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A Day of Firsts as Training Camp Gets Underway

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
Danny Briere shows off the Flyers' new jersey at the first day of Training Camp. (Len Redkoles)
New-look Flyers take to the ice for first time

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Simon Gagne After Practice: 700K
Martin Biron After Practice: 700K
Danny Briere After Practice: 700K

(Voorhees, NJ) – After a whirlwind summer of activity off of the ice for the Flyers, which led to Sports naming them the most improved team for 2007-08, it was finally time to see all of the new pieces to the puzzle on the ice together as Philadelphia opened training camp at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone on Friday.

Combined with the unveiling of their new look home and road jerseys, the feeling of a new era of Flyers hockey seemed to permeate the atmosphere throughout the day.

“Today was more excitement I think to have the chance to really start something,” said center Danny Briere. “It’s something new, and it’s a new challenge.”

“It’s a little bit of the unknown, what is to be expected,” said goaltender Martin Biron, taking part in his first camp with the Flyers since being acquired by the club late last season. “In the [scrimmages], in the workouts and all of that, you never really know what is going to happen so you kind of come in pretty much ready for anything.”

Veterans like Simon Gagne, who suffered through last season, seemed just as pumped to get camp underway after seeing what Holmgren did in the offseason.

“Everything that happened this summer was very exciting with what the team did,” said Simon Gagne.  “Finally, we had the chance to have our first practice.  It was fun again to be back on the ice.”

Briere and Gagne took part in an organized practice for the first time together, on a line with Mike Knuble. Other additions such as Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, Joffrey Lupul and Jason Smith also joined their new teammates for the first time.

Obviously, with all of the changes, chemistry will be a major obstacle for the team to overcome as camp progresses. Fortunately, the Flyers have a total of eight preseason games, beginning on Monday with a matchup against the New Jersey Devils at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, New Jersey.

“It’s pretty early [to have a preseason game],” said Gagne. “We have [games] Monday and Tuesday, so that is going to come early, but sometimes that is what you want.  You want to play games, and that is the best way to get ready for the season.”

Gagne is hoping is doesn’t take long for the team to come together and play as a cohesive unit.

“That’s why veterans and players that have been here for a couple of years, it’s their job to find a way to bring the guys together,” he said. “We all know the start of the season is going to be very important.  If we have the chemistry right away in the season, that is going to make a difference in the end.”

“You need to know the breakouts, attacks, and defensive zone coverage,” added Briere.  “It’s not easy to get everybody on the same page. We are going to have to cram it down the first three days.”

While it is a first time for many of the players opening camp as a Flyer, Friday also marked the first time that John Stevens was in charge from the beginning. Stevens took over the reigns as head coach of the team early in the regular season.

The plan early on over the first three days of training camp is to have organized practices with four separate squads, and then have them scrimmage one another. Of course, dryland workouts are always a staple of Stevens’ camps, as he has always emphasized strong physical fitness dating back to his days as the bench boss of the Philadelphia Phantoms.

“We are going to attack parts of our game every day.  The first part of it is teaching and getting some ideas in place,” said Stevens.

“We are just trying to get everyone on the same page here. We are trying to lay a foundation how we want to play and then in the scrimmages we just want to see some real competitive efforts.  I thought there was good intensity today.  We want to welcome the work and push through it, and then work on our fitness at the end [of the day].”
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