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Changing on the Fly

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

(Voorhees, NJ, October 24) – Simon Gagne said it almost feels like training camp all over again.

With John Stevens taking to the ice for his third practice as the head coach of the club, there seems to be a new energy and feel to the team as Stevens puts his own stamp on how the team should be run. Step one on Tuesday morning was meeting with the veteran leaders of the Flyers prior to the team's skate.

"I thought it was important to give the guys a couple of days to digest what happened and then get together," said Stevens. "We got those guys together today and let them speak first to get some feedback, and then we discussed a lot of things and a variety of topics, from scheduling right on through.

"I thought it was excellent. They were very concerned with the situation and they are ready to dig in. I thought it was a very positive meeting."

Captain Peter Forsberg agreed.

"For us to kind of start over again and with John to have his first meeting with the leaders is great," said Forsberg. "You definitely feel the energy change. We have had good practices and guys have been flying out there."

Stevens has always put an emphasis on conditioning, as evidenced by the team doing laps around the ice for the past two practices. On Tuesday, the team did laps and then headed upstairs at the practice facility for an off-ice workout with trainer Jim McCrossin.

"There's nothing wrong with skating on the ice and doing sprints. It's something to do together, and kind if brings the guys together," said Mike Knuble. "None of us wants to skate laps all the time, but it's good in the long run."

Gagne has no problems with Stevens pushing the team harder than it may be used to.

"We need to start all over again and get some skating and off-ice workouts in. I think we need it and it's going to be good for us at the end of games when you need your legs a little bit," he said.

Stevens has also shuffled the lines, including putting rookie Stefan Ruzicka with Forsberg and Gagne, and shifting Knuble to a line with Jeff Carter and Randy Robitaille. He likes what he has seen from those two trios over the last two days of practice and will probably keep them together for the next game on Thursday night against the Atlanta Thrashers as the Flyers begin a five-game homestand (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 610 WIP).

"Those are the two real changes that we made just to have a look at it and so far we like what we see," said Stevens.

The Flyers also made a roster move prior to Tuesday's practice. Nolan Baumgartner, who cleared waivers last week, was assigned to the Phantoms while rookie left wing Triston Grant joined the club.

"He's a big, physical guy, and if you get a chance to meet him, he's got a great personality," said Stevens. "If he's walking out of the building with three guys, they are usually all in stitches. He just seems like the life of the party, which is great for that kind of player. He's a physical player and can skate, shoot the puck and can bring real energy to your lineup."

While it is up in the air on whether or not Grant will play on Thursday, another rookie who could be making his NHL debut is defenseman Lars Jonsson, who impressed during training camp.

Jonsson would likely be counted on to improve the power play, which is 4-for-55 through the first eight games.

"That is probably the best part of his game," said Stevens about Jonsson. "He can move laterally, he can make plays, he's got a cannon for a shot, he sees the ice very well and he has the confidence to play on the power play. He wants to be the guy in that situation and wants to be the guy making plays and would be a welcome addition."

Jonsson is excited to get back on the ice to make his debut. He has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain.

"I never had a doubt really that I was going to get [to the NHL]. Now I'm here and hopefully I'll get a chance to play for the Flyers," said Jonsson. "That's all that matters."
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