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Animosity Arrives Early

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
(Voorhees, NJ) – After a Game 1 in which the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens felt each other out, as both were coming off of Game 7 wins in the first round, Saturday’s contest featured the always entertaining facet of playoff hockey that was missing Thursday – nastiness.

Throughout the contest, there were late hits after whistles, battles along the boards that continued after the puck was frozen, and pushing and shoving around the goal creases. A cheap, blindsided punch from behind by Montreal’s Tom Kostopoulos on Kimmo Timonen after R.J. Umberger put the game away in the third period also left an impression on the Flyers as they met on Sunday afternoon at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone.

Game 3 is on Monday night at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., Versus).

“It will get nastier, for sure,” said Joffrey Lupul. “I don’t know if it’s because of that hit, but the more you play a team the more you really start to dislike them. That comes in every series.
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“Now we’ve played them a couple games, got to know some of their players and that dislike is really creeping in both teams. You can see it.”

John Stevens, who made his displeasure with the Kostopoulos hit known in his post-Game 2 press conference, also felt the tension building in Saturday’s Flyers win.

“I think the emotional level of the series got ratcheted up [Saturday],” he said. “As you play a team more and more, you run into each other a lot and emotions start to run high. That’s not uncommon in a playoff series. There’s a lot at stake for both teams and I would expect that to rise as we continue to move along.”

The important thing is that the Flyers stay on their game and stay focused, said Mike Richards.

“Obviously we don’t take too lightly the gutless play on Kimmo, but it’s just something that happens,” said Richards. “We can’t get off our game and we have to keep going at them.”

Several of the players commented that although the team is happy with a split of the two games in Montreal, they can play much better. The Flyers expect the Canadiens to continue to elevate their level of play, including their goaltender, Carey Price, who was decidedly average on Saturday.

“I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey yet. Hopefully coming home will give us a little more energy and we’ll start playing the physical style of play we were playing in the first series,” said Richards. “We’ve been getting better a little bit throughout games, but it’s still not at the point where we want it to be or we’re going to need to be to have success.”

“We are extremely happy coming home with a split in Montreal, but I think we’re going to have to play a lot better to have success in the series,” added Stevens. “I think we all feel that way.”

Coming home with a series tied at one game apiece is familiar territory for the Flyers, having gone through almost the exact same scenario with the Capitals in the first round. Philadelphia lost Game 1 in heartbreaking fashion against Washington, and rebounded with a Game 2 win led largely by their goaltender, Martin Biron.

Biron thinks that coming home to a rocking Wachovia Center crowd may be just what the team needs once again.

“Hearing people talking about the game last night and what it’s going to be like tomorrow night with our fans and the atmosphere in the building…I think we fed off of that in the first series against Washington and that’s what we have to keep doing,” said Biron. “We have to feed off the energy in the building and being at home. We did what we had to do in Montreal, and now we have to take care of business here.”

Biron also had a chance to reflect on Sunday about his Game 2 performance, and his playoff run so far.

“You always say as a goalie, you want to give your team a chance to win and keep your team in the game, and you have to steal one or two here and there,” he said. “That’s what I’m setting out to do, and I’ve been able to accomplish that.

“But, it’s far from being where we want to be. It’s two games into the second round, and there’s a lot more hockey to be played, and I hope there’s more for me to be doing out there to get to where we want.”

Knuble update

Flyers winger Mike Knuble, out since Game 5 of the first round with a hamstring injury, continued to skate on his own on Sunday. He ruled himself out for Game 3 on Monday, but said that Game 4 on Wednesday is not out of the question.

“I skated for the first time on Friday and felt so-so. I went out there yesterday and it was a lot better, and a marked difference. [Monday] is too early, but Wednesday could be questionable, and for sure, after that,” he said.

Knuble, who scored the game-winning goal in double overtime in Game 4 against Washington, made the trip with the team to Montreal and is itching to return.

“I’m really happy with the way we’ve played. To get caught up in the excitement is a real good motivator to help get you back and work harder to get back in and make sure you’re doing your rehab,” he said.

In five playoff games, Knuble has three goals and two assists.
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