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Just Another Early Test

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
Carolina off to 4-1-2 start; will visit Wachovia Center Saturday night


Related content: Flyers-Hurricanes Preview/Game Notes


(Voorhees, NJ) – It’s been suggested that the Flyers game against the Carolina Hurricanes (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet) will be a litmus test for whether or not this Philadelphia team is “for real.”

After all, Carolina has lost just one of its first seven games in regulation, and is looking more and more like the Stanley Cup Championship squad of two years ago than the team that missed the playoffs last season.

However, it’s ridiculous to suggest the Flyers’ schedule has been a breeze so far. A 10-day road trip in Western Canada against Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver to start the year needs no further explanation. Games against division opponents like the New York Islanders, who are playing well, and New Jersey Devils, who always seem to give the Flyers fits, were certainly not walks in the park.

The Hurricanes are just another challenge along the way, said Head Coach John Stevens.

“I think it’s a real good test, but it’s not the first test,” said Stevens after practice on Friday. “I think the New Jersey Devils have been the nemesis of the Flyers for a long time, and I think we’re capable of playing a lot better than we played [Thursday], but the bottom line is we won a hockey game and shutout a tough opponent.
Sami Kapanen celebrates his third goal in as many games on Thursday night against New Jersey. (Getty Images)

“I think every game is a test for us. That’s how we looked at [Thursday] night’s game,” added Sami Kapanen. “New Jersey has been a tough team for us in the past and to get back at them was good for us.”

The Flyers will be looking to extend their winning streak to five games, while Carolina is 3-0-1 in its last four following Friday night's shootout loss in Pittsburgh. Martin Biron, expected to get the call in net for the Flyers, has posted shutouts in the last two Philadelphia victories.

Carolina is led offensively by Eric Staal (8 points) and former Flyer Justin Williams, who has 10 points in the first seven games. Cam Ward, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner from two springs ago, is 4-0-2 with a 1.97 goals-against average, and was named as one of the NHL’s Players of the Week last week.

“Overall, if you look at the goaltending, defense and forwards, they’re one of the best teams in the east. The start they are having right now shows that,” said Simon Gagne.

Danny Briere said the following:

“They seem to be back to the form after winning the Cup a couple years ago now. Last year was kind of a hiccup for them, but you could see even last year that they still had a good team. They seem to have that swagger back now and Cam Ward is playing really well in net for them.”

Briere and his line are still looking for their first goal on home ice after getting off to a torrid start on the season-opening road trip. Briere continues to lead the team in scoring with nine points (4g, 5a) while he, Gagne and Knuble are still developing their chemistry.

“We talk about things all the time about where to be, where we’re going to be in this situation, what’s going to happen, where you’re going to go. It’s going to take time,” said Briere. “What we need to do, is basically when I go in the corner I need to know where [Simon’s] going to go. I need to know what Mike is going to do, so I can think just like him. That’s what we need to work on, being able to think alike out there. It’s going to come.

“We’re not that far off. I know we’ll be ok.”

Getting that line back in the scoring column on Saturday would be a huge boost to the Flyers.

“It’s going to be the biggest test I think this year to see where we’re at,” said Gagne.

Eager Questionable for Saturday


Flyers winger Ben Eager skated with the team on Friday for the first time since leaving the game against Islanders last Saturday with dizziness after taking a hard elbow to the head. He could be back against the Hurricanes on Saturday night, according to Stevens.

“He felt much better today. He went out and skated before practice and got pushed pretty hard, and stayed out for practice and felt good. Now it’s just a matter of how he feels getting through the rest of the day. If he feels good, there’s a chance he could play,” said the head coach.

Scottie Upshall, recovering from a fractured left wrist, is still two-to-three weeks away.
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