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Focusing on Defense

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers will try and rebound from a 5-4 loss to Edmonton when they face the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. (Getty Images)

Stevens - Nov. 4
Carter/Knuble/Richards - Nov. 4

(Voorhees, NJ) – The good news is that the Philadelphia Flyers are leading the league in goals per game with 3.91, almost a half a goal more than the team in the second, the Detroit Red Wings (3.50).

The bad news? Philadelphia is tied for 27th in the league in goals allowed per game with 3.64.

It doesn’t take a Barack Obama or John McCain to figure out what the Flyers need to work on this Election Day as they advance into the heart of the regular season.

“Defense comes down to hard work,” said Mike Knuble. “When we make that commitment, we’ve shown we have no problem scoring. As a group, I think we could all look in the mirror and play better defensively.”

“Johnny [Stevens] always tells us, all of our offense comes from our defense, and that’s what we have to focus on,” added Jeff Carter, tied for second in the NHL in goals with nine. “I think even the Atlanta game (a 7-0 shutout win) and the [New York Islanders] game we won, but it was sloppy and we were making a lot of errors. It finally caught up to us against Edmonton and they buried their chances.”

Carter was referring to Philadelphia’s last game; a 5-4 loss to the Oilers at home on Saturday that snapped a four-game winning streak for the club. The Flyers are in Ottawa on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet) and host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).

According to Mike Richards, the Flyers forwards may have to be more committed to the defensive side of the game, rather than always looking to go on the attack.

“We have a lot of skilled forwards that can play defense, I just think right now we’re forcing offensive issues and not worrying enough about our defense,” he said.

Stevens liked the way the team looked in practice today, which ended with the players doing sprints and laps around the ice surface.

“I thought today might have been the best practice of the year,” he said.

“If you look at our team, we can score goals. We have a whole group of defenseman that are contributing offensively right now, we’re just giving up too many scoring opportunities and goals to win hockey games. I think if we can utilize our assets that make us a good offensive team, there’s no reason to utilize those assets to be a good defensive team and I think we have in the past.”

On Shanahan

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren spoke with the media after practice on Tuesday to discuss meeting with unrestricted free agent Brendan Shanahan on Monday.

“This was an exploratory meeting on our part and on Brendan’s part as well,” said Holmgren. “I’m not sure of the time frame. I don’t think it’s going to be a couple weeks from now before he decides. I know he wants to play and I would think by within a week to 10 days he’ll make up his mind.

“There are some holes we’d have to jump through in order to get it done, but I think if you have an opportunity to add a player of his stature it makes sense to look into it.”

Roster moves

Forwards Nate Raduns and Boyd Kane were recalled from the Phantoms in the morning and skated with the Flyers on Tuesday. Jared Ross and Steve Downie have been reassigned to the Flyers’ AHL affiliate.

“Raduns is a big guy, he skates well, and he handles pucks well in the middle of the ice,” said Stevens. “We just thought we’d give him a look on the fourth line. Same thing with Boyd Kane. He’s got a little bit more experience.

“We’ll wait and see how Nodl is. Hopefully he’s an option on Thursday.”

Nodl is day-to-day with a lower body injury and did not skate on Tuesday. Raduns has a goal and two assists for three points and 14 penalty minutes in 10 games with the Phantoms this season, while Kane has five goals and two assists for seven points and 12 penalty minutes.

Danny Briere, out since October 24 with a lower body injury, skated with the team for about 30 minutes on Tuesday wearing the red cross jersey for no contact. He is still not able to put a timetable on his return, however. … The Flyers will have five players on the All-Star ballot this year. They are: Briere, Richards, Simon Gagne, Kimmo Timonen and Martin Biron. Voting begins on November 12.
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