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Flyers Face Another Tough Test

by Joe Siville / Philadelphia Flyers
Hartnell joins top Briere-Knuble line against Montreal’s potent offense

Hartnell and Knuble talk about playing together, and look ahead to Thursday's game at Montreal: FlyersTV
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(Voorhees, NJ) - The challenges keep getting tougher for the Orange and Black as the team travels north to face off against the red-hot Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).

Montreal owns one of the best records in the Eastern Conference at 6-2-3 for 15 points, and prior to a shootout loss to Atlanta on Tuesday, had won four consecutive games and has secured points in the standings in six of its last seven contests.

“We know we’re going to have a tough challenge,” remarked Flyers captain Jason Smith. “We’re going to have to play well. I think if we can do very well, execute at a high level and play hard, we can get the results we want.”
Although John Stevens is happy with his play so far, Scott Hartnell is still looking for his first goal of the season. (Getty Images)

For the most part, the Flyers have indeed been getting their desired results, especially coming off a hard-fought game in Boston, where they edged the Bruins, 2-1.  That victory put an end to two straight losses and hopefully turned the momentum back in their favor as they begin the second leg of their eight-game road trip after four days off in between games.

“Yeah, that was a battle of a game,” commented Scott Hartnell, who will be skating on the Danny Briere-Mike Knuble line while Simon Gagne is out. “It was a sixty-minute effort by everybody, everyone was chipping in, doing the little things that we needed to do to win and we just have to carry that forward, even though it’s been a few days off in between games.”

As for playing on that line with Briere and Knuble, Hartnell is looking forward to the experience and is expecting good things to happen.
“Yeah, it’s good to be up there. Danny can make the plays around the net. He’s a great player, and with Knuble and me in front of the net, I think we compliment each other pretty well,” said Hartnell. “I just wish Simon would get back as quickly as possible; he’s a big part of our lineup, but hopefully I can create some space for Danny behind the net, where he sets up some passing and puts the pucks on net.”

To the casual observer focused solely on the score sheet, you might question Head Coach John Stevens’ choice for Scott Hartnell to fill in. Even though his scoring touch of past seasons has yet to kick in, however, Hartnell brings much more to the table not only on his line, but to the team as a whole.

His play over the first 10 games of the season and his willingness to play hard-nosed hockey, getting pucks off the wall and getting out on the forecheck has not only impressed Stevens, but has been noticed by several of his teammates.

“I’m excited to play with him. He’s physical, good with the puck, has a good shot, so he’s a guy that brings a lot of energy and excitement,” said Knuble. “He had three or four great chances the other game, and over time you’re going to start scoring goals if you keep getting those chances, they have to go in.”

The Flyers are hoping that their momentum continues in Montreal, whose offense is firing on all cylinders right now and is spearheaded by the league’s best power play, which is operating at 30.2 percent, scoring a league-best 19 goals on 63 chances.

“Montreal is always a tough place to play, they have a highly skilled team and obviously their power play is a force to be reckoned with,” said Stevens. “They come out harder than any other team in the league, and the first ten minutes we’ve got to be ready to go.”

The Canadiens have tallied a goal on the man advantage in each of their last seven games, including eight goals in their last three contests. Throughout the season, the power play has had six games in which it has scored two power-play goals or more.

Although a tough building to play in, some Flyers are relishing the opportunity, and even looking forward to it.

“It’s always a great building to play in and it’s a fast rink,” said Knuble. “We’ve played awesome on the road so far, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t continue.”

“I love it. It’s a great place to play. It’s a great hockey town, they’re always loud, and it’s a great fun place to play,” said Martin Biron. “To go back up against them where I used to see them eight times a year playing with Buffalo was great, but now it’s going to make it even more special.”

Hatcher Opts for Surgery, Guenin Gets the Call

Derian Hatcher will be out for the next three-to-four weeks, following surgery on his right knee, scheduled for Thursday.

“Hatch played extremely well this year and in Boston, but his legs are just getting to the point where he has to get them looked at,” said Stevens. “I think we’re at the point now; he’s played as long as he can. The muscles, because there’s fluid in the knee, are starting to shut down, so he needs to get that looked at.”

Nate Guenin, who began the year with the Flyers, has been called upon to fill in for Hatcher.  He has a goal and an assist in seven games with the Phantoms and according to Stevens, adds an important element to the Flyers’ special teams.

“We felt like we’d give him another opportunity to play, and it gives us another right hand shot in our lineup.”
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