(Philadelphia, PA, November 28) – The Philadelphia Flyers' second two-game winning streak of the season will be put to a tough test on Wednesday night when the Nashville Predators visit the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 610 WIP).
A new forechecking scheme instituted by Head Coach John Stevens has helped the team's success of late. It is a change in the way the team sets up in its offensive zone when the opponent has the puck, as the first man goes in hard while the second and third players on the ice concentrate more on positioning.
Randy Robitaille explains.
"We still want that first guy hard on the puck, but the second and third guys are the key guys," said Robitaille. "I think earlier in the season we were getting a little bit ahead of ourselves and getting maybe a little too aggressive. One rim would maybe beat three guys, and all of a sudden we are backchecking. It's basically the same thing, but the second and third guy stay a little higher and when we do get control, they can move in."
The system should be a familiar one to many of the players currently on the Flyers, as it was employed by Stevens during his days as the head coach of the Philadelphia Phantoms.
"We get offense out of it, and I enjoy playing it, and it worked well when we won the Calder Cup," said R.J. Umberger.
"We're taking away time and space in the areas where guys usually make plays, between the hash marks and the top of the red line," said Eric Meloche, who, along with Umberger, also was on the Calder Cup-winning team in 2005. "A lot of plays are done with the first or second pass, and we're trying to take away that second pass and hopefully we can jump right down on them. That's where we're creating our offense right now."
The Nashville Predators will enter the game as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Since beginning the season with three straight losses, Nashville has lost just twice in regulation in its last 19 games.
"We're playing a good hockey team where they run four lines with their really mobile back-end," said Stevens. "[The system] is certainly going to be tested, but right now the focus is on us and the things that we're doing well. It's a good test to see if we can't slow down their attack a little bit and get some pucks turned over."
The Nashville attack includes not just high-scoring forwards Steve Sullivan (24 points) and Paul Kariya (22 points), but a defense corps that has contributed 17 goals so far this season.
"They are very aggressive and they get a lot of offense from their defensemen. We talked about that today," said Robitaille. "We know they are going to be aggressive and we just have to try to eliminate their chances."
Philadelphia will be looking for its first three-game winning streak of the season.
"We need to really bear down this week, because this is a very, very important week for our team."
FLYERS NOTES The Flyers practiced for the second straight day at the Wachovia Center, while the compressor at the Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone was repaired. They will return to Voorhees for the morning skate on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. … Geoff Sanderson is continuing to battle the flu and missed Tuesday's practice. … Antero Niittymaki will start in net against Nashville.