:18 p.m.

PLAYOFF HOCKEY –  NOW!
The Flyers may have had a different look to their lines last night, but the sacrifice remained the same – block shots at any cost.

“We always emphasize it,” said Brian Boucher. “That’s always been our bread and butter. That’s why we were successful last year heading down the stretch and in the playoffs. Teams that get chances are going to have to earn them. Unfortunately it can lead to some screens or some plays where you don’t see the puck if it gets through, but the guys put their body on the line [last night]. There were a lot of big blocks.”

The Flyers allowed 41 shots on goal in their loss to the Thrashers last Saturday and came back with an effort that saw just 22 shots reach Boucher in last night’s win.

“I really liked our game,” said Laviolette. “We really didn’t give a whole lot. Maybe seven or eight chances against, Boosh made big saves when he had to.”

The Flyers blocked a total of 22 shots at the net compared to Florida’s nine. They were led by Braydon Coburn, who was credited with five blocks and eight hits in the victory.

Jeff Carter has four goals in his last four games.

“It’s that time of the year when the team’s that are winning are blocking shots and making sure their on the right side defensively with the coverage. I thought our guys were really tight [vs. Florida],” added Laviolette.

“I don’t think it matters who we’re playing with,” said Hartnell. “If were playing the system with energy, with execution we’re a pretty hard team to beat.”

The Flyers will have a different look to their defense vs. Atlanta tomorrow night well. Laviolette will insert Erik Gustafsson into the line up for his second NHL game.

“I thought he played well,” said Laviolette of the 22-year-old’s NHL debut on Feb. 26 at Ottawa. “Right now I think it’s important to get him experience just so that when called upon… defensemen are a valuable commodity come playoff time and to get him that experience right now is really important.”

It makes sense to make the statement that for some teams right now it is playoff time.

Teams battling for that eighth and final playoff spot, every game could be do or die. It was like that for the Flyers last year, and while that isn’t the case this season, Laviolette is making sure he uses this time to recreate that situation and prepare his club to play right now with that playoff urgency.

“The month of March, for me, is to try and get ready to make sure we’re ready [for the playoffs]. To push those guys and push the minutes on some of those guys you know are going to play those minutes, you want to make sure that they’re able to do it.”

The evidence of that was pretty clear from some of last night’s ice times, which the NHL scoring system has since corrected from the end of last night’s game.

Danny Briere recorded 23:40, Claude Giroux recorded close to 22 minutes (21:50) and Jeff Carter registered over 20 minutes of TOI (20:12).

Speaking of that new line combination. That wasn’t just a flash-in-the-pan. During media availability today, Laviolette stated that the group will stick together for a little while.

“At this point we’re making sure everybody’s in shape, everybody’s ready, that’s why there are extra bikes after practice, there are bikes today,” said Laviolette. “There have been guys that we’ve been stretching their minutes and nobody has been taxed. The fact of the matter is that in the playoffs those guys will be called on to play 20 minutes, defensemen will be called on to play 24 minutes.”

The Flyers will look to avenge last Saturday’s loss to Atlanta when they meet the Thrashers tomorrow night. It is the second of three meetings in the month of March between the two teams with the season series tied at one win apiece.


March 15
11:58 p.m.

STILL ON TOP
As they were trying to put their 5-4 overtime loss on Saturday behind them, the Flyers were met with some serious opposition tonight and not just by the Florida Panthers.

The Washington Capitals had their eyes on a ninth straight win and with a loss by the Flyers, could take over first place in the Eastern Conference, a title that the Flyers had held since Jan. 8.
GAME STORY
Laviolette // Boucher // Hartnell

It wasn’t to be for the Caps as the Flyers walked away from Sunrise, Fla. with a close 3-2 victory to remain in the East’s top spot.

The Flyers improved their record to 43-19-7 with 93 points to remain one point ahead of the streaking Caps who own a 41-20-10 mark through 71 games. The Flyers even have two games still in hand over Washington.

The Flyers victory came with an all-new look as well.

Head coach Peter Laviolette made it known fairly early that last night was going to feature a mix up of lines.

Jeff Carter – Claude Giroux – Danny Briere kicked off the game together with Matt Carle – Andrej Meszaros on defense.

In addition, Mike Richards centered Scott Hartnell & Ville Leino, while James van Riemsdyk – Kris Versteeg – Dan Carcillo played together, leaving the Blair Betts - Darroll Powe - Jody Shelley fourth line checking in tact.

