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Atlantic: Emery's struggles mirror those of Flyers

Monday, 12.07.2009 / 12:41 PM / Division Notebooks

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

How is it possible that a team boasting the likes of Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Danny Briere reside in last place in the Atlantic Division?
 
Truth be told, the Flyers are 13-12-1 heading into Monday night's game in Montreal, but a 3-7-0 mark in their last 10 games, a current four-game losing streak and back-to-back shutout losses to the Atlanta Thrashers and Vancouver Canucks doomed John Stevens' tenure as coach.
 
New coach Peter Laviolette got an eye-full in his first game as the Washington Capitals manhandled the Flyers at home, 8-2, on Saturday.
 
So, there are any number of areas that require attention to get the Flyers back on track, but the fickle finger of fate has begun to point at the Philadelphia net. Brian Boucher, signed to be the backup to Ray Emery, has started four of the Flyers' last five games, going 1-3-0.

Speculation is Emery, who was pulled midway through the loss to the Caps, is fighting off an injury, but he obviously has struggled after a hot start, posting a 5.36 goals-against average and .814 save percentage in his last five games. In all, he's lost his last four starts and hasn't won since Nov. 16. So, is he hurt?

"Good enough to play the game," was all Emery said to reporters when asked if he was healthy.

Suffice to say, recent events have stunned GM Paul Holmgren, who never envisioned having to make a coaching change this season.

"I would have never called for that," Holmgren said after the one-sided loss to the Caps. "To me, it looked like our team was not in the game. I know there is a lot of stuff that happened in the last 24 hours, but I don't think Peter put too much new into the game plan that they needed to chew on."

"We didn't have a lot going once the power-play happened," Holmgren said of the nine-minute power play the Capitals enjoyed after Daniel Carcillo picked up a mountain of penalty minutes (19, plus a game misconduct) at 14:33 of the first period. "You have to give credit to Washington. They are a good team and they are playing good without the best player (Alex Ovechkin) in the League. We were not good in any area. There is work to be done, and I think the coaches will get busy with it."

"A new coach coming in kind of tweaked a few of the system things and I think we were a little hesitant out there, but there are no excuses," forward Scott Hartnell told NHL.com's Dan Rosen. "When you lose 8-2 it's not your systems, it's not the coach and it's not the goalies. It's everyone in front of them.

"I think Holmgren said it (Saturday) morning: We have to look in the mirror and demand more of ourselves and then look at your teammates beside you and expect them to do their job and follow suit. It's our fault. We have to turn this thing around (Sunday) morning and I'm sure it's not going to be an easy one."

As for Laviolette, his first glimpse of his new team indicated there is plenty of work to be done.
 
"There has got to be some accountability to the discipline, because we're not going to kill penalties all night," Laviolette said. "I want to get into a position where we're playing that transition game and teams have to haul us down or hook us or slash us or get frustrated because we're jamming and attacking the offensive zone. We're not there yet."

Work to be done -- One game does not a season make, but the Islanders have to be happy to know goaltender Rick DiPietro is back on the ice. He played an AHL game for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Saturday night, and while the result wasn't great, the fact he is on the ice again was.
 
DiPietro stopped the three Springfield Falcons shots he faced in the first period, but he surrendered three goals on 10 shots and watched another hit the post in the second. DiPietro last played Jan. 2, 2009 against the Phoenix Coyotes. Saturday night, he left the game after 40 minutes and finished with 10 saves on 13 shots. He's slated to start again either next Friday in Springfield or Saturday at Hartford.

"I was nervous," DiPietro told NHL.com's Brian Compton. "It's been a long time since I played in a meaningful game. Nerves, excitement ... these guys have been great. It was good to get back in there and shake the rust off. There's still a lot of work to be done.

"I didn't expect to go out there and feel like I played last week. It's been a long time. You can only do so much in practice -- the game is really where you fine-tune things and you get a sense of scrambles around the net and all that other stuff. It's a step in the right direction and hopefully I just continue to get better. It was a big night for me. We'll see how I feel when I wake up in the morning, but so far, so good."

Setting it up -- To many, hockey is seen as a free-flowing game that contains none of the set plays you see in a sport like football. Ah, but looks are indeed deceiving.
 
