Voorhees, NJ – With the first few days of training camp in the books, the Flyers are ready to start competing against and hitting players that aren't sitting next to them in the locker room, as the team prepares for its first preseason game of the season on Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Moncton Coliseum (6:30 p.m., 610 WIP).
"When it's your own guys, and it's not someone you want to hit or hurt, it's a little bit different. I think that mentality ends tomorrow," said Kyle Calder, who will be among a large group of players taking the ice for their first game with Philadelphia. "It's a long summer when you don't get to hit or bang some bodies so it's going to be good to get going.
"I haven't seen a lot of Pittsburgh in my days, but we have them eight times this year and we can always send a message early."
Calder's line has been getting a lot of attention in training camp, as he has been skating with second-year Flyers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. While it is much too early to speculate on whether that will be the combination on opening night when the games count, they all seem to like the experiment thus far.
"We have a little bit of chemistry and I think we compliment each other well," said Richards. "Kyle and I kind of go in and grind, and Carter is obviously a great goal scorer so hopefully it works out."
"We work well off of each other. Me and Richie are pretty much the same kind of player and Jeff is a big shooter," said Calder. "When you give him the puck in his wheelhouse, he's going to find the back of the net somehow. He's a big kid, and so we're going to try to get him the puck as much as we can."
The one to watch, according to Ken Hitchcock, will be Carter, who shifted to the wing as Richards centers the line.
Another storyline will be the debut of Steve Downie, who will be suiting up for the game. Hitchcock plans on giving Downie and other younger players such as Stefan Ruzicka a long look during camp.
"This is just game one of many games that they are going to get a chance to play," said Hitchcock of the duo. "So, I don't think it matters how they play tomorrow, as long as they get games under their belts and get experience and we'll see where it goes later in the exhibition season."
Robert Esche will get the call in goal, and will be in his first game action since having hip surgery in the offseason.
"I feel really good. I had my left hip worked on, and it's been terrific since the surgery," said Esche. "Since I had the surgery, I took a more aggressive approach to my rehabilitation this year and it feels good so I'm looking forward to having a healthy season for the first time in a couple of years."
Esche is hoping to get plenty of pucks fired his way in his first tune-up in preparation for the beginning of the regular season on October 5 in Pittsburgh.
"To be honest, in games that don't count, I'd just as soon have 50 shots in the game tomorrow. I don't think I'd like to go there, have 12 shots and win the game 4-1 or something and say 'oh, I'm playing well,' because you really wouldn't know. It will be a fun game to play, and hopefully I'll get a lot of action."FLYERS NOTES
Also scheduled for the game in Moncton are: Randy Jones, Nolan Baumgartner, Denis Gauthier, Alexandre Picard, Martin Grenier, Freddy Meyer, Lars Jonsson, Randy Robitaille, Mark Cullen, Niko Dimitrakos, Marty Murray, Riley Cote, Ryan Potulny, Brad Tapper, Matt Ellison and Martin Houle. â€¦ Peter Forsberg will not play in either of the first two exhibition games, however Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne will be in the lineup on Thursday in the preseason home opener. Forsberg will play later in the preseason, however, according to Hitchcock.