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Not looking back

by Brian Smith | / Philadelphia Flyers

Those games last year against Buffalo, all played over a month-long period from mid-January to mid-February, were seen as less than inspirational. It was part of a strange trend where the Flyers would play extremely well against teams higher than them in the NHL standings, but seemed to have trouble summoning the energy to do that against teams below them in the race.

The framework is in place for that as the Flyers enter this week coming off an emotional win over the Rangers. They’ll play a Sabres team on Tuesday that is 2-6 on the year. Then it’s New Jersey – a team that’s traditionally very good at lulling the Flyers to sleep – before a return engagement against the Sabres on Friday in Buffalo.

But unlike earlier this season when the Flyers were learning from their past when making sure they had a good start to the season, they’re not going to dwell on what happened last year when it comes to Buffalo. Indeed, Voracek wants to see the Flyers nowhere near any kind of mental state that would allow a letdown. He doesn’t think the team will be riding so high from the Rangers game that they wouldn’t take the Buffalo game to heart.

“It was two days ago,” he said. “Now you have to focus for tomorrow and stop living in the past. I think that’s what winning teams do. They just move on and it doesn’t matter if the lost or they won the day before. Buffalo is coming in tomorrow; it’s a very young team with a lot of talent up front. We’ve got to make sure that we play good defense and be patient.”

Hakstol looks at the situation in a similar light. He’s concentrating on keeping the Flyers looking forward, and not getting caught up in what’s already happened.

“I think [you avoid a letdown] just by focusing on the right things,” he said. “I don’t want to guard, so to speak, anything. I want to know what the opportunity is, and what we have to do from our perspective to be prepared to go out and take advantage of that. I think that’s the mindset – what’s the opportunity that’s in front of us, and what do we need to do to get out and get that job done?”

Hakstol doesn’t want his team completely forgetting about things that have happened before – after all, that’s where the reminder comes from that a team can’t rest on its laurels against any NHL opponent, and it’s learning from past mistakes that make a team better. That’s what’s allowed the Flyers to avoid another slow start this year. But the past has its place, and it’s not as important a place as what’s going on right now.

“I think it’s important to know where you’re coming from, I think it’s important to know where you are, and a combination of those things will allow you to get where you want to be,” Hakstol said, outlining a philosophy that could easily extend to life beyond hockey. “We know about the past. It’s just not something that we need to talk about or discuss. It’s definitely not something that we’re going to dwell on. It’s about the present and what you have to do to be successful right now. I know that gets old, hearing about that. But if you can do a good job of what you’re doing day in and day out, things will work out. I can tell you that. It’s when you get ahead of yourself or you have a little bit of lack of focus because of other things that you get yourself in trouble.”

In the moments after Michael Raffl accidentally skated into Jarret Stoll’s elbow Saturday night, he knew something was amiss. One of the brief things to cross his mind was just to make it to the bench.

He did, and then he blacked out for what everyone now knows was just a few seconds – but it was long enough to send the Flyers bench into emergency mode and stop the game. Raffl talked to the media Monday for the first time since the incident, and reported feeling just fine 10 minutes after being helped to the Flyers locker room.

“I feel fine now,” he said. “I don’t know, I just got elbowed in the corner there and felt a little dizzy and was just trying to make my way back to the bench to take a seat, and next thing I know I just woke up again and everybody was freaking out.”

Raffl said he’s felt fine ever since – including all day Sunday and during Monday’s practice, in which he was a full participant. He said doctors told him the elbow likely just caught a “knockout point,” much like what might happen in a boxing match.

In the aftermath Saturday night, he might have even been better off than his teammates, who were all shaken by the scene. Even on Monday, they were still playfully admonishing Raffl for what he put them through. Jake Voracek, Raffl’s linemate on the opposite wing, was so concerned that he bolted from the penalty box during the stoppage to see what was going on.

“He looks better than ever [on Monday],” Voracek said. “It’s good to see him out there handling the puck the same as he did before it happened. I’m glad he’s OK health-wise because it was some scary stuff.”

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