Mike Knuble and Jason Smith comment after Friday's practice: Video
(Voorhees, NJ) – After winning games in two of the toughest buildings in the league (at least last season), the Flyers will turn their attention to establishing a strong presence at home when they host the New York Islanders at the Wachovia Center in their first game of the season in Philadelphia on Saturday night (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
A thrilling 3-2 win in Calgary
to open the season and an 8-2 thrashing of the Vancouver Canucks
sandwiched a 5-3 loss in Edmonton
in which the Flyers were in the game for the duration. The successful trip has created a buzz around the team, and the players can feel it already.
“There are things to be excited about, not only our start but the new players we have,” said Knuble after Friday’s practice at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone
. “Guys like Danny [Briere] should electrify our building, so it should be fun.”
“Our fans have been great, they’ve been excited about the direction of the team in the summer and we’re excited to be able to come out and play in front of our fans,” added John Stevens. “We feel very good to be coming home to them after the road trip. Now we just going to make sure we re-energize for the first home game.”
Jason Smith, the new captain of the club, is among several newcomers that will get to skate on home ice for the first time in a regular season game. While the team is off to a good start on the road, the Flyers want to make sure that opposing teams don’t feel comfortable playing at the Wachovia Center.
|The line of Danny Briere, Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble has combined for 17 points in three games. (Getty Images) |
“It’s important for us to establish ourselves as a team at home that is going to play hard every night and be a team that teams don’t want to come into our building and play,” said Smith. “If we do that, we’re going to win a lot of hockey games. We’ve talked about it from Day One of Training Camp.”
“The way we played on the road is a very good sign about how we want to be a team that doesn’t back down from anything, that takes on a challenge on the road,” said Martin Biron, who is expected to get his fourth straight start in net. “The identity we want to have is being a tough team at home; even tougher than we are on the road.”
Besides being the first game at home, Saturday will also be the first of eight meetings with the New York Islanders and first game for the club in the Atlantic Division. The Islanders are off to a decent start, posting a 3-2-0 record through five games. They lost 8-1 in Toronto on Thursday.
“The Islanders are a team we’re going to have to battle a lot this year, and it’s going to be definitely important for us to forget about the trip in itself, but look at this game as a [continuation] of what we’ve been doing while we were on the West Coast,” said Biron.Balanced Scoring Key for Stevens
Through the first two games of the season, the line of Simon Gagne, Danny Briere
and Mike Knuble accounted for five of the team’s six goals. On Wednesday, though, seven different Flyers scored in the 8-2 rout of the Canucks.
Third-year Flyers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have two goals apiece on the young season, while Joffrey Lupul and R.J. Umberger tallied their first goals of the year. It will be imperative that they and others on the club contribute in the scoring column to take the load off of the top line, and Stevens thinks they can.
“You have a lot of players that can provide secondary scoring up and down our lineup,” said Stevens. “As a group, we all want to be defensively responsible and we all want to be on the attack. We should be able to score by secondary committee.”
Of course, with the immediate success of the “KGB line,” it would be hard for anyone to keep pace. The trio has already combined for 17 points, led by Briere’s four goals and three assists.
“It’s great on paper with all the goals Danny, Simon, and I have scored, so it’s gone well,” said Knuble. “But I think as a line, you always want to feel better and you always want to get better.”Jones Impresses Stevens on Defense
Among the many standout players in Wednesday’s game was defenseman Randy Jones, who registered two assists and was a +3 on the night. Jones had an up-and-down season last year as the team struggled, but looks like he is primed to become a regular on the blue line this year.
“He’s one of those guys that didn’t progress as much to the point as we wanted, but he deserves a lot of credit. He worked hard in the summer,” said Stevens. “His attitude from Day One has been all business. He has a lot of confidence with the puck and has shown an ability to play on the power play now, and his ability to defend has gotten much more consistent.
“He’s played very well for us.”FLYERS NOTES
Scottie Upshall skated by himself for the first time on Friday since sustaining a broken wrist. He still is not able to shoot the puck, however. … Defenseman Nate Guenin was reassigned to the Phantoms on Friday. … Forward Jesse Boulerice was suspended by the league for 25 games for his hit on Ryan Kesler in Wednesday’s game.