VOORHEES, N.J. – Scott Hartnell had a message for his teammates after their loss to Pittsburgh Thursday and it was quite simple – if they were going to turn around their spate of inconsistent play, it would have to start with a sharp, crisp and intense practice Friday.
And although the Flyers were only on the ice for 25 minutes before flying to Boston for a major battle with the Bruins, those 25 minutes were spirited – with a lot of skating and a lot of competing drills.
And leading the way was Hartnell, who was practicing as if he had a chip on his shoulder.
First he took a shove from Braydon Coburn after he continued to whack at a puck that goalie Brian Boucher had covered up in the crease.
Then he separated Luke Schenn from his stick during a battle of big bodies in the corner.
Next, he exchanged a couple slashes with Zac Rinaldo as the two fought for possession of the puck during 3-on-3 drills.
Later, he played linesman, dropping pucks during faceoff drills between Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn.
And when practice was over and many of his teammates headed for the locker room, Hartnell stayed on for an extra 20 minutes working on shooting.
And yes, we’re talking about practice.
“Guys were working and guys were skating – which is something that we were lacking in that second period [Thursday],” Hartnell said. “[Coach Peter Laviolette] and I were talking about it after practice and how we’re going to respond in Boston because they are such a big team that’s strong and physical that plays great hockey. So it’s going to be how we respond.”
And Hartnell wanted to show the rest of his teammates that it’s time to get down to business and that coasting through a practice – even a short 25-minute version – is not an option.
“Usually after a game one night and then an early game the next one it’s not usually like this,” said Danny Briere. “But we needed it like this. We needed to get our frustrations out. When you’re not winning that’s kind of what happens. But there’s nothing that’s going to make us feel better and smile a bit more than winning a game.”
The Flyers have no choice if they have playoff aspirations. However, right now they seem closer to the bottom of the standings than the playoffs – more so because of the games in hand that teams have on them then actual points – and it’s putting a heaping helping of pressure square on their shoulders – which is where the leadership group needs to rise to the top.
And that’s why Hartnell, one of the alternate captains – was trying to light a fire under his teammates – by taking practice seriously.
“I think everyone is frustrated,” he said. “When you’re up 4-1 and you lose it’s tough. Especially against Pittsburgh at home. We had them. Last night carried over into today and we have to carry that hurt into tomorrow with a little bit of attitude.”
That attitude could get a boost with the return of Andrej Meszaros to the lineup. The Flyers did not confirm he was playing but Meszaros took a regular shift in practice with Erik Gustafsson, suggesting he would be back in.
It would be the first game this season that the Flyers will have their full lineup ready active and ready to go – and that could build a bit of confidence in their favor… they hope.
“We have to try to stay positive,” Briere said. “I know it’s not easy. There are a lot of long faces around but there is nothing that will bounce us back like a win, so we have to focus on that.
“There’s no doubt that we have the guys on the team [to bounce back]. We showed it like that for 40 minutes yesterday. There was just those 20 minutes where we fell asleep. There’s no excuse for that and that’s why everyone is a bad mood today and it is deserved.”
For his part, Peter Laviolette is keeping his lineup pretty much the same. The one change in practice was Ruslan Fedotenko moving up to the third line right wing with Simon Gagne on the left and Matt Read moving to center.
That dropped Sean Couturier to the fourth line center between Max Talbot and Zac Rinaldo.
“Practice was sharp,” Laviolette said. “But tomorrow needs to be sharp. Practice is one thing but we need to show it in the game as well.”
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