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Day of Rest before Defending Champs Arrive

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
Updated Feb. 2, 2008 10:55 AM EST

Flyers host Anaheim tonight

Related content: Flyers-Ducks Preview/Game Notes

(Voorhees, NJ) – John Stevens, admittedly, does not like giving his players a day off.

“But, I am not so stubborn that I can’t listen to reason, either,” said the head coach after keeping his team off of the ice on Friday.

“Going out there today and skating for 45 [minutes] to an hour and doing some battle drills would have probably done nothing for us,” added Scott Hartnell. “I think it was a good move.”

The Flyers, who had been red-hot of late, are coming off of a poor showing on Thursday when they were shutout by the New York Rangers at the Wachovia Center, 4-0. Stevens thought that although the team came out of the gate strong for the first 10 minutes of the game, it looked sluggish for the remainder.

Rather than get right back on the ice, the coach decided to instead have a short meeting with the team after it assembled at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone.
Mike Knuble and the Flyers will face the defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night. (Getty Images)

“It didn’t seem like we had the legs we needed as the game wore on yesterday, so I think we needed a day of rest,” he said. “Sometimes players don’t always know what they need, they know what they want. Sometimes you have to, as a coach, kind of filter through and decide what they need. 

"In this case, we felt like we needed rest.”

The break could come in handy as the defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks make their first and only visit to the Wachovia Center on Saturday night (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Currently the Ducks are tied in fifth in the Western Conference, and have lost five straight games including a 1-0 shootout loss in St. Louis on Friday. The current losing streak was preceded by a six-game winning streak.

Teemu Selanne, who just returned to the Ducks, is not likely to play in the game as he continues to get back into game shape. Another recent returnee, defenseman Scott Niedermayer, makes Anaheim a formidable opponent losing streak or not.

“They are one of the most exciting teams I think in the NHL every year, so it’s going to be a battle,” said Hartnell.

“They are the Stanley Cup champs, and they have a lot of the same cast of characters that were there last year that won,” added Stevens. “They are one of the favorites in the West, so it’s certainly a big game for us against a really good opponent.  We are going to measure up and see where we are at against a Stanley Cup contender.”

One facet of this year’s Flyers is that after a bad outing they have been able to rebound with a strong effort the next night out. To take the most recent example, Philadelphia defeated a previously hot Pittsburgh Penguins club on January 24 after dropping a 7-3 decision to the New Jersey Devils two days earlier.

Overall, the Flyers are 12-5-2 after a loss of any kind.

“As a group if have a bad game, we want to make sure we rebound,” said Mike Knuble. “It does not get any easier against Anaheim. They are defending Cup Champions so it will be a great test for us to see how we do rebound.”

“This team has had the ability to bounce back before,” said Stevens. “They are self-motivated guys that hold themselves accountable, and I’m confident they’ll bounce back [Saturday].”

The Ducks and Flyers play similar styles. Last season, on their way to the league championship, Anaheim led the NHL in penalty minutes with 17.8 per game. This season’s Philadelphia club is doing the same in 2007-08 with 19.0 penalty minutes per game while Anaheim is second with 18.2.

So, did Paul Holmgren take a page out of his good friend Anaheim GM Brian Burke’s book when he was building the Flyers?

“I think the team that wins is the flavor of the year and that everybody thinks they are on to something,” said Knuble. “Maybe Paul has taken a little bit of that. Is it skilled teams, is it a little mix of each, [or] is it the bigger stronger team?  I think every GM probably takes a look at their roster and tries to pick off bits and pieces that they need to add to their respective team.”

Because of that added component, there’s good reason to expect a hard-hitting, emotional and entertaining game in South Philadelphia between two teams that rarely see one another.
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