Voorhees, NJ – As up-and-down a group as the Flyers have been for most of the second half of the season, there is one pattern that is evident. The team responds well to losses, and will have to do exactly that in order to force a Game Seven in its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Buffalo Sabres.
The Flyers lost Game Five in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon, 3-0, with Game Six set for Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., CSN). The Sabres lead the best-of-seven series, three-games-to-two.
"The only thing you know about this team right now is since January we have always responded to losing in a really intense fashion," said Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. "It's been the response to winning that's been the problem. I'm not sure why. That's probably for a discussion in July or August, but that's been the M.O. of the team for about three months now.
"It's down to two games now and we're hoping that we throw our best game at them [Tuesday]."
Goaltender Robert Esche, who has been solid in net throughout the series, is confident that his teammates will come out again strong on Tuesday.
"The professionalism of this team has shown through all season long that it can [respond] after bad performances and going out the next game and play well," said Esche. "We will be better. We don't have a choice."
Something that would surely help would be scoring the first goal. Buffalo has opened the scoring in each game of the series, all within the first 6:05 of the first period. Philadelphia managed to erase those leads in two of the five games, but that is not something they want to have to do in order to stay alive.
"All of us would enjoy playing with the lead and winning the right way without having to chase the whole time and play with the lead," said Mike Knuble. "It's a work in progress here and that's the way our season has gone.
"We've been fortunate to come back and stay close in the games and pass them a couple times. But, the odds aren't in your favor if you keep starting slow like that and surrendering the first goal. We'd love to get out and get a quick start with the first goal and get our building on our side and make it extremely difficult for them to come back."
Another aspect that would help Philadelphia would be to not have to rely on Peter Forsberg and his linemates, Knuble and Simon Gagne, for all of the scoring. That trio has eight of the 13 Flyers' goals in the series.
Hitchcock was asked on Monday if it's fair to say that the team is virtually a one-man show at the moment.
"I don't like it, but I think it's fair. That's something I would like to see change," said Hitchcock. "I would like to see people step forward when Peter is not having his A-game.
"We're not a one-trick pony, and we've shown that all year. Sometimes we have a tendency to rely on him too much and that's something we don't want to see."
Still, the Flyers plan on keeping the home-ice advantage that the teams have employed in each game of the series thus far.
"We need to keep up the routine here and win at our place and then change up the pace and win in Buffalo," said R.J. Umberger.
FLYERS NOTES Keith Primeau practiced with the team on Monday. … Ben Eager skated on a line with Umberger and Jeff Carter in place of Niko Dimitrakos. … Season ticket holders are reminded to use their ticket labeled "Round 1, Home Game 3, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals." … In addition to Comcast SportsNet, the game can be seen on OLN, MSG and TSN.