Voorhees, NJ – As well as the Flyers have played so far this season, the new NHL rules are proving that getting used to the "new" league is a process and teams will have to adjust quickly in order to keep up. One area in particular that Flyers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock would like to see his team improve upon is the way it handles pressure in its own zone and an aggressive forecheck, such as the one that caused the Flyers problems in Tampa Bay on Monday night.
In an afternoon practice at the Sovereign Bank Flyers Skate Zone, Hitchcock focused his attentions on better breakouts and handling a team with well-skating forwards.
"We worked a lot on breakouts under pressure and all kinds of stuff, to continue to get better," he said. "For me, from the red line, back is the area where we have to get a lot better."
The Lightning forced the Flyers into mistakes that ended up in their net in ending the team's six-game winning streak. They did so by getting the puck deep into the offensive zone and giving the Flyers little time to clear the zone, taking advantage of the crackdown by officials of holding up and impeding the offensive player who is chasing after the puck.
"If you can't hold up the forechecker anymore, they are going to come with speed at the defense the whole time, and you have to find a new way to figure stuff out," said Kim Johnsson. "You have to have strong play behind the net, and we have to do that better."
"It's not just the defense, the forwards have to come down and help out, and that's what we wanted to work on today," added Peter Forsberg. "Tampa has some good skaters and they came at us hard. We turned it over a couple times every period and they created a lot of chances. The forwards are coming quickly and you can't hold them up and the defense is getting pressured right away."
Stevenson and Kapanen Getting Closer
Turner Stevenson and Sami Kapanen both took part in Tuesday's practice, but neither was skating on a specific line. Hitchcock gave an injury update on the pair, saying that Stevenson could be cleared to play as early as Wednesday's home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We'll see how [Stevenson] feels tomorrow. He skated hard today and we'll see if he's got any lingering effects. If he doesn't, then he'll be available starting Wednesday.
"Sami has a date of November 29th for availability right now."
Road Record Falls to 2-3-1
While Philadelphia has been outstanding at home, currently riding a nine-game winning streak at the Wachovia Center after dropping the season opener, the team has not played quite as well away from its home ice.
Still, they have played just six road games and want to get into more of a groove on the road before jumping to any conclusions.
"I think by the end of November we'll know a little bit better what kind of road team we have," said Hitchcock. "When you get to play Tampa with the loudness and tenacity of the game, that's like playing five road games. You get a real good feel for how hard it's going to be. It was a playoff atmosphere and intensity and both teams played pretty hard."
"We came off a 5-0 homestand, so I think our confidence at home is really high," said Mike Knuble. "We're making it very hard for teams to play well in our building. If we're going to have some early struggles on the road, then you better be picking it up at home."
FLYERS NOTES Hitchcock announced after practice that Antero Niittymaki will face Pittsburgh on Wednesday night and Robert Esche will get the call on Friday against Atlanta. Michal Handzus did not practice, but will play on Wednesday. Mario Lemieux will not play on Wednesday. He stayed in Pittsburgh due to a stomach virus.