(Philadelphia, PA) – With every single point in the standings of utmost importance for the Flyers, the coaching staff decided to concentrate on a couple facets of the game that could end up going a long way towards the Flyers' playoff push.
The team spent time on the Wachovia Center ice working on six-on-five situations, which lately have been a problem. Philadelphia lost a lead to Florida on February 23 at 19:56 of the third period and fell in overtime, 2-1; was 27 seconds away from a regulation victory in Boston before eventually losing, 3-2 in overtime; and almost surrendered two scores to Atlanta on Tuesday in the final half-minute of the game. The Flyers held on for that win, 3-2, but only after a spectacular save by Antero Niittymaki on a blast by Ilya Kovalchuk with three seconds left preserved the victory.
A shootout drill concluded practice, but afterwards in the locker room the talk centered around what has to be done for Philadelphia to make sure that it gets the precious two points in the standings rather than settling for just one.
“I think it was a good move by the coaching staff to go over six-on-five,” said Kimmo Timonen
. “What happens when the puck goes to the corner, what happens when we try to break out, and that kind of stuff. We really haven’t covered that until today, and I think it made it clear for a lot of guys what we should do. It was a good thing.”
“You have to practice it. It’s obviously a huge part of the game,” added Jeff Carter. “You get up a goal and obviously they are going to pull the goalie, and it’s tough when you have an extra attacker. You have to know where to be and where to go, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t practice it.”
Stevens explained what he saw at the end of the Atlanta game, specifically the chance in the final seconds, and relayed that to the team.
“When the puck is on the wall, to me, the first thing is it needs to stay on the wall,” said the head coach. “[Slava] Kozlov just blindly turned and threw it at the net, but the fact that he was able to, was the first thing we talked about. He should not be able to pull the puck off the wall. They only had one guy in a scoring area and that was Kovalchuk, and I just thought our awareness of where he was on the ice wasn’t where it needed to be.
“The guy on the puck needs to be the hardest guy [to check] on the ice, and the guys away from the puck need to have really good awareness.”
The message seemed to have gotten across, as the defense clamped down and cleared the zone several times during the drill.
“We had to make them look good. We’re trying to build their confidence,” joked Danny Briere
. “They did a good job. There were a few adjustments that needed to be made and it looked good from then on.”
As for Briere, he is feeling more and more comfortable with his linemate, Vaclav Prospal. In the last seven games, the pair has combined for 11 points (4g, 7a). Briere feels like there are even better things on the horizon.
“I’m waiting for that big game to come from us,” he said. “Since the first game he was here we’ve created a lot of chances and most of our games we have three, four or five more chances [than the other line].
“We always get a goal, but we’re waiting for that big game. I always have the sense that it’s right there and it’s coming, because we’ve been playing a lot of good games.”
Biron gets the call against New York
Martin Biron will be in net when the Flyers host the New York Rangers at the Wachovia Center on Friday night (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
Stevens explained the decision after practice.
“Marty has played well against the Rangers the last couple times,” he said. “If you look at Marty’s play overall, he’s only lost four games in regulation in his last 13. I think Marty got the rest that he needed, and I think you’ll see him come in here and play extremely well.”
Niittymaki made 17 saves in Tuesday’s win over Atlanta.
“Niitty has come in and won us hockey games, and he’ll get back in the net before we’re done here,” said Stevens.
The Flyers practiced at the Wachovia Center due to their annual team photo taking place in the morning. … Joffrey Lupul did not skate. … Members of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation took to the ice with Biron, Niittymaki and Jason Smith after practice.