Voorhees, NJ – After a week off, which wasn't much of a week off at all due to the team's trip to West Point, the Flyers are ready to get back into game action on Saturday when they visit the Air Canada Centre to face the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If there were ever an atmosphere to get them thinking about competing again, this would be it, according to Head Coach Ken Hitchcock.
"It's Saturday night, it's Hockey Night in Canada and it's in Toronto," said Hitchcock, referring to the national broadcast of the game across Canada.
It will have been a full week since the Flyers defeated the New York Islanders at the Wachovia Center, 5-1, improving their record to 3-2. It was the second straight victory for the team, which was playing well when the layoff began. It will be important to get off on the right foot early in the game on Saturday for the Flyers, who are not exactly adored by the Toronto crowd after knocking them out of the playoffs the last two seasons.
"The first five minutes are going to be very important to come out strong," said Simon Gagne. "[The time off] is something we need to face, and you don't like to have early in the season. We had a good start to the season, and now we have to get that back in the first couple of shifts tomorrow."
"Our game has to be out there quickly," said Hitchcock. "Our start is going to be important because we haven't played in a long time and we're really going to have to work to get our level up right away. Our players know that. I think we expect Toronto to be really good."
During the time off, the Flyers spent three days and two nights bonding on the campus of the United States Military Academy. Some spirited military workouts along with team functions were meant to bring the team closer together, but now it is time to get back to work, according to Keith Primeau.
"What we accomplished this week [at West Point] we think will benefit us in the long term. It will go a long way to bring us some success," said Primeau. "More importantly though, we have to make sure we're prepared and focused for a difficult game tomorrow night."
One player in particular who has been affected by the time off is defenseman Derian Hatcher. The towering defenseman has had an odd schedule since training camp began. First, he was injured which caused him to miss most of camp and all but one preseason game. He then had to serve a three-game suspension that carried over from the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings. After playing in his first two games for the Flyers last weekend, scoring a goal and registering a +2 rating, he again has had to wait to get back into game action.
"Yesterday it felt like it's been a month since I played a game," said Hatcher. "In my mind, it's almost like I didn't play those two games. I'm definitely anxious to get back going."
Despite riding a two-game winning streak into the game, the Flyers will be looking to improve on their special teams play. The team is just 5-for-39 on the power play (12.8 percent) and has allowed eight goals on 34 attempts while on the penalty kill (76.4 percent).
"We've spent time in both of those areas every day," said Primeau. "If it's not on the ice, it's in the video room. I also thought that we started to play better in both of those regards in the last weekend. It was a matter of sorting some things out with the new ice surface due to the rules changes. I think we'll be on an upward trend now."
FLYERS NOTES Hitchcock announced on Thursday that Robert Esche would play in goal on Saturday. … Chris Therien is healthy and will be in the lineup on Saturday after missing the last three games with back spasms, while Dennis Seidenberg will be the healthy scratch as the seventh defenseman, according to Hitchcock.