Voorhees, NJ – Much has changed since the Game Six overtime period when the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs from the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Both teams have added several new components to their clubs, and sent others packing. Gone are Jeremy Roenick and Toronto's Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts; here, are Peter Forsberg and Eric Lindros. Despite the player changes, however, both teams are expected to once again battle for the Eastern Conference title.
"Any time that Philadelphia and Toronto [play], it's a great rivalry," said Ken Hitchcock. "I think you have to play some hockey and go into each team's building to understand the rivalry. We've got half of our club that doesn't even know."
Forsberg has played in Toronto before, but never with a team that is considered a major rival of the Maple Leafs.
"We only went there once a year with Colorado, and they never came to Denver at all so I didn't get to see them a whole lot," he said. "But, it is a hockey town out there and a tough atmosphere to play in. It's a tough team and it's going to be crazy out there [Tuesday]."
The new players to the rivalry will get to know quickly just what it is like, as the Flyers prepare for the first of two visits to the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The teams have a rematch set in the same place just a week and a half later on October 22.
While the Toronto-Philadelphia rivalry has always been heated, the new wrinkle to the feud is a certain 6'4'', 235-pound center that spent his first eight seasons wearing the orange and black. Lindros signed with the Maple Leafs over the summer after spending the last three years with the New York Rangers.
It has been a long time since Lindros was left injured and laying on the ice on a hit by New Jersey's Scott Stevens in his final game as a Flyer in Game Seven of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, and the players remaining from that team do not pay much attention to the hoopla surrounding him when he plays against Philadelphia.
"I don't think there was a rivalry with Eric. It was more with the fans that all built it up," said Eric Desjardins. "When we go and play on the road, you have to approach him like another good player. For us, it's just playing against another guy. I think when he comes and plays here; it's tough for him to play in front of what were his fans before. But for us, it's another game."
"Not only is it four years, but it's another new team involved," said Keith Primeau of Lindros. "He's moved. He's closed that chapter, as have we on this end. So, now he's just a member of the opposition we have to play."
Lindros has impressed Hitchcock through the first two games of the season, and will be a main focus of the Flyers, especially with captain Mats Sundin sidelined for the next four to six weeks with a broken orbital bone.
"I've watched Eric play the first two games, and he's played really well," said Hitchcock. "I think he's been the main star both games for Toronto, and he's been excellent. He's skating well and he's playing well. He's a major factor in every game, and a major factor on the power play. He will be a tough guy to handle."
FLYERS NOTES Defenseman Chris Therien will miss Tuesday's game with back spasms. He did not make the trip to Toronto. The Flyers recalled Wade Skolney from the Phantoms in his place. … Robert Esche will start in net.