“I think it’s a different look,” said Laviolette. “Every once in a while when you do that, by really jamming up those first two lines and the defensive units, you really push some minutes on those guys. Again, the month of March to me is to try and push it as much as we can and make sure we’re ready for when the puck drops.”

Not only did the two lines have a different look to them, they had a different, almost playoff feel to them with a noticeable ice time increase.

The Carter-Giroux-Briere line appeared for an average of over 22 minutes of ice time the entire game. Carter posted 19:14 and Giroux had 22:48 of TOI, while Danny Briere played more than any Flyers’ forward in the victory with 24:46, third most on the entire roster.

Needless to say it was a favorable shake-up for the Flyers.

Jeff Carter recorded a pair of goals, his 31st & 32nd of the year to lead the team, while Briere & Giroux each picked up assists to give that line a combined four points out of seven Flyers points in the game. They also posted a plus/minus rating of +6.

Carter now has four goals and five points in his four games since returning from a flu bug that kept him out of two games earlier in the month, while Giroux (1G-5A) and Briere each have recorded a point in four straight games.


March 14
6:57 p.m.

THE ROAD AHEAD
With news coming out of Flyers camp that Chris Pronger will be sidelined for 3-4 weeks, the Flyers will hit the road with a little more adversity than they hoped for.

Official Release & Updated Story

The team will get one last chance to bond before the playoffs. Which just might be exactly what the doctor ordered for a team trying to get their consistency back.

Laviolette // O'Donnell

“Sometimes for a team it’s a good thing because you get away,” said Sean O’Donnell. “You have dinners together, you’re practicing together, everyone’s in the same hotel room on the same bus and things like that. I think late in the season, having a trip like this is good for the team to get everyone together.”
The Flyers practicing at BankAtlantic Center.

The Flyers held a full practice today at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla. in preparation for their first of three straight road games that will keep them away from Philadelphia for a week.

More so than any other team, the Flyers probably don’t mind that.

They own one of the NHL’s best road records at 21-9-3 for a winning percentage of .681.

On their two previous road trips that last three games or more, the Flyers went 3-1-0 on both occasions, and during their longest road swing of the season (Dec. 28-Jan. 6) they went 3-2-0.

“I think it’s a reflection of the team,” said Laviolette. “I don’t have an explanation for it other than the guys have played well this year, but not every game perfect.”

The Flyers return to the ice tomorrow night when they take on the Panthers in a 7:30 pm start (CSN-HD, 610 WIP). The Flyers own a 2-1-0 record so far and it will be the regular season finale for the season series against Florida.

March 13
6:25 p.m.

THE AFTERMATH
All was going right in Flyer-land after two periods. The only problem was that there was still a third period needing to be played.

The Flyers, who had been riding two straight wins, allowed four goals on 18 shots to drop a heartbreaker to the Atlanta Thrashers in overtime by a score of 5-4 on Saturday.

On Sunday, the Flyers flew out to Sunrise, Fla. a little earlier than usual to kick off their three-game, six-day road trip that will see them take on the Panthers on Tuesday, a rematch with the Thrashers in Atlanta on Thursday and their final Western trip of the regular season when they visit Dallas on Saturday.

While remaining idle in the schedule, both the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins had matinee games today, both of which they won to draw even closer in the standings to Philadelphia.

The Capitals are owners of an eight-game winning streak, which has placed them second in the conference with 90 points, one point behind the Flyers, while the Penguins earned their 40th win of the year to improve to 88 points.


It’s important to note however that the Flyers have two games in hand over both the Caps and Pens.

Having two games in hand or not, the Flyers entire philosophy all season long has been to worry about their game and not the opponents.

Needless to say, no one in the locker room was happy about last night’s loss, which had shades of the recent struggles in their four-game losing skid the last few weeks.

“It’s has been like this the last few games.  We stop playing.  When you stop playing in this league you are going to lose games,” said Kimmo Timonen. “This game is about hard work, and making good plays, making simple plays.  It seems like every time we get it to be 3-0, 4-0, or whatever, we start turning the puck over.  We think the game is over.  It’s not over.  That’s one of those things we have to change now.  We can’t wait.  We can’t keep doing the same mistakes game after game, after game.”
 
