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Struggling Thrashers Next Up for Flyers

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia continues homestand with winless Atlanta

Braydon Coburn talks about facing his old club, while John Stevens updates Ben Eager's injury and talks about Stefan Ruzicka being recalled: Video

(Voorhees, NJ) – The old cliché about not taking a team lightly despite its record was a common utterance at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone on Monday, as the Flyers will continue their four-game homestand with the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., Versus, 610 WIP).

Of course, with the ability that Atlanta has, specifically up front with its talented forwards, the clichés ring true.

“They’re dangerous because they haven’t won,” said Mike Knuble. “They have a lot of skill up there. Nobody wants to be a team’s first win six or seven games into the season.”

“We don’t want to take them lightly,” added Danny Briere. “When you look at the firepower they have up front, they are a very dangerous team. We’re not looking past them, and they are going to be a tough opponent.”
Kimmo Timonen hugs Jason Smith after Smith's empty-net goal sealed a 3-1 win over the Islanders on Saturday. (Getty Images)

Among the firepower that Briere is referring to is Ilya Kovalchuk, who, with three goals and an assist in the first five games, is the only player on the club with more than two points. Longtime New Jersey Devil Bobby Holik has a goal and an assist through the first five games, while Marian Hossa (1g) has been sidelined for a week with a groin injury. Hossa is questionable for the game.

“I think when you’re in a situation like that, you really pay attention to the details of your game, so I think we can expect Atlanta to come out here and play hard and have a very strong team game,” said Head Coach John Stevens.

“We’re not thinking any differently. It’s early in our season and we’ve had a little bit of success, but it’s important for us to try and build on that success. We’ve got to be ready to go.”

Philadelphia will be looking for its fourth win in its first five games. The Flyers won two of three on a season-opening three-game road trip, and defeated the New York Islanders 3-1 on Saturday in their home opener.

The mood in the locker room reflects the early success, according to the captain.

“Guys are excited. It’s early in the year, but we’ve got the attitude that we’re going to come and work and execute at a high level and play hard,” said Jason Smith. “When you do that and continue to grow as a team and get better, we have the skill level with the guys in this room that we can put a lot of wins together.”

Among the encouraging signs for the club is that they are getting scoring from all of their lines. While the KGB line of Knuble, Simon Gagne and Briere led the way on the road trip, it was other players stepping up that led to the win over the Islanders. Fourteen different players have totaled at least a point for the team, including nine in the goal column.

“That’s what good teams do. They find production from other areas when the big line doesn’t score,” said Stevens of the Islanders game.

“The balance and the secondary scoring are so important to a team,” added Knuble. “Teams that do well in the playoffs have scoring from all over.”

Fitzpatrick Adds Depth to Blue Line

Defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick, signed as a free agent by the Flyers last week, is continuing to skate with the club as he recovers from a rib injury. Philadelphia added the veteran blueliner to bring depth to the position.

“He certainly gives us experience, and he seems to be a guy that can fill a lot of roles.” said Stevens. “He’s got a lot of wisdom with the experience he has, and brings some composure to the team whether he’s in or he’s out.”

Fitzpatrick is just glad to get back on an NHL roster, as he was a free agent this summer that was not picked up before he was invited to training camp with the Flyers. As of now, he’s an insurance policy to a core group that, like the rest of the team, has gotten off to a solid start.

“I’ll take any role that they give me. If that is my role, then I’ll be ready,” he said. “I’ve had that role in the past and I’m pretty comfortable whether I’m playing or just waiting to get in. I’ll stay in shape and be ready to go when they ask me to play.”

Martin Biron will get his fifth straight start in net against the Thrashers. … Ben Eager did not skate on Monday, but is still day-to-day. Stefan Ruzicka was recalled to take his place on the Flyers’ fourth line with Jim Dowd and Riley Cote for the game on Tuesday. Ruzicka is the Philadelphia Phantoms’ leading scorer with eight points in five games (3g, 5a). … Forward Jesse Boulerice was placed on waivers.
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