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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 6:29 PM

By Davis Harper - Staff Writer / - Live from New Year's Day practices

Boyle preparing for a physical matchup

PHILADELPHIA -- Rangers center Brian Boyle was all smiles during his team's afternoon practice, showing how excited he was to compete in his first Winter Classic. Afterward, a much more subdued Boyle addressed reporters from his locker.
"You've seen the games we've played throughout this year thus far, even in the preseason," Boyle said. "There's some bad blood there, there's a lot of fire, there's a lot of passion there. It's going to be a lot of fun to play in, but it's for sure going to be a little chippy."
Boyle is no stranger to "chippy" play, particularly in this rivalry. Fifth on the team with 36 penalty minutes this season, Boyle picked up a fighting major when he got into a scuffle with Philadelphia's Tom Sestito on Dec. 23, and he was assessed a roughing minor when he and Scott Hartnell got together in the teams' first meeting, Nov. 26.
Putting the physicality on the backburner, Boyle said how much he was enjoying the unique opportunity that comes with playing in the Winter Classic -- the family skate. As family members and friends of the players and coaches poured onto the ice for the post-practice skate, Boyle invited as many people as he could to join him.
"I'm going to hang out with my family and all that, have dinner, go to bed thinking about the game and come to the rink focused," Boyle said when asked about his preparation.
As for the crowd, Boyle said he was prepared to face whatever the rowdy, sold-out Philadelphia crowd gives to him. When asked his opinion on the average Flyer fan, Boyle gave a slight grin.
"Passionate," Boyle said. "That's all. I'm done there."
Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 6:03 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - Live from New Year's Day practices

Bryzgalov shows off his thermos

PHILADELPHIA -- Ilya Bryzgalov was the center of attention today at Citizens Bank Park when he informed the national media covering the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic that he would be the backup in Monday's game and Sergei Bobrovsky would get the start.

"I have great news and even better news," said Bryzgalov following the team's morning practice. "OK, great news is I'm not playing (Monday), and better news is we have a chance to win the game (Monday)."

The news wasn't so great to coach Peter Laviolette, who told the media a short while later that he had yet to talk to his goalies and wasn't ready to reveal who his starter would be. The team confirmed about 5 p.m. that it would be Bobrovsky.

When asked what he would do as the backup, Bryzgalov said, "Make sure I don't forget my thermos with some nice tea and enjoy the bench."

Then, about 5:30 p.m., Bryzgalov unveiled his latest piece of Winter Classic equipment -- his thermos.

It's tough to tell from the picture if it was a humongous big thermos. But I'm sure the tea will be fantastic.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 5:56 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - Live from New Year's Day practices

McDonagh skips practice with flu, but will play Classic

PHILADELPHIA -- Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh gave fans a scare during what was supposed to be a fun outdoor practice at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.

About 10 minutes after the Rangers took the ice, McDonagh left with an equipment manager and returned to the locker room. But it was later reported that he was dealing with flu-like symptoms.

Rangers coach John Tortorella said after practice that McDonagh would be available Monday to face the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).

The Rangers have been dealing with injuries to their blueliners throughout the first half of the season. Marc Staal has missed the entire season with a concussion, Michael Sauer has missed almost a month with a concussion, and Steve Eminger is out two months after separating his shoulder.

The loss of McDonagh, who has made the transition seamlessly into Staal's spot on the top defense pairing with Dan Girardi, might have been too much to bear. Tortorella said the reason why the 22-year-old has performed so well this season is his short memory.

"I always say about Mac, he makes mistakes during the game," Tortorella said. "Everybody does. He makes some doozies, too. But when he does, it doesn't affect him the next shift. It doesn't take him two periods, two games, to get over it. He responds right away, and that's a great trait in that position, because the mistakes are so much more magnified playing defense. He's handled himself very well."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 4:18 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Live from New Year's Day practices

Talbot, a Classic vet, doles out advice

Having played outdoors last year in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Flyers forward Max Talbot was doling out some advice to his teammates Sunday morning before they hit the ice at Citizens Bank Park for practice ahead of the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic.