Its hard to imagine positives coming out of a loss like this, slowly but surely though, the Flyers seem to be climbing out of their recent struggles, with two bounce back wins prior to last night.

“I don’t get the sense that we didn’t work in the third period. I think we did,” said Laviolette.  “The result is nauseating but I think our guys competed in the third. This isn’t a Rangers game or an Edmonton game where we didn’t play well in the second and third. I think we competed but like I said, with the chain of events, nobody is going to sleep well with them.”

So what lies ahead for the Flyers, who up until this point have had a commanding lead on the Eastern Conference?

“We have to be a team that is confident in closing out close games,” said Flyers captain Mike Richards. “Right now we are struggling with it.”

Despite missing the last two games due to an upper-body injury to his hand/wrist area, defenseman Chris Pronger has joined the team on the trip to Florida and is listed as day-to-day.


March 12
11:12 p.m.

NOT CONCERNED
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren addressed the status of defenseman Chris Pronger, who missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury.

“He was better today in practice and that’s all we can do about it,” added Holmgren, who continued to list his status as day-to-day. “It’s going to get better each day, and we’re hoping by the next game he feels good enough to play. As it continues to get better, we’ll see how it goes.”

  Holmgren

Pronger was seen wearing a brace/cast on his hand, which Holmgren was quick to point out that it is just an aid to help in the healing process.

"He’s had this on for a couple of days now. The swelling went down.  I’m not worried.  I think everything is clear,” added Holmgren. “He is seeing specialists in our own town.  Dr. Culp is a hand specialist.  Dr. Graham is one of the top hand specialists in the world.” 

Pronger did receive both an X-ray and MRI and everything turned out favorably.
 
“Well, there is obviously something going on in there that’s inhibiting the strength of it. As I said, he will continue to get better each day.  If you are a hockey player and you can’t grip your stick, you’re going to have a hard time.”
 
Holmgren was also quick to point out one other thing – he is certainly not worried about the situation.

“Chris [Pronger] wants to play, and when he feels like he can play, he’ll play,” added Holmgren. “Some of that is because of our depth at defense.  I happen to like it when Meszaros, Carle, and Coburn play more minutes.  I don’t think that’s the issue.”


March 11
6:49 p.m.

MOTIVATION BUILDING
You wouldn’t know it from the last two games, but the Flyers are in a bit of dangerous waters here.

Sure they snapped their four-game losing streak on Tuesday against Edmonton. You could even argue that their slump is officially over after a very well-played contest to beat the Maple Leafs in their home building on Thursday.

But there in lies the danger.

Laviolette // Hartnell

“We never try to take away creativity in here,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “We always want to score goals, but there’s as method to how we do it too. We have some great talent in here and that’s why we do score a lot of goals, but there’s a plan in place and we need to stick to that.”

They don’t want their recent success to mean they can let off the gas and believe everything is right where they want it to be.

“These points are huge,” said Scott Hartnell. “It seems that everyone is winning who’s trying to catch you and everyone is getting points, so it’s up to us to do our part and have a solid 60-minute game like we did yesterday.”

“Team’s go through slumps, you’re not happy about it,” added Laviolette. “I know the guys in here weren’t happy about it, but you work at it. We did some good things against Edmonton, but not consistent enough and then we come in the game last night and probably played the best 60 minutes that we played in a while.”
Dan Carcillo's presence in the line up has provided a physical spark for the Flyers.

The Flyers’ fight now is to simply keep pace and not slip in the standings to lose something absolutely crucial in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and definitely worth fight for in the last 10-15 games of the year – home ice advantage.

The teams that have been climbing the charts unnoticed are their division rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who despite the services of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, own a 39-21-8 record for 86 points and have earned points in the standings in each of their last five games, going 3-0-2 in that span.

The hotter team in the East is in the nation’s capital. Washington has pulled to within four points of the Flyers with 86 points and has won six straight games to improve their record to 38-20-10. They have an opportunity to move to within two points after tonight, when they face off against the Hurricanes at home.

“There are teams right behind us,” said Laviolette. “They’re coming and looks like the top four is going to be a fight down the stretch, so if you have games in your own building you have to make sure you win them, take those points and continue to push for home ice.”

The Flyers will have a quick stay in the area when they take on the Thrashers on Saturday, but go on a week-long road trip beginning on Sunday through next Saturday.

