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Men in the Mirror

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers


Voorhees, NJ – Derian Hatcher knows it may sound simple, but that doesn't change his thought process as the Flyers prepare for two key division games this week against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday and New York Rangers on Wednesday.

"It's definitely a good test but the way we've been approaching these last few games, and I know this is cliché, but more than anything we're worried about what we're going to do," said Hatcher. "I feel our game is going in the right direction and we're trying to keep it going in the right direction and that's really what we're focusing on."

"We have to look out for number one," added Denis Gauthier. "All we care about is getting two points and getting that first spot in our division which would guarantee us a top three seed in the conference."

The Flyers took some steps forward in their last three games, winning two of them, and were happy with their effort in each contest. That includes the 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay as some questionable calls from the referees aided the Lightning.

"Our whole focus right now is we don't want to waste the effort that we've had the last three games," said Ken Hitchcock. "We want to build on what we've done. There are a lot of areas in our game right now that have really picked up and we want to keep going and building."

Despite the fact that the Flyers have one more win on the road than they do at home after 34 games of each, Hitchcock thinks that home ice advantage in the playoffs is paramount.

"I really believe that it is a different story in the playoffs. I think home ice advantage ends up, over the course of a playoff run, being huge," said Hitchcock. "I think it's that little edge you can build on.

"When you're playing a team in a best-of-seven series, it's one of the things you talk about. You always talk in terms of spending seven months getting this little advantage, and now we've got to use it. So, you use that as a tool all the time and as a mechanism to have your players understand that you worked hard to get it."

Philadelphia should have as complete a lineup as it has had in quite awhile when they host the Devils at the Wachovia Center on Tuesday night (7:00 p.m., CSN). Peter Forsberg's knee sprain is apparently healed, as the center took part in the full practice on Monday. He missed Saturday's game in Atlanta.

"It was very stiff [Saturday] but it's definitely much better today and I should be okay for tomorrow," said Forsberg.

Michal Handzus, who played Friday in Tampa but missed Saturday's game, is also good to go. Handzus is nursing a shoulder injury but is playing through it, and Hitchcock was pleased with what he saw in practice on Monday.

"His first game [back] he came through well and felt even stronger [Monday]," said Hitchcock. "I saw him doing battling things that he didn't do until he played the game in Tampa. That's a real good sign."

Forsberg thinks that the week away from home also helped the team bond as it prepares for the final 14 games of the regular season.

"It's been a busy schedule all year and we've barely had a day off on the road, so I think it was great for us to have a day down there in Florida to relax and have some fun," he said.

Hitchcock agreed that the time together helped bring his team closer and that there have been visible results.

"With all of the changes, there are times that the team goes quiet. It's not that they don't want to win, but you have to know the person sitting next to you and have gone through some of the tough times with him to know you can trust him. That's why spending quality time together with each other does nothing but good for your hockey club, provided it gets along. And our team gets along great together. That's why you're seeing our energy come back."

FLYERS NOTES
Sami Kapanen missed practice on Monday with the flu, but should be fine to play on Tuesday. … Antero Niittymaki will start in net against the Devils.
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