Talbot knows how impressive it can be for players to walk out to the rink in the middle of a huge stadium for the first time, and how that might impact the way certain players approach practice.

Except Sunday’s practice was more important than most, and Talbot wanted to be sure his teammates took full advantage of it.

“This morning I went to see a couple of the rookies and the young players and also my linemates,” Talbot said. “I just wanted them to visualize the stands full and that there was another team on the ice, not to just come and practice for the fun of it. We won’t have a morning skate tomorrow, and it’s different. It’s tough to get your bearings and the game starts quickly so we need to be ready. It’s two big points.”

Talbot was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins for last year’s game against the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field, and there were many differences he noticed from one year to the next.

“It’s a bit different going from a football stadium to a baseball stadium, it seems like the seats are a lot closer,” he said. “But I really liked the ice conditions today. It was better than last year.”
Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Live from New Year's Day practices

Classic a family affair for Couturier

Sean Couturier may be the youngest player on the Philadelphia Flyers, but it is that very fact that gives him a good dose of experience when it comes to playing in the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic.

“I’m a young guy, so three or four years ago I was still playing outside with my friends,” said Couturier, who just turned 19 last month. “So this is pretty cool.”

It is so cool, in fact, that Couturier has decided to share the moment with as many of his loved ones as possible. His parents will be part of a contingent of 13 members of his family and friends who are in Philadelphia to watch Monday’s main event.

“It’s going to be very special for them,” Couturier said. “It’s not every day you get to play outside. So I think they’re going to appreciate the moment.”

Couturier returned to action Thursday night for the Flyers, notching a pair of assists in Philadelphia’s 4-2 win in Pittsburgh. He missed four games recovering from an ear problem suffered in a 6-0 loss to Boston on Dec. 17 when Couturier was hit behind the ear by a shot.

He said the ear felt like it was completely blocked when it was at its worst, but that his hearing is practically fully returned now.
Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 3:51 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - Live from New Year's Day practices

Lilja first on the ice

PHILADELPHIA -- Decked out in an orange tuque and his Winter Classic home jersey, Flyers defenseman Andreas Lilja was the first player to skate on the temporary ice rink built in the middle of the Citizens Bank Park infield this morning.

This isn't Lilja's first Winter Classic -- he played with the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field for the 2009 outdoor game -- but said he's going to have far more fun playing for the home team this time.

"The thing I remember most was we were the visiting team, and we had such a long walk to the game," Lilja told "I think it took us at least five minutes to walk to the game. But it was an awesome feeling."

He expects more of the same when he takes the ice Monday.

"I heard it was unbelievable yesterday (for the Alumni Game)," said Lilja. "I hear it was unreal. … I'm really looking forward to that tomorrow."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 1:21 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - Live from New Year's Day practices

Hartnell credits Jagr/Giroux with making him better

Scott Hartnell said Sunday that Flyers leading scorer Claude Giroux deserves credit for helping him become a harder worker off the ice this season.

"He's our hardest-working player, and I think that says a lot to the teammates and even young kids growing up that want to have someone to look at," Hartnell said of Giroux, who has 45 points this season as the center between Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr. "My dad always told me to be the hardest-working player every time you're on the ice, and he definitely is. Playing with him this year, it rubs off on me. I've taken care of myself better, done more in the gym, stayed after practice a little bit longer to do things. It's been incredible for me and every player watching the game. He's just a great player to emulate."

Hartnell, though, also gave credit to Jagr for the success of the Flyers top line. The trio has combined for 46 goals and 64 assists this season, including 17 goals and 17 assists for Hartnell.

"At first it was like, 'Holy man, this guy is on our team.' Then it was like, 'Oh my gosh, this guy is on our line.' I'm still shocked by it," Hartnell said of Jagr. "He wants to be the best player that's ever played and he makes me practice better and makes 'G' practice better. He wants to score goals all the time. We try to be the best line on the ice every night. It's been awesome for my career. I'm just blessed to be with them right now."

