(London, Ontario) – Mika Pyorala admitted after Friday’s practice at the John Labatt Centre that the transition has been a bit complicated.
After spending seven years playing in his homeland of Finland, and the previous two seasons in the Swedish Elite League, the 28-year-old forward is still adjusting to the North American game. He has played in both Flyers preseason games so far, but has not yet registered a point (the Flyers as a team have only an unassisted goal by James van Riemsdyk
“The game is a lot more intense here,” he said. “It takes a couple games to get used to the system; it’s so much new information in the last three or four days. I’m getting used to it and hope I can get better in the next [few] games.”
|Mika Pyorala skates against the Detroit Red Wings during a game at Joe Louis Arena on September 16, 2009. (Getty Images) |
The Flyers coaching staff has been impressed enough with Pyorala in practice that he has already spent time in games playing the wing with Jeff Carter one night and Mike Richards the next. His versatility is beneficial, said coach John Stevens.
“It seems like he’s well rounded at both ends of the rink, he’s got a skill level where he can make plays,” he said. “We’ve used him killing penalties and he’s done a good job there, and we’ve used him a little bit on the power play.
“He seems like a lot of the Finnish guys where they can play in a lot of different situations. This is my first time seeing him and we’re pleasantly surprised.”
While he’s looked good in practice, Stevens thinks Pyorala has to be a little bit more intuitive during game action.
“I think the game gets revved up a little bit and you have to do things a little bit quicker, but for any hockey player when you have hesitation it’s not good. You want to react and push the pace all the time and do things instinctively, and if you have to think or hesitate than it’s probably already too late.”
Pyorala agrees with that assessment, and echoed the thoughts of his coach.
“I feel like I’m thinking a little bit too much on the ice instead of just going to play. [There are] a lot of guys who are competing for the same spot I am on the roster. I try not to think about that, but just go out and do my stuff and see how far I can get.”Gagne targets Tuesday
Simon Gagne continued to skate on Friday, and looks like he’s ready to go while recovering from a groin injury he sustained last month at Team Canada’s Olympic camp in Calgary. He wants to play in Tuesday’s first home preseason game against the Red Wings.
He updated his condition after practice.
“It might be a little bit tight, but I think it’s normal. As training camp has gone, [the pain] I felt at that Olympic camp is not even close. It’s a lot better. I don’t feel the pain that I had at that camp. I’m pretty much full speed right now and that’s a good sign. I’m feeling very good on the ice, skating hard, and sure it’s a little bit stiff but that’s to be expected. It’s more from the surgery than the injury.”
Stevens is looking forward to getting the two-time 40-goal scorer back on the ice while he continues his evaluation of the team before the first game on October 2 in Carolina.
“We’re trying to get a look at some line combinations and when he can’t play it’s hard to do that, so it’s encouraging that he’s feeling better. If it’s Tuesday it’s Tuesday, and we’ll still have four games left,” said Stevens.
“We just want to make sure in the final week leading up to the regular season that he’s a healthy player and we get him acclimated with more of the regular team.”FLYERS NOTES
The Flyers took a bus to Toronto immediately following the skate in London. They play the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night (7:00 p.m.). ... Matt Clackson is the only player on the trip who has not played in one of the first two preseason games, other than Gagne.