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Prospal Arrives for First Practice

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
Winger skates on a line with Briere, Umberger

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(Voorhees, NJ) – During his first practice with the team, several of the Flyers commented on Vaclav Prospal’s obvious offensive abilities, good work along the boards, and shifty skating ability.

Coming from Tampa, there was also something else that was pretty noticeable.

“Some guys were saying we’ll have to get him a gift certificate to a [tanning salon],” joked Scott Hartnell about the bronzed Prospal.

Prospal, who arrived in Philadelphia in the early morning hours on Wednesday, will have a great opportunity to continue his scoring pace when the Flyers resume their schedule on Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). The left wing, who has a career high of 29 goals this season, skated on a line with Danny Briere and R.J. Umberger in his first practice since re-joining the club that drafted him in 1993.
Prospal after practice: FlyersTV
Stevens after practice: FlyersTV
Prospal highlights: FlyersTV

“I know it’s only practice, but Vinny makes a lot of quick, tight little plays on the attack and in the zone,” said John Stevens. “He’s more of an attacking player, much like Danny is, and I thought those guys worked pretty well together. ‘Umby’ brings a lot of speed on that line. First impressions were good.”

“I just want to continue what I was doing to the Lightning,” said Prospal. “If I can bring some of the scoring touch up here it will help this team to win, which would help the most because everybody needs points right now.”
Vaclav "Vinny" Prospal played 59 games with the Flyers between 1996-98. (Getty Images)

It’s a well known theme now that Briere has been searching for steady linemates all season long. Injuries and lineup changes have prevented that from happening, but the Flyers are hoping that the apparent chemistry between him and Prospal at practice carries over into games.

“Offensively, he is so gifted. He is a smart hockey player,” said Briere. “You can tell his hockey sense is up there with the best, and he seems really good around the offensive zone. [We’ve lost] Simon (Gagne), Joffrey (Lupul) and Mike Richards so offensively it’s been a little harder. To bring in a guy like him is going to be a big help.”

“He’s a battler, and around the net he has some good hands and never dies on a puck,” added Hartnell. “It’s nice to have that touch around the net, and I know he scores a lot of goals there. We need the goals right now and he will be a big for us through the stretch run.”

Prospal and Stevens are no strangers, having played together on the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms in 1996 when Stevens was a grizzled veteran (and team captain) on defense and Prospal was a young, speedy forward trying to work his way to the big leagues. Stevens joked about the decade that has passed since the two were together.

“Vinny is a kid that I played with when I first came back here, and he tore the league up that year. He’s been in the NHL ever since. I like to put that on my list as another guy I put in the NHL as a minor league player,” said the head coach with a smirk.

“It makes [me] feel kinda old,” said Prospal, who recently turned 33.

With the NHL’s trading deadline coming and going on Tuesday, Prospal will be the final major roster move on a Flyers team that hasn’t changed all that much since opening night. According to Mike Knuble, the passing deadline should make guys feel more comfortable for the final 19 games of the regular season.

“I am sure it is a load off some guys’ minds,” said Knuble. “We have good guys in this room and we have won a lot of games. We have gone on some pretty good runs with this team, and there is no reason we can’t do it again.”

After finally putting an end to their 10-game winless streak on Monday in Buffalo, there is also an air of excitement for the playoff push. Wednesday’s practice ended after about an hour, but the guys stayed on the ice to a man for about 15 minutes after that.

“It’s always good to see the guys hang around,” said Stevens. “That’s usually an indication of their energy level. Guys were looking to hang around and shoot pucks.”

“I feel confident about our team,” said Briere. “I like what I saw today and I am hoping that the tide is starting and we will get on a little streak of our on the other way now.”
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