“We go on the road for a week so we definitely want to get those two points and have a big effort at home,” added Hartnell.

* * *
2:37 a.m.

Following last Sunday’s 7-0 loss at New York to the Rangers, Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said what lies ahead for the team is a test of character.

Sidelined for an important game on Thursday at Toronto with an upper-body injury, his teammates would have a tougher test of character than anticipated.

To say the least, they answered with a full 60-minute effort to earn a 3-2 win over the Leafs at the Air Canada Center

Full Game Recap // Remaining Schedule // Available Tickets

“Obviously when you don’t have a guy like Prongs [Pronger] in your line up it’s going to hurt you, but I think there are guys who stepped up and we played pretty well,” said Giroux, who ended the game with a goal and an assist to earn his team-leading 63rd point of the season.

  Laviolette // JVR // Giroux // Boucher

“That was one of the most complete games we’ve played in a while and we need to keep building off of that,” said James van Riemsdyk. “I mean they fought from start to finish and we answered the bell there and that’s something that we’re going to have to keep continuing to do.”

van Riemsdyk recorded another strong game, applying a crushing hit to Colby Armstrong and setting up Giroux for what would turn out to be the game-winning goal.

The Flyers got out to an early lead when they were handed a five-minute power play after a boarding call against Mike Komisarek on Dan Carcillo.

Meszaros capitalized on the advantage, which even though they only tallied once, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette was pleased with the entire game.

“The power play had a lot of zone time today, a lot of plays and a lot of attempts at the net,” said Laviolette. “I thought we moved really well out there. We switched up the units… and I thought there was some good chemistry out there with those units.”

Chemistry wasn’t the only thing that seemed to sharp out on the ice. The team played with urgency you would expect from their opponent.

“The attention to detail was there,” said Boucher. “They had to earn everything they got tonight and I think that’s the way we want to play. If they’re going to get into our zone and get chances they’re going to have to earn it and make good plays. I think for the most part that was the case tonight. It was a gutsy win for us.”

The win puts a four-point distance at the top of the Eastern Conference for the Flyers, who have now eclipsed their point total for all of the 2009-10 season (90). The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins each have 86 points, but have played one more game than Philadelphia.

The Flyers return home to face the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday. Having already won their first meeting (5-2 at Atlanta on Jan. 14), the Flyers will face the Thrashers three times in the next 10 games.

March 10
12:48 p.m.

Laviolette // Versteeg

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren informed the media today that defenseman Chris Pronger will miss tonight's game at Toronto due to an upper-body injury. He is listed as day-to-day.

Participating in a full skate this morning at the Air Canada Centre it was announced shortly after that Pronger will miss his 17th game of the 2010-11 season.
Nick Boynton

He missed the first two games of the year recovering from knee surgery at the end of July, while missing his longest stretch of the year, a 13-game span from Dec. 18-Jan. 18, due to a broken bone in his foot. His most recent game missed was on Feb. 26 at Ottawa.

Over the course of his 50 games played this year, Pronger has 25 points (4G-21A) and 44 penalty minutes to go along with a plus/minus rating of +7.

As a result newly acquired defenseman Nick Boynton will make his Flyer debut since joining the team on Feb. 26.

Boynton has appeared in 41 games this season for the Chicago Blackhawks, posting eight points (1G-7A) and 36 minutes in penalties as well as a +2 rating.


March 9
5:59 p.m.

OFF-DAY
Peter Laviolette’s message to his team lately seems to be very clear. Get your rest in while you can.

This is the second time in three days the Flyers had a complete day off from the rink and after a light start to the month of March, things will pick up very quickly heading into the playoffs.

The Flyers are in Toronto tomorrow night, which kicks off a span of 11 games in 21 days and a stretch where they play four of their next five games on the road.

As taxing as that sounds at this time of year, that might be beneficial for the Flyers, who own one of the best road records in the NHL at 20-9-3 (one of five teams with 20 victories on the road).

One player, who recently ended a personal slump, should be particularly happy to get on the road for the next few games is Danny Briere.

Briere leads the team in goals on the road (17), is tied for the most assists on the road (15) and leads in total points on the road (32).

Briere posted his first goal in eight games in last night’s win over the Oilers, but doesn’t expect an easy battle ahead against the Maple Leafs, especially in their home building.

