-- The Blackhawks don't play in Philadelphia very often, but a couple of Chicago players are quite familiar with a Wachovia Center playoff crowd.Patrick Sharp
and Ben Eager were key parts of the 2005 Philadelphia Phantoms team that closed its Calder Cup playoff run by finishing a four-game sweep of the Chicago Wolves in front of an AHL playoff-record crowd of 20,103 at the Wachovia Center (then called the First Union Center).
Sharp finished second on that team with 23 goals and third with 52 points, then was second on the team in the postseason with 21 points in 21 games. Eager was third on the team with 232 penalty minutes, but he also chipped in with 17 points. He had 2 points and 71 penalty minutes 17 games during the playoffs.
Both players were on the receiving end of a very vocal throng that was hockey-starved during the year-long NHL labor unrest. Most of the Phantoms' games were played on the other side of the South Philadelphia sports complex at the Spectrum. With discount tickets, a number of popular old-time Flyers involved in the team and a rough-and-tumble style reminiscent of the Broad Street Bullies-era Flyers -- the 2005 championship team saw three players finish with more than 200 penalty minutes -- the Phantoms were one of the AHL's leading attendance draws.
And with the Wachovia Center lying mostly dormant, the Phantoms packed the house to capacity during the playoffs, and a hockey-mad region relished in the championship run.
"The crowd was awesome," Sharp said Tuesday. "The 'Orange Crush' comes out. The fans are very knowledgeable, and they also let the home team know if they're not playing well, if they're not happy with the way they're playing."
Sharp didn't get much of a chance to build off his bond with the local fans. After riding the NHL/AHL shuttle for three seasons, he was traded to the Blackhawks on Dec. 5, 2005. The Flyers got Matt Ellison and a 2006 third-round draft pick, while Sharp has become a consistent 20-goal scorer in his four seasons with the Blackhawks.
That season also saw Sharp serve as a mentor for a pair of rookies who joined the '05 team just before the playoff run started -- centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Carter went on to lead the AHL in playoff scoring with 23 points in 21 games, while Richards had 15 points in 14 games after arriving injured.
"They were highly touted coming in as rookies, they joined us during the playoffs in the American League and were a big part of that championship-winning team," said Sharp. "They're great players and their careers have really taken off since then. It's nice to see what they're able to do. Hopefully we can stop them for a couple more games."
Eager was up and down between the Flyers and Phantoms for two more seasons, and then was traded to the Blackhawks on Dec. 18, 2007, for defenseman Jim Vandermeer.
When they show up for Game 3 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS), however, they'll be on the opposite side of that love and affection.
"It's going to be loud," said Sharp. "They're going to be all over us and they're going to be supporting their team. I think we're all looking forward to that. … It's going to be a fun atmosphere for everybody. We want to make sure as a team we come out and quiet them as best we can."
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Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer