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(Voorhees, NJ) – Although it’s only October, it’s safe to say that the upcoming eight-game road trip the Flyers are about to begin will go a long way as to where the team finishes the regular season.
After all, it is the team’s longest stretch of games away from the Wachovia Center, where the Flyers recently completed a four-game sweep of their first homestand of the year.
“These eight games could be a big difference at where we are in the standings when we come back,” said Simon Gagne, who scored twice in the team’s most recent win against Carolina on Saturday. “It’s maybe something that we’re going to look back on at the end of the season as making a difference.”
“It’s a real good challenge for us to see where we end up after these eight games,” added Head Coach John Stevens. “We’ll have a pretty good read of where we’re at and a pretty good read of how we withstand the pressures of playing on the road. Certainly, we’re bound to face some adversity along the way and we’ll see how we respond to that as well.”
|Flyers center R.J. Umberger says the team is already much closer than it was last season. (Getty Images) |
Philadelphia has yet to face any real adversity, as it has started the season with six wins in seven games, and has passed every early test so far. A 5-3 loss in Edmonton was followed by an 8-2 rout of Vancouver, while a 2-1 deficit to Carolina after two periods ended with the Flyers scoring once in the third and again in overtime to win their fifth straight game.
Stevens doesn’t expect these next eight games to be quite so easy.
“When you go on the road for eight games you’re going to hit some stretches where teams come at you hard and ready and they are going to get the matchups they want,” he said. “You’re just going to run into some tough situations where you have to find a way to battle through, much like we did against Carolina.
“We have to find a way to conquer those challenges that we’ll be facing.”
Although the schedule looks daunting on paper, the Flyers will get a chance to return home during stretches of the trip. Following Saturday’s game in Boston, the team will charter home and remain in the area until leaving for Montreal on Wednesday afternoon. The Flyers will not leave the East Coast the entire time.
“If we were heading out on the road for eight straight in a row without coming home I think that would be difficult, but the fact that we get to come home, regroup and sleep in our own beds before we go out again is a real positive,” said Stevens.
R.J. Umberger said: “It really breaks it up and it makes it feel like it’s not so long.”
Still, there will be times during the trip that the team has some down time between games. That will provide the opportunity for the team to grow even closer that it already is after the long trek through Western Canada to start the season.
Umberger sees a huge difference in team chemistry from last season to now.
“There’s no doubt about it. When we’re in the locker room, or not, everyone’s in contact with each other,” he said. “It’s a lot easier when you’re winning to come together and become closer, but the guys that came in have been excellent guys in the locker room. To add them to our team has been every dimension that we’ve needed.”
Philadelphia begins the trip with a couple of games in Florida. The Panthers will host the Flyers on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet), followed by a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday (7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
A quick start to the trip is key, said Simon Gagne.
“The first game is going to be huge for us, going back-to-back after that,” he said. “If we start on the right track, that will build confidence.”
Stevens will most likely illustrate that point, and will make sure that the Flyers don’t take the 3-5 Panthers lightly.
“They seem to pressure the puck wherever it goes as a group of five, and they have a good transition game,” he said. “We just have to have really good puck support to get away from that. I know they haven’t had the success they’ve wanted to start the year, but I still think they’re a very good team and I think they’re a dangerous team.”