“It’s a step in the right direction.  We have a team [Toronto] that came here and beat us last time on Thursday,” said Briere after last night’s win. “A little step at a time, moving in the right direction.  Toronto is never an easy game so, we’ll have to step it up even more than tonight.”

A slump like that is never easy to go through, especially when there is talk of breaking up a line that in the past has produced so well. While some players admit change would be a good thing, Briere is perfectly happy with his line mates.

“I’ve said all along that we like playing with each other. At times every player, every line, every team goes through a little slump here and there.  It just happened that the whole team fell into a slump the last few games.  I’m grateful he [Peter Laviolette] kept us together and hopefully it going to keep going that way for a long time.”

VERSTEEG BACK IN TO
What is sure to be a big storyline for Flyers fans and especially the media is Kris Versteeg’s return to Toronto for the first time since being traded by the Maple Leafs.

Versteeg spent just 53 games in a Maple Leaf uniform, recording 35 points (14G-21A) prior to being traded by the Maple Leafs on Feb. 14. Tomorrow night’s tilt will mark his return to the Air Canada Centre.

In 11 games for the Orange & Black, Versteeg has four goals and five points, however most of the points have come recently as chemistry seems to be settling in with his line mate, Mike Richards.

March 8
11:41 p.m.

BREAKING THE HABIT   
Normally a regular season game between the Flyers and Oilers on a Tuesday night wouldn’t hold so much significance.

Tonight it did. (See:
Post Game Recap)

The Flyers have been in a rut for the better part of the last two-plus weeks, going 2-5-1 in that span, including a four-game losing streak, but with tonight’s 4-1 win over the streaking Oilers, the Flyers began the process of climbing out of the hole they were digging.

“I am a believer in the way you play the game and the process,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “If the process is right, you will win hockey games.”

To say that the team came flying out of the gates is an understatement.

  Laviolette // Pronger // Carle

Not only did they get off to a 2-0 first period lead, they allowed just one shot on goal the entire period and that came with just 1:12 left in the frame. The last time the Flyers allowed just one shot in a single period was Dec. 7, 2009, a 3-1 loss at Montreal.

“We did a lot of good things in the first twenty minutes and we need to build off of that,” added Laviolette. “If we are going to look for positives tonight, build off of that twenty minutes and look to go into the next game seeing if we can play more minutes like we played in the first period.”

Speaking of breaking bad habits, another Flyer ended a streak of his own. Danny Briere’s goal to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead ended an eight-game scoring drought.

“We need to find our mojo back I guess,” said Briere. “The Oilers have had a tough season, but it wasn’t about them tonight.  It was about us.  The first period we came out strong, and we showed them.”

The win was first regulation win the Flyers have posted over the Oilers since March 19, 2001 when they won 4-2 at Edmonton.  Since then, the Flyers had been 0-6-1 in seven games against Edmonton.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 24 of 25 shots to post his 25th win of the season.

The key to getting out of any rut however is to not feel satisfied after one period or even one win. This fact didn’t escape many of the players and head coach Laviolette, who know that there needs to be more consistency.

“Probably 23 or 24 good minutes the way we need to play to be successful,” said Chris Pronger. “Obviously we played a team that has a lot of injuries and a lot of youth.  We were able to capitalize on some chances early in the first period and get off to a lead.  But if you look at the latter part of the second and probably the last 12 or 14 minutes of that third period, we were sitting back, standing still, turning pucks over and they just came at us wave after wave.”

“I think after that it was human nature to protect that lead the way things have been going lately,” said Briere. “We didn’t want to cause any turnovers that would end up in the back of our own net.  We played maybe a little too defensive, but we did a good job at it. We kept them on the outside for the most part, and the couple of times they got in, Bob [Sergei Bobrvosky] made some big saves.”

Briere ended up with two points on the night, adding an assist on Jeff Carter’s first goal.

Carter meanwhile returned to the line up for perhaps the first time fully healthy after missing Sunday’s game in New York and Thursday’s game vs. Toronto due to flu-like symptoms. He tallied a pair of goals including his team-leading 30th of the season.

It was said over and over again during their losing streak that the Flyers needed to play together as a team and get on the same page. As a team, this is just one win and one building block to where they need to be, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel good.

“Any win can help right now,” said Carter. “We rested yesterday and came out pretty hot. In the second and third we kind of got back into the old habits but right now two points are two points. We have to take positives out of it.”

