Team Welcomes a Return to Home Ice Flyers look to remain perfect in upcoming homestand
It’s pretty much safe to say that the Flyers are more than happy to be making the trip back home. Not primarily for the fact that they went 3-5-0, but after a 16-day, eight-game road trek, that stretched from Miami to Montreal, the team returns to the Wachovia Center where they own a perfect 4-0-0 record.
“Well, we’re obviously excited,” commented Jason Smith. “It’s been a long stretch away without having a home game, so we want to come out and play well. “The atmosphere has been great at home so far this year and we’re still in pretty good shape if we get good results here.”
The first test for the Flyers is a familiar one, division rival the Pittsburgh Penguins, who the squad battled and defeated, 3-1, on Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
With a high-powered offense, featuring Sidney Crosby, who ranks second in the league with 24 points and 15 assists and teammate Evgeni Malkin, who leads the NHL with 16 assists in as many games, the Flyers are expecting their in-state rival to be looking for a little revenge coming off of Wednesday’s loss.
“I think they’re going to come out harder than they did at home,” continued the Flyers captain. “We came out and worked really hard and executed really well all game long and I think when we come out and play that way, we’ll give ourselves a great chance to win games.”
There is certainly no problem with winning games at home with this team. In addition to sweeping their four-game homestand in October, the Flyers outscored the opponent 14 to 3 behind spectacular performances from Martin Biron, who boasts a 0.75 goals-against average and a .979 save percentage in four home games, including back-to-back shutouts against Atlanta and New Jersey.
Although the team is returning home, where they are clearly comfortable, the squad can’t ignore the fact that they are coming off of one day’s rest from back-to-back games and playing their fourth game in the last six days. A situation Head Coach John Stevens is well aware of and made sure to point out at the team’s morning skate.
“I think when you come off the road and you are home, it’s almost like a sigh,” said Stevens. “We’re home now finally, but you can’t relax because the team coming in here isn’t going to relax. It’s certainly not a conscious decision, subconsciously because you are home, back in your surroundings, you almost have this false sense that it’s going to be easier and it’s not and that’s what you have to guard against.”
Even after spending the 11 of the first 15 games of the season on the road, the team still sits in first place in the Atlantic Division with a 9-6-0 record and 18 points.
“For us, it’s important how we are playing,” continued Stevens. “We certainly had some stretches where we played extremely well and then we’ve had some stretches where we haven’t been happy with the way we’ve played. I think we’ve had the ability to bounce back and now it’s really important what we do in these home games moving forward. We really need to bear down and continue to get points.”
Gagne suffers setback
After returning to the lineup for two games, Simon Gagne missed Thursday’s contest at New Jersey due to reoccurrences of his symptoms of dizziness and is expected to be out of the lineup for the next few days.
“I saw the doctor this morning,” said Gagne. “There’s nothing different going on. He doesn’t think that I got worse. He asked me some questions on how I felt in New York and Pittsburgh. From a standpoint now, I’m going to be taking it easy for the next couple of days and go a day at a time.”
Gagne averaged over 17 minutes per game against the Rangers on Monday night, where he recorded five shots on net, and again on Wednesday at Pittsburgh, however failed to register a shot in that contest, which is where he started noticing some symptoms.
“After the game [in Pittsburgh] something was wrong,” added Gagne. “I was not the same as when I finished the game in New York and I was not the same before this game [New Jersey]. Something happened, I don’t know if it was the hit from [Gary] Roberts in the second period or if it was something else.”
“Just talking with Jimmy [McCrossin, the team’s athletic trainer] and the doctor [Gary Dorshimer], they didn’t feel it was as bad as last time,” stated club General Manager Paul Holmgren.” There are some other things we’re checking out, dehydration, stuff like that which would make him more fatigued, or at least we’ll find out if that’s what’s making him fatigued. Right now, it’s just a day-to-day thing and we’ll continue to monitor his progress.”