-- It's not often that a four-day break comes up on the calendar at this point in the season, but Flyers coach Peter Laviolette
wanted to take advantage of it.
After giving his players off Sunday, he spent the next three days putting them through high-speed, up-tempo practices, with heavy emphasis on conditioning drills, and also pushed them hard off the ice.
"You always expect the worst," forward Jody Shelley
told NHL.com following Thursday's morning practice here at Wells Fargo Center. "I think those expectations were met. It was a tough week."
Part of the reasoning for the hard practices was a chance for Laviolette to bring up his team's level of conditioning.
"We've let it slack a little bit," captain Mike Richards
said. "We've had a lot of days off, and when you have that you get complacent with some things on the ice. Couple good practices kind of tweaked that a little bit and whipped you into shape pretty easily."
Another of Laviolette's reasons was to correct some slippage in his team's play he had seen, especially in the previous three games. The Flyers are 1-1-1 in their last three, but they've been outscored 6-1 in the third period of those games. They blew third-period leads in two of them -- they led 1-0 entering the third Feb. 22 against the Coyotes in what ended as a 3-2 overtime loss, and they gave away a 3-1 third-period lead Feb. 24 against the Islanders, only to survive 4-3 in overtime. They didn't blow a lead Feb. 26 against Ottawa, but that's only because after scoring the game's first goal at the end of the first period, they allowed the next four in what ended as a 4-1 defeat.
"I think we weren't playing in the month of February to our capabilities," Laviolette said. "This is not a punishment thing because regardless of results tonight or two nights from now we're going to continue to push. It's more about the month of March being a time to prepare ourselves to play for possibly close to four more months."
The players knew a few hard days of practice were coming, and some even saw the need for it.
"I think we were just trying to raise the intensity in practice and maybe be able to bring that in the games," All-Star forward Claude Giroux
told NHL.com. "We had three good practices and some good (off-ice) workouts and I think hopefully it can get us going and start playing the way we were playing before."
"I think we needed it," Shelley added. "When you look back at it after the first hard practice, we felt we needed this. Just kind of resetting everything and getting the mindset right and getting our competitive level up. All those things need to be addressed. You can talk about them, you can draw them out, you can say we're going to work harder. But until you get in a setting where we're competing with each other, you realize how hard you can work."
The question going forward is will all the hard work pay off in improved play?
"It's hard to say, but I'm going to let you know next week how it is," Giroux said. "It's not really for a short run, its more for the long run, more for the playoffs. Maybe it's a good time to get the legs going. At the end of the day I don't think working hard is going to hurt you."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK