Stevens experimenting with ways to improve goal scoring
by Kevin Kurz, philadelphiaflyers.com
(Voorhees, NJ, November 8, 2006) – In an attempt to jump-start the Flyers offense, Head Coach John Stevens pulled something out of his hat that many of his players probably haven't seen since they were kids.
Towards the end of practice on Wednesday afternoon, goaltender Antero Niittymaki vacated the crease for a piece of plastic that was tied to the goal posts, with the only daylight coming high just under the cross bar.
"Usually when the goalie is sick or not there you throw one in the net, but it's been awhile for sure," said Ben Eager of the drill.
The purpose? To get the Flyers to score goals and break out of their funk in time for their game on Thursday night at home against the New York Islanders (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 610 WIP).
"We need to score goals. Scoring goals is finishing and execution, and if you look at the chances we've had, there's a lot of times if we got the puck up around the net we would have [scored]," said Stevens. "If you can consistently hit the top half of the net, you're going to score a lot of goals.
"We're missing the net on a lot of great chances. The goalie didn't even have to make the save and from the time I was a kid, the coaches tell you 'make the goalie make the save.' If you look at really good goal scorers, they all hit the net, so we emptied the puck bucket there and we got some repetition at hitting the top half of the net."
Despite the fact that the old "shooter tutor" seems juvenile, Simon Gagne did not mind the drill one bit. In fact, he encouraged it.
"I thought they were giving a break to Niitty at that point," said Gagne with a laugh. "It's very good. Sometimes in practice you don't want to shoot too close to your goalie's head and you are maybe scared to hurt him or get him in the mask. That thing is perfect for us. You can shoot it as hard as you can and if you want to shoot it close to the cross bar, you can without being scared of hurting your goalie."
Geoff Sanderson agreed.
"I think Johnny is just trying to emphasize that we have to be smarter in our shot selection, and maybe take that extra second to think about getting the puck upstairs, because it does take a little extra to get it to that top half of the net," said Sanderson. "He's just trying to put it in our heads.
"All of the goalies are butterfly goalies. They all drop and take away the bottom part of the net. If you can get it up when he is down, you have a much better chance of the puck going in."
Forsberg Misses Practice
Peter Forsberg missed practice on Wednesday after flying to North Carolina for a routine check up on his foot according to Paul Holmgren.
"Peter is in North Carolina to see the doctor just as a follow-up [to his foot surgery]," said Holmgren.
Holmgren also said Forsberg is still looking for the perfect fit in his skate boot.
"Harry [Bricker] (Flyers' assistant equipment manager) is actually with him too. He took some skates down just to look at his foot when it's in the skate. You are all aware of the problems he's had with the numbers of skates he's tried and trying to get the perfect fit, so hopefully we can get that squared away."
The Flyers recalled several players on Wednesday, including Petr Nedved, who had four goals and four assists for eight points in seven games with the Phantoms since he was reassigned on October 19.
"I'm excited. Obviously I was disappointed with the way things went and you go through thoughts where that's not the way you want to end your career in the National Hockey League," said Nedved of being sent down earlier this season. "My main goal was to come back and play for the Flyers which has happened, so I'm happy about that and I'll just take it from there."
Stevens said Nedved could have taken two approaches to the demotion, and the fact that he went down and worked hard was a direct result in his being recalled to the Flyers.
"Petr is here quite honestly because he went down to the Phantoms, he didn't mope, and he dominated at times," said Stevens. "He went down there trying to be a good player and help the Phantoms and he did while he was there. To his credit, he's improved himself the little time he's been away. We think he can come back and help us."
Ryan Potulny, Matt Ellison and Martin Grenier were also called up from the Phantoms.