Voorhees, NJ – When the NHL bosses decided that every team would face its division rivals eight times apiece during the regular season, it meant that many rivalries would be renewed and even intensified. While the Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins have been on opposite ends of the Atlantic Division standings the past couple of seasons and the games not as competitive as previous years, that is all about to change.
Not only has Pittsburgh added former longtime Flyers Mark Recchi and John LeClair, but also there is another less obvious competition among former teammates that will take shape.
Flyers rookies Jeff Carter and Mike Richards and Penguins rookie and first overall draft choice of 2005 Sidney Crosby were all a part of the gold-medal winning World Junior Championship team of 2005, representing Canada. Carter registered 10 points in six games, including seven goals, which tied him for first in the tournament. Richards, the team captain, posted five points (1G, 4A) while Crosby finished with nine (6G, 3A).
All three stood out as world-class players who were ready to make an impact at the NHL level.
While it has been Crosby getting all of the attention from the national media ever since draft day (and even before), Carter and Richards have been praised as well as, being part of the next class of potential superstars, although not nearly as much as Crosby.
I kind of like flying under the radar, to be honest, said Carter. I'm not too worried about all that, because [Crosby] deserves everything that he's got so far.
He's a really good player, and a good kid off the ice, said Richards. He's really serious with hockey, and takes everything very seriously. You learn a lot of stuff from him just being around him, being on the ice and being around him in the dressing room.
One advantage that Carter and Richards have over Crosby is pro experience. Carter spent the end of the last two seasons playing with the Phantoms, while Richards came on at the end of last season as the two helped the Flyers' AHL affiliate capture the Calder Cup Championship. Carter led the league in postseason points with 23 (12G, 11A) in 21 games and Richards added 15 points (7G, 8A) in 14 games.
Crosby has yet to play a pro game on any level.
It was huge, said Carter of his time with the Phantoms. Last year, just getting to know the pro game and getting familiar with the guys was a big part of it. It just makes it so much easier to come in and get settled.
Getting a little bit of pro hockey under your belt really helps, said Richards. I think last year playing 15 games in the playoffs where it's that much faster; hopefully I can roll that experience over into this year.
They also have the benefit of being with one another every step of the way since they were both drafted by the Flyers in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
We have been going through the same things over the past couple weeks and even years, and throwing ideas around each other, said Richards. Last year, winning the Calder Cup together brings us together a little bit more, but it's nice to have a guy around who goes through similar situations as you are.
Regardless of the fact that the pair does have that extra experience, as well being two years older than Crosby, both acknowledge the fact that a friendly, yet intense, rivalry is a good bet to happen – and fairly quickly. The Penguins come to Philadelphia for the first game between the teams on October 14 as the Flyers' fourth game of the season. The teams will play one another four times before Christmas.
Richards remains close friends with Crosby and welcomes the challenge, but knows that once the puck drops, it is all about getting the "W."
I've talked to Sid a couple times over the past few months and we discussed it a little bit. It's going to be fun. I think you always look forward to playing against a guy like that, because you know what he can do.
He's obviously a great player, and our friendship is pretty good, but on the ice it's all business.For Flyers ticket information and an updated seating chart, please click here or call (215) 218-PUCK (7825).