Speaking of Jagr, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said the 39-year-old veteran had no clue who Giroux was before he got to the Flyers.

"He had been out of the League for three years so he didn't know who he was, but I think he knows him now and he's happy to be playing with him," Holmgren said. "You're talking about high-end offensive players, and the more you have playing together the more success you can have. Those two guys think the game at a different level."

Hartnell has been the beneficiary.
Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 12:52 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - Live from New Year's Day practices

Rinaldo meets his idol

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers rookie Zac Rinaldo got to meet his hero Saturday inside the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park.

Rinaldo approached Eric Lindros following the Molson Canadian 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game and told the ex-Flyer great that he is the only reason he gained a passion for hockey as a young kid growing up in Hamilton, Ont.

"He's the only reason I watched hockey, really," Rinaldo said of Lindros. "I told him if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be the player I am today, and that's the truth. I don't think I would be able to hit the way I want to. I didn't like watching hockey if he wasn't playing. If he was playing, I'd watch."

Rinaldo said he was able to get Lindros to sign his jersey. Rinaldo's father also took a picture with Lindros.

"(Lindros) will be at the game (Monday), so hopefully I can put on a good show for him," Rinaldo said. "Maybe we can keep in touch.

"He was really humble. He's a really great guy."

Rinaldo, one of the Flyers resident pugilists who has 110 penalty minutes this season, did say if he got to play in Lindros' era, he wouldn't have backed down from the powerful center.

"He'd be the first guy to go after," Rinaldo said. "I wouldn't ask him to fight. I'd give him a little respect, but I'd definitely try to hit him. He'd probably put me on my (butt), but I'd be honored to take a hit from that guy."

Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 11:20 AM

By Staff -  / - Live from New Year's Day practices

Bobrovsky gets start for Flyers

One of the biggest questions heading into Sunday's practice day apparently has been answered.

According to goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, he will not be starting in the Winter Classic. That means backup Sergei Bobrovsky, who turned in a strong performance in Thursday's win against Pittsburgh, will Play against the Rangers Monday afternoon.

Peter Laviolette has not spoken to the media yet, so the announcement is not official. But, Bryzgalov said he will not play and several players said after Sunday's practice that Bobrovsky is being rewarded for his consistent performance this season.

Bobrovsky has a 1.55 goals-against average in his past eight games. Bryzgalov, meanwhile, has lost four straight and has allowed 18 goals during that span.

Bryzgalov, brought in during the off-season as a free agent to answer the Flyers goaltending problems, has struggled in the month of December. But, he is the unquestioned No. 1 and this is the biggest and most high-profile regular-season game the Flyers will play during the 2011-12 season and there was some expectation that Bryzgalov would get the start for those reasons.
Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 10:06 AM

By Staff -  / - Live from New Year's Day practices

Family time for Flyers

With practice complete, it is time for the families to take the ice at Citizens Bank Park.

As mentioned, it is always one of the highlights for the players. This year is proving to be no different.

Some youngsters are out there playing a bit of shinny, skating through other skaters treating the session as perhaps the greatest public-skating session of their lifes.

As always, there were indelible moments that won't be forgotten.

Scott Hartnell had several kids on the ice with them. Suffice it to say, they already have the Hartnell Down move down pat

Max Talbot, who enjoyed a family skate last season as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field, took him mom out for a twirl, holding her arm as she navigated the crowded ice surface.

Rookie Zac rinaldo was out on the ice with his father, both men deep in conversation -- perhaps about all the early-morning ice sessions of Zac's youth.

Defenseman Brandon Coburn, meanwhile, was rocking a baby as he glided across the ice.

Other players posed for pictures with family and friends, talked on the phone with those that could not be on hand or just skated leisurely around, soaking in all the details of a picture-perfect morning.

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