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Time for home cooking

by Brian Smith | / Philadelphia Flyers

After opening their season with a two-game trip to Florida, the Flyers are back and ready to get the home part of their schedule started on Monday night against the Panthers. It’s something that the players look forward to every year – the first chance to get on the ice in front of the home crowd and to use it to their advantage.

“It’s always fun,” Jake Voracek said Sunday. “It’s always a little bit special. Everybody’s excited to be home playing in front of their own crowd.”

Said Michael Raffl: “It’s great to be back home again. It’s going to be a big crowd and we’re gonna get it going. Especially Philly fans – if you’re playing well, they’re pushing you a lot.”

An unintended and perhaps beneficial by-product of Saturday’s forgettable evening in Florida is that not only are the Flyers looking for a strong rebound game, but they’re doing so against the same team that dealt them the loss.

“We’ve got to get up for that,” said Wayne Simmonds. “There’s no doubt in my mind. We didn’t play the way we wanted to, and we have a chance for redemption in our home opener.”

Ryan White took on noted Florida tough guy Shawn Thornton in Saturday’s game in an effort to turn things around for his team – but he thinks the fans could help the Flyers do just that on Monday night.

“You’ve got to play with emotion,” White said. “We’ll take all the emotion we can get. We won’t be running around taking penalties, but you’ve got to play hard. It’s always fun playing at home, and we’re excited to be at home tomorrow night. We need a couple points.”

“… the biggest implosion belonged to UND,” proclaimed the Grand Forks Herald in its game story one year ago when North Dakota went down 5-0 to Bemidji State and lost 5-1 in its season opener. Bemidji State scored four goals in 8:41 in the second period. Other details in the article included how the “stunned, sold-out crowd” witnessed UND’s “worst home-opening loss since 1975.” Doom and gloom abounded as the teams prepared to rematch the next night.

Hakstol and North Dakota, as it turned out, were fine. That next night, the team went to Bemidji and rebounded with a 2-1 win. A few months later, UND won the National Collegiate Hockey Conference title and advanced to the Frozen Four for the second consecutive season, and seventh in Hakstol’s 11-year tenure.

Bottom line – it happens, whether it’s college or the pros. And Hakstol said his approach is the same.

“You go through enough seasons, you’re going to have games like this,” he said. “We’ve got faith in ourselves. I think everybody trusts each other in the locker room. Nobody likes what happened – let’s be blunt. It’s never easy. But you’re in this business, you’re going to go through nights like that. You’ve got to be the first one to meet it head-on, deal with it, get better from it, and move forward.”

The Flyers held a players-only meeting after the game last night and Hakstol talked with them this morning before practice. All said there’s no need to over-react, that it’s one game out of 82, and Jake Voracek said the team has already put the game behind them. Hakstol sees his team moving forward out of it just like his North Dakota team did a year ago.

“There’s a lot of things inside of that hockey game,” Hakstol said. “What I’ve seen is you address some of the areas that need to be addressed. As a team, everybody looks in the mirror and looks at their responsibilities. And then most importantly, you take a look and make sure you get better from it. Out of a hard situation, and a loss, that’s the biggest thing that can come out of it.”

Like his players, Hakstol is eager to get going for Monday night – not just for the home opener, but to take that next step.

“It’d be nice to play today,” he said. “But we’ll be ready. We’ll get a good game-day skate in and be ready to go for tomorrow night.”

Monday night’s KIA Opening Night will include a KIA #PlayBoldly Flyers rally towel and a 2015-16 Toyota schedule magnet. Flyers players and staff will be introduced as part of an opening-night program that will feature on-ice 3D projection, lasers, and special effects courtesy of Quebec-based event design company TKNL. Tickets are still available for the home opener.

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