(Voorhees, NJ, April 4) – While many players have come and gone from the 2006-07 Flyers lineup, there has been one constant through all of the transition: defenseman Derian Hatcher, who will play in his 80th game Thursday, 81st on Saturday and 82nd on Sunday barring any unforeseen injury.
It is the game on Saturday that is the most significant, though, as that will be the 1,000th tilt in the National Hockey League for Philadelphia's best and most steady blueliner this season.
"With the number of players that have come in and out of our lineup and the amount of injuries we've had, he has played every game," stated Stevens. "He's not always 100 percent when he plays, but he still has that mental toughness and the desire to be in all of the time and in practice all the time."
Hatcher hasn't given it much thought, but he still realizes that reaching that number is quite an accomplishment.
"I guess it is now that it's come upon," said Hatcher after being asked if it is a milestone that he takes pride in. "It's not something that you think about when you're sitting there with 500 or 800 games, or not even at the beginning of the season. Now, coming up on it, it's definitely something that I think about."
Despite what is sometimes unfair treatment from the media and some fans, Hatcher has clearly been a steadying, positive veteran presence for the club's young corps of defenseman. He is also arguably the team's most valuable penalty killer; one of the strong points of the club in an otherwise disappointing season.
"He's been a valuable guy for us on and off the ice. You can't argue with his competitiveness and what he brings to our hockey team," said Stevens.
While Hatcher is aiming for his 1,000th game, another Flyer will be trying to reach an objective of his own, as Simon Gagne attempts to become a 40-goal scorer for the second time in as many seasons. Gagne has 38 so far in 73 games.
"I would like to reach 40 goals, especially at home," said Gagne. "It's possible for me to reach this year and I would like to do it. If it doesn't happen, it's not a big deal, it'll happen next year."
Gagne may not be playing at 100 percent at the moment, though, as he will need surgery in his abdominal area following the season.
Devils' Coaching Move Surprises Stevens
The New Jersey Devils shocked the NHL world this week when they replaced Head Coach Claude Julien with the team's general manager, Lou Lamoriello, for the remainder of the season.
Stevens was asked what he thought about the move as New Jersey continues to hold onto first place in the Atlantic Division.
"I think everyone was surprised it happened this late in the season. As another coach, you certainly feel for Claude [Julien]," said Stevens. "It's hard to argue with Lou [Lamoriello's] success. I don't think I'm qualified to, because he has three Cups in 10 years, so obviously he knows what he's doing."
The Flyers host New Jersey on Thursday at the Wachovia Center and will try to finish strong as their season ends with three straight home games.
"We have three home games that we believe we can win and really carry some stride into the summer and into next season. It's important to us," said Scottie Upshall.
"People say that these games don't mean anything to us, but they mean a lot, in terms of getting us together as a group. Most of these guys are going to be back next year, like all of the younger guys. Most of the veteran players will be back. We have to be good as a group. It is going to be important for us to be serious and come out and win these games."