Voorhees, NJ – As the number of days in training camp dwindles, so does the number of players with a locker at the Flyers' training facility.
On Monday, Flyers General Manager Bob Clarke announced that forward Mark Cullen had been placed on waivers, while forwards Riley Cote and Boyd Kane would be among the final 14 forwards that begin the season with the club on Thursday in Pittsburgh for the first game of the 40th year.
"We put [Mark] Cullen on waivers today. He was the only one, though," said Clarke. "We'll start with Kane and Cote and we'll have 14 forwards. If [Denis] Gauthier is healthy, and we assume he is but we haven't gotten the reports back yet, we'll have seven defensemen and two goalies."
Gauthier is recovering from an upper body injury suffered on Friday in Washington, while defenseman Lars Jonsson has a high right ankle sprain.
It would be hard to find someone as thrilled as Cote, who did not yet know in the morning after the team's hour-long practice that he had made the club. The 6-2, 216 pound left wing is entering his fourth professional season, having worked his way up from the Central Hockey League where he began his career in 2002. He played the last two seasons with the Phantoms.
"It would mean the world to me," said Cote after the skate. "It is obviously every guy's dream growing up to make the NHL and be on an NHL roster. It's been my dream through all the ups and downs of my career. I couldn't have any better news.
"It definitely hasn't been an easy road for me. The way I was brought up was just to keep your head up and keep working hard and things fall where they may. I was a first year pro in the Central Hockey League and just gradually chipped away. Two years with the Phantoms, and we won a Calder Cup, and I'm still chipping away. Hopefully I stick around here until the end."
Cote played in three preseason games for the Flyers, accumulating seven penalty minutes and one fight in New Jersey. Hitchcock was pleased with what he saw from the 24-year-old.
"We played him in the games to see if he could keep up tempo-wise and from a thinking standpoint and he did it and did it really well. He's really accountable," said Hitchcock. "We know how tough he is and how physical he is, and he gives us a different element. He adds something to our team when he's on the ice."
That being said, Hitchcock will still have to scratch certain players for the opening night lineup. Who ends up on the ice and who doesn't will depend on several factors.
"We know there's going to be some fast, quick games and we know there's going to be some really physical games. We feel like we have to have some flexibility with our lineup depending on how we want to play," said Hitchcock. "Riley gives us some flexibility and so does [Boyd] Kane. They give us an element that at the start of camp was not part of our group. Both guys give us something unique."
Team Chemistry a Work in Progress
The Flyers returned on Sunday from their two-day excursion in Annapolis, Maryland, that was aimed at building team chemistry.
Peter Forsberg said that despite the team finishing with just a 1-5-1 record in the preseason, the chemistry of the club should not come into question.
"We have great guys and good chemistry, but I think it takes awhile to build it up," said Forsberg. "That's what we have to do throughout the year. You go through stretches that you have to help each other out, and that's how you build and that's how you become better. It doesn't take one day to build a great team; it takes awhile. We just have to keep on building."
Flyers Athletic Trainer/Strength and Conditioning Coach Jim McCrossin gave an injury update following Monday's practice.
"[Jonsson] is going to have his cast removed and will start his rehab tomorrow. We'll know tomorrow for sure how long he will be out for.
"Antero [Niittymaki] will be coming back onto the ice tomorrow. We'll start at 9:00 am with Reggie Lemelin and will go out prior to the team and get a warm-up in before he participates in the full practice."
McCrossin also said that Petr Nedved, who missed practice with a sore back, should be back skating on Tuesday, and that Gauthier will participate in non-contact drills with the club also on Tuesday. Gauthier could still return in time for the first game of the season on Thursday.
Leadership Group Announced
Ken Hitchcock's leadership group, which has become a staple during his tenure here, was announced to the local media following practice. Those players in the group include Forsberg, Simon Gagne, Mike Knuble, Sami Kapanen, Derian Hatcher, Mike Rathje and Mike Richards.