* * *
6:05 p.m.


FLYERS INK ZOLNIERCZYK

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren announced today that the club has signed free agent forward Harry Zolnierczyk (ZOHL-ner-chuk) from Brown University to a entry-level contract that will begin at the start of the 2011-12 season.

The 23-year-old Zolnierczyk recently completed a four-year career at Brown.  He was the captain of the Bears in his senior season and was named Ivy League Player of the Year, while also earning ECAC Player of the Week honors twice this season.  

Over the course of 30 games, Zolnierczyk posted 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points, which led the team in goals and tied for the team lead in overall scoring.

In 114 career games over his four seasons at Brown, Zolnierczyk recorded 30 goals and 39 assists for 69 points, along with 238 penalty minutes.

March 4

6:03 p.m.
Jeff Carter missed Thursday's game with the flu and today's practice due to a death in the family.

ADVERSITY IS GOOD
The word adversity has been kicking around the Flyers locker room recently and especially at today’s practice following the team’s 3-2 loss to Toronto last night.

There are a lot of people out there that get worried, nervous and think negatively about such a word but not this team, who for perhaps the first time all season are facing it head on.

“What it does is it forces you to examine everything,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “You do examine conditioning, you examine your game, your system and your video and I think that’s a positive thing.”

The Flyers haven’t been playing their best hockey, but what’s important to realize is that the hockey they have been playing is still above the .500 mark, going 4-3-1 in their last seven games.

The Flyers have been trading wins & losses for the past several weeks and last night’s defeat was first time in 2011 that they dropped back-to-back games.

“We continue to work on it, address it and get back on track. I can tell you that all teams go through it. Every team,” said Laviolette.

And taking into account that if this is considered a bad streak, then plenty of teams would like to come out with the record the Flyers have had recently.

  Laviolette // Briere

“That terrible month of February would get us first place in the conference if we did it all year,” added Laviolette. “Just to be clear I’m not painting a rosy picture where there’s been games, periods and Ottawa was certainly one of them, so we need to be better. Nobody’s happy with where we’re at.”

Thus remains the task of climbing out of a “funk” and gaining that confidence.

Beyond winning hockey games the first funk that they want to climb out of is their power play.

The Flyers man advantage went 0-for-3 in last night’s loss and has not recorded a goal in its last 14 attempts.

“We need to keep pushing and pushing ahead. There’s been some up and downs, I’m not gonna lie,” said Briere. “When the games are getting closer coming down the stretch and in playoffs that’s where it’s going to become more critical that our power-play performs.”

In the same regard as what they faced with Maple Leafs on Thursday, four of the next five Flyers’ opponents are teams that are fighting for their playoff lives just to get in.

The Flyers are in a unique position of not only assuring themselves a playoff berth, but among the top seeds in the playoffs.

The challenge will be to match their opponents energy and desperation each night or they will soon find themselves fighting just to keep home-ice advantage.

“I think that we’re playing desperate teams and the competitiveness for me was better last night, but the result wasn’t good,” said Laviolette. “It was much better than what it was in Ottawa and the best it’s been in the times of inconsistency and it didn’t go our way.”


March 3
11:18 p.m.

VERSTEEG NOT ENOUGH
Kris Versteeg and his teammates knew chemistry was developing. They also knew a breakout game was just a matter of time.

What they didn’t plan on was it coming against his former team and it coming in the form of a loss.

Facing the Maple Leafs for the first time since being traded to Philadelphia on Feb. 14, Versteeg started to finally gel and see results by scoring the only two Flyers goals in their 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs.

  Laviolette // Pronger // Versteeg

“I think we’ve been playing well over the last six games or so,” said Versteeg. “Sometimes it takes a little time to build it and go on but it’s about going out and working hard for each other.”

Although the loss stings, both he and his teammates believe that they are heading in the right direction and look forward to developing their line to push each other to have more consistence night in and night out.

“We have played together for a little bit now,” said Flyers captain Mike Richards. “Once you start doing that, you start to feel more comfortable and knowing where each other are.  The two goals were evidence of that.”

“Yeah, I think they are getting there,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “I said this before; I thought Kris [Versteeg] was probably our top forward in Ottawa. We didn’t have the game that was one of our bests and we need it to be better. We still lost the game so it is tough, but we competed better than we did in Ottawa and he [Kris Versteeg] was good again. Mike [Richards] was good too. They had a lot of good offensive opportunities and they work well together.”