The Pittsburgh Penguins worked one set play to perfection Saturday night in a 2-1 overtime loss to Chicago.
 
With time running down and the faceoff coming to the left of Chicago netminder Antti Niemi, the Pens pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater. On the bench, assistant coach Mike Yeo drew up a play that would work to perfection.
 
Coach Dan Bylsma summoned rookie Mark Letestu, who had been recalled from the minors earlier in the day, and sent him out to take the faceoff against Chicago's John Madden.
 
"(Coach) Yeo called a play there and he's got enough confidence in me to take the draw," Letestu told Jason Seidling of the Penguins' Web site. "It was against John Madden. I know he's a pretty good faceoff guy, so I just tried to be as strong as I could on my stick and get my feet in there.

"I missed it with the first swipe, but got it with my left foot coming through. So it was kind of fortunate, but I guess a nice play for myself tonight. I got it back to Gonch (Sergei Gonchar) and then the guys did their magic."

Gonchar jumped on the loose puck and sent it to Evgeni Malkin at the right point. Malkin walked into a slap shot that caromed off players in front and landed on the stick of Jordan Staal, who scored the tying goal.

  JORDAN STAAL
  C - PITTSBURGH


G-A-P: 8-10-18
+/-: 6 | PIM: 25 | PP: 0

"It was part of our six-on-five play," Staal said. "I got the opportunity to stay up high. I was just there if they rimmed it. If we got a shot on net I was just supposed to creep down. Geno (Malkin) made a great shot and I had a nice pass off the pads to me.

"If it wasn't going to be me it was going to be somebody else. We had a lot of great opportunities to score goals and everybody had a couple chances to get one."

"You don't often get the opportunity to execute one of those faceoff plays and we got one tonight for a big point," Bylsma said.

No gift for Rangers -- A goal Henrik Lundqvist would like to have back proved to be too much Sunday night as Dan Cleary's tally from a bad angle sank the Rangers against the Red Wings, 3-1. It made for a disappointing end to the weekend for the Rangers, who defeated the Buffalo Sabres on the road Saturday by the same 2-1 score.

"Well ... we can say it is unfair, whatever. We just came away empty," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of losing to Detroit. "You just want to get something out of it, at least a point out of it, but we didn't. We just have to fight through it."

Lundqvist made 28 saves in the loss, but Dan Cleary's bad-angle goal with 2:03 left in the third period made the difference. Cleary took a cross-ice pass from Henrik Zetterberg, who had 2 assists in the game, and slid the puck toward the net. It ricocheted through Lundqvist's legs and into the net for the winner.

"It is a bad goal. No one feels worse about it than Hank." -- Rangers coach John Tortorella on Lundqvist letting in a bad angle shot for the game-winning goal

"I was way out to the right and just tried to hug the post," Lundqvist said of the winning goal. "I think it got stuck underneath me and then I moved and it went in. I knew I was in trouble when I really couldn't see it in front of me. It is frustrating. It is obviously a goal I need to stop."

"It is a bad goal," Tortorella said. "No one feels worse about it than Hank."

Practice makes perfect -- After contending with the Tomas Holmstrom's unmovable presence in the crease Saturday night, the New Jersey Devils' defensemen turned to a pretty impressive resource Sunday when former NHL defensemen Scott Stevens and Tommy Albelin worked with them on how to move a rock like Holmstrom and not end up in the penalty box.

"We talked a bit in the morning," goalie Martin Brodeur told Tom Gulitti of The (Bergen) Record. "Every player brings different things. I think Holmstrom is the best at it. There are not many guys that can do what he does. (They talked about) as far as the point of views of the coaches and players, goalies and defensemen, how you want to approach it.

"That's the beauty of having (Jacques Lemaire) as a coach. He sees that as it became a problem to us. We'll address it and if it happens again, we'll know how to react to it. It's not just, 'Well, not everybody is going to do it,' or, 'Who cares? We'll deal with it when it happens.' It happened and we got scored on. He created a lot of havoc for us. Teams see that it happened with him, they all watch the tapes, so we're going to have other guys doing things similar to what he's able to do. We have to know how we want to play this."
Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic