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Familiar Territory

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
John Stevens maps out a drill during the Flyers' practice at Mellon Arena on Saturday afternoon. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Pittsburgh, PA) – The Philadelphia Flyers have been here before.

After losing Game 1 against Washington in the first round at the Verizon Center, and doing the same thing when facing Montreal in the second round at the Bell Centre, the Flyers were able to respond in Game 2 and earn a split on the way back to games three and four at the Wachovia Center. It’s a pattern they would certainly like to see continue when they meet the Pittsburgh Penguins again at Mellon Arena on Sunday night (7:30 p.m., Versus).

“We know what it’s like to come in on the road, lose the first one, and really have to take this day to regroup and look at the [previous] game,” said Scottie Upshall, after a full-team practice on Saturday afternoon. “For us, there’s no panic. That’s the last thing we’re going to do. The guys in here know what it takes to win.”

Upshall and his teammates also got a chuckle out of some of the Pittsburgh newspaper clips on Saturday morning. One headline in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette read, “Is it too late to pick the Penguins in three games?”

“You read some of the clips in the papers about the team beating us in three games, and you just have to laugh,” said Upshall. “There’s no question we have what it takes to come in here and win the game tomorrow.”
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Stevens was also asked about the notion of many in the local media here that the Flyers don’t have a snowball’s chance in this series.

“Everyone's entitled to their opinion. I'm sure there's a lot of optimism here. Why wouldn't there be?  They're 9 1 in the playoffs and they're rolling along pretty good. So it's up to us to create the adversity for them.

“I was more upset that the monkey [on TSN] didn't pick us,” he joked, referring to the Canadian television network which uses a chimpanzee to pick its winners in the playoffs.

Despite their proven ability to bounce back, John Stevens would like to see some improvements heading into Sunday’s game. That’s the reason why he decided to get the whole team out on the ice on Saturday rather than make the skate an optional one as he had been doing for most of the non-gamedays so far.

“We're going to have to play better,” said the head coach. “If we played our best and lost, then you move on and get ready for the next one. But if you don't play your best, you've got to get reorganized. That was the reason we practiced today.”

Stevens also made one apparent change to the lineup, inserting Steve Downie on the fourth line with Jim Dowd and Sami Kapanen.
“He brings good things to our team. He's got a heavy stick; he wins a lot of puck battles. He's a guy that's come in and played well." - John Stevens on Steve Downie

“He brings good things to our team,” said Stevens of the rookie forward. “He's got a heavy stick; he wins a lot of puck battles. He's a guy that's come in and played well. I think our fourth line has done a good job, and I think Steve's been a part of that mix there and has had the ability to come in and be a big player. He's a big game player.”

In particular, Stevens would like to see the Flyers improve their puck support and getting in on the forecheck. That would lead to a more physical game, something that Downie is obviously well-known for.

“Our five man support was not very good. We passed into coverage and got caught up in that three quarter ice game,” explained Stevens. “We only got pucks as far as the red line or as far as the far blue line, and that's a game that favors them, and that's a game that we've been good at as of late.

“We didn't spend near enough time in the offensive zone last night because of it. And we spent too much time on our own end because of it, and that needs to change.”

Mike Richards, the Flyers’ best player in Game 1 with two goals and several hard hits, would also like to see the physical play pick up.

“Once we start playing more of our style of game, staying closer together, closer support, we're going to be able to get in on the forecheck a lot better, and therefore create more hits. 

“Last night was a rough game, but I think we ran out of position for hits a little bit too many times which opened up plays for them, and their skill players took advantage of it.”

Forward Ryan Potulny, defenseman Nate Guenin and goaltender Scott Munroe were recalled from the Phantoms, who were eliminated by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in five games in the second round of the AHL playoffs on Friday night. Potulny and Guenin arrived in time for Saturday’s practice. … Derian Hatcher was given the day off.
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