A STREAK ENDS
With the loss tonight, the Flyers suffered their first back-to-back losses in over two months (Dec. 20 vs. FLA & Dec. 28 at VAN).

The Flyers have had just two occasions where they have dropped three straight games and only one time all season have they lost three in-a-row in regulation (Oct. 14 – Oct. 21).

The Flyers aren’t thinking of such a streak, but admit that this month is without a doubt going to be the most challenging one yet with so many games in so little time.

“I think you need to look at the time that we do have available to us where we have the two afternoon games coming up on the weekend,” said Laviolette. “Tomorrow will probably just be a rest day where we get a light skate to prepare for those two games. However there are going to be spots in the course of the month we have to push it extremely hard. Every game we have got to get better than we were tonight. Every practice we have to work harder. We have to continue to work on our conditioning and push the pace for that. So, this is an important month for us.”

FLU BUG HITS
The Flyers were without three key players in tonight’s game.

Jeff Carter, Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo all were absent due to flu-like symptoms.

“You would obviously like to have players available to you but it didn’t happen and that’s where we were at tonight,” said Laviolette. “I thought Ben [Holstrom] came up and did a good job for us tonight. He killed a lot of penalties, got some time, and did a good job in his first game. If you are asking if I wish we had Jeff Carter in the lineup, sure. But, we didn’t.”

Veteran defenseman Chris Pronger agrees. Losing their teammates hurts, but it’s something that’s out of their control and the priority is to focus more on what they can control.

 “At this time of year everybody is going to have injuries and what have you,” said Pronger. “I don’t think that played a part of it.”

* * *
7:07 p.m.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren announced just before tonight's Flyers-Maple Leafs game that Jeff Carter, Dan Carcillo & Darroll Powe are all out of the line up due to flu-like symptoms.

Prior to tonight's game, both Powe & Carter had appeared in all 62 of the Flyers games thus far.

* * *
10:04 a.m.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren announced before the team's morning skate that the club has recalled right wing Ben Holmstrom from their AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms.

This is the first recall to the NHL for Holmstrom and should he appear in the line up in tonight's Flyers-Maple Leafs game, he will wear uniform #34, and be the fourth Flyer this season to make his NHL debut (Sergei Bobrovsky, Eric Wellwood, Erik Gustafsson).

The 23-year-old native of Colorado Springs,Colo., is fourth on the Phantoms with 27 points (10G-17A) in 60 games.


March 2
6:09 p.m.

FULL THROTTLE
If there’s one message that Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette drilled into his team this week it is one word - work.

“We worked hard in practice this week. The guys put in a lot of effort and now you have to go out and play in games,” said Laviolette. “It’s one of those things with a crystal ball, where you don’t have it to see exactly what’s going to happen but you feel like to take some good strides in practice. You do the right things, practice hard and hope to get better and we can come back and fix the problems we had in Ottawa.”

  Laviolette // Hartnell // Boucher

After grabbing an early 1-0 lead in Ottawa, the Flyers allowed four unanswered goals and fell to the Senators, 4-1.

As a result, with four full days off from game action, the Flyers didn’t sit around on their hands and knees. After participating in the annual Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival this past Sunday, the team took part in three straight days of hard skating practices each lasting a full hour.

“He talked to us before the week started and explained what the game plan was,” said goaltender Brian Boucher. “Part of it is conditioning down the stretch but also there was a little bit of we weren’t playing well and that was a wake up call too.”

The loss in Ottawa wasn’t the best game or effort by the Flyers, but that was last game and last month and this is a team that has found a way to bounce back unlike any other in recent history.

The Flyers look to keep a streak that has been alive for over two months now. They have yet to drop back-to-back games since losses to Florida (5-0) and Vancouver (6-2) at the end of December.

Past even those two games, you would have to go back to mid-November since the Flyers dropped two consecutive games.

“That’s good,” added Laviolette. “I guess we’ll get ready to play tomorrow night and see if we can keep that going. This week and even this month, it’s an important month to make sure everything’s fine-tuned with everything from systems to conditioning. We have to get ourselves sharp.”

And that’s is exactly what the challenge that lies ahead is. Navigating through a tough month that hasn’t been kind to the Flyers in recent years.

