Voorhees, NJ – After visiting the first-place Detroit Red Wings last Thursday and a Colorado team that had won six straight games coming into the Wachovia Center on Saturday, Philadelphia will not get a break on Tuesday when the Carolina Hurricanes make their first of two visits.
Carolina has taken over first place in the Eastern Conference with 64 points thanks to their current seven-game winning streak. Philadelphia and the Ottawa Senators are a point behind.
"They are playing very well right now, and we had a couple good challenges against Detroit and Colorado and this one is just as tough," said Simon Gagne. "They are a surprising team this year and they are winning hockey games. We want to show them what we can do and get back to first place in the conference."
"The two games we've had in Carolina have been outstanding," said Ken Hitchcock. "They came back on us in the first game and we came back against them in the second game. If this game is anything like the first two games, it will be an exceptional hockey game and I'm looking forward to it."
The Flyers are 1-1 at the RBC Center in the teams' previous games. Carolina won a wild 8-6 game on October 28, while Sami Kapanen's overtime goal on December 29 gave Philadelphia a 4-3 win in one of the most entertaining games of the season.
"As a team, I think we just played, overall, better," said Mike Richards of the second game. "When you have games like 8-6, you don't worry too much about the defense. The last one, I think we were a little more concerned with the defensive part. We just tried to narrow their chances down."
"Our whole attitude is to make them spend as much time in their zone as humanly possible, to negate what they do when they transition," said Hitchcock.
Flyers center Peter Forsberg thinks that facing so many quality opponents in succession is a good thing for the team in the long run.
"When we play those tough teams, it makes us better," said Forsberg. "We have to bring our game up, and hopefully we can take advantage of that later when we're playing other teams that are under .500. If we're going to be able to play with these guys at the end of the year, it's a good test for us right now."
Pitkanen Hoping to Return This Week
Flyers defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who was arguably the team's best blueliner at the time that he suffered a sports hernia on December 5, took part in his first full practice with the team on Monday.
"I feel pretty good, much better than I did a couple days ago," said Pitkanen. "I hope [to play] this week, it's how I feel. I can do everything."
Hitchcock was also impressed with Pitkanen and hopes to get him back into the lineup for Thursday's home game against the Boston Bruins.
"Joni looked really good. Hopefully he has the same day [Tuesday] and the same day Wednesday, and we'll see for Thursday," said Hitchcock.