Below is the Flyers’ record in the month of March since the NHL lockout:

2009-10: 6-7-2
2008-09: 8-7-0
2007-08: 8-3-4
2006-07: 5-9-1
2005-06: 7-6-1

This will be however, a Flyers’ team that has been under the guidance of Peter Laviolette for a full season, and every player on the bench knows that this year is unlike any other.

“I think the coach was getting us in the mind set that this last little stretch run is not going to be easy,” said Scott Hartnell. “We’ve been working hard up in the weight room before practice just to get us in the best possible shape for this last little bit and the playoffs.”

March 1

6:30 p.m.

POWER PLAY
There’s no getting around the fact that the Flyers’ power play has been going through struggles recently. The players and coaching staff know that, and while in the middle of a rare four-day break in the schedule, the man advantage has been a primary focus in practice.

“Oh definitely,” said assistant coach Joe Mullen. “Especially lately because we’ve been losing a couple of games, but when you’re winning, not that you forget about it for a bit, but it kind of goes unnoticed. When you lose the first thing you’re going to look at is what the power play doing.”

The Flyers have not scored on the man advantage in their last three contests, going 0-for-10, not including the last power play they received against the Rangers on Feb. 20. The Flyers have even gone 2-for-27 over their last eight games.

  Laviolette // Richards // Leino

Despite those numbers, the Flyers power play sits around the middle-pack of NHL teams. Officially listed at 16.7 percent (49-for-234) it ranks in 22nd position in the NHL, however the 13th ranked team (Pittsburgh) is slightly ahead at 17.7 percent.

Considering at one point, the Flyers went five straight games (Oct. 26 – Nov. 4) with at least one power-play goal, including three of which they scored multiple goals on the power play, there isn't much reason to panic.

“Well, we got really hot there at the beginning of the year,” said head coach Peter Laviolette. “There was as streak of 13-15 games where it seemed like everything was going in and we were probably at 30-35 percent.

“For me since that All-Star break it’s not where it needs to be, but our game isn’t either so I don’t know if they go hand-in-hand, so I think once we pick up our game, our power play will pick up as well.”


Another point to be made is that for the most part, each unit has stayed the same from the previous years.

 “Basically it’s been the same the last three years,” added Mullen. “We have the same core guys and we added a couple of other guys that we think that made our power play better and it’s definitely perplexing, because if you have better players you think the team should do a lot better, but we’ll continue to look at it and hopefully be able to get it straightened out.”

The good news for Flyers fans out there is that this same “core” of players on each unit were able to post a goal 21.4 percent of the time last season, which finished third among all teams.

Today saw the Hartnell-Briere-Leino line all remain in-tact as one unit, while another unit featured Claude Giroux-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter working together.

If that isn’t reason enough to be positive then maybe this one is. The Flyers averaged even higher during their run to the Stanley Cup Final, registering a goal 21.9 percent through 23 postseason games.

Laviolette will get to test out any new line combinations he wants or choose to keep his units the same on Thursday when the Flyers kick off their final 20 games of the regular season against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 23 16 6 1 61 57 33
2 PIT 21 15 4 2 76 49 32
3 NYI 22 16 6 0 72 59 32
4 TBL 23 15 6 2 81 63 32
5 DET 22 12 5 5 64 54 29
6 BOS 23 13 9 1 59 57 27
7 TOR 22 11 8 3 70 67 25
8 OTT 21 10 7 4 58 56 24
9 FLA 20 8 6 6 42 51 22
10 WSH 21 9 8 4 58 57 22
11 NYR 21 9 8 4 60 62 22
12 NJD 22 9 10 3 53 63 21
13 PHI 21 8 10 3 59 66 19
14 CAR 21 6 12 3 48 63 15
15 CBJ 21 6 13 2 51 76 14
16 BUF 22 6 14 2 37 72 14

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Voracek 21 8 22 6 30
C. Giroux 21 7 19 8 26
W. Simmonds 21 8 7 5 15
B. Schenn 21 7 8 6 15
M. Streit 21 4 9 4 13
S. Couturier 21 4 4 -3 8
M. Read 21 2 6 -4 8
M. Del Zotto 20 2 6 -2 8
M. Raffl 13 6 1 2 7
V. Lecavalier 14 2 4 -3 6
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 4 7 2 .918 2.73
R. Emery 4 3 1 .898 3.16
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