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Thursday, January 31

1:02 p.m.
The New York Rangers skated at the Wachovia Center on Thursday morning in preparation for the game tonight against Philadelphia (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). New York will start its backup goaltender, Steve Valiquette, rather than Henrik Lundqvist.

“Knowing what was in front of us, with New Jersey tomorrow night and Montreal on Sunday…Steve has played well in here,” said Rangers coach Tom Renney. “He has been looking good when he’s been playing, so there is zero concern about that. He’s a big guy who takes up a lot of the net.”
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist surrendered six goals to the Flyers in a 6-2 loss on January 10 in New York. (Getty Images)

In eight games this season, Valiquette is 2-3-1 with a 2.73 goals against average and .896 save percentage.

Renney was also asked his thoughts on the season series between the two clubs thus far. The Rangers have won two of the three games (one in a shootout), but the Flyers ran away with a 6-2 win in the previous matchup on January 10 at Madison Square Garden.

“They are intense, [there’s] no question about that,” he said. “Both teams are very well prepared for each other. I think that there is a battle level that we both appreciate. I think the team that is more dedicated to gutting it out, putting pucks where they belong, and working the tough areas is usually the team that comes out on top.”

Like the Flyers, the Rangers have one of the Buffalo Sabres’ stars from last season in their lineup. Chris Drury and Danny Briere both signed with their respective clubs after serving as co-captains for the Eastern Conference finalists of a year ago.

Drury has not had as much success as Briere, with 12 goals and 20 assists for 32 points as compared with Briere’s 49 points (20g, 29a). Overall, New York is last in the league in goals scored (125) while Philadelphia is third overall (163) and second in goals-per-game (3.33).

Still, Renney is pleased with Drury’s efforts so far.

“What I like, which is probably the same with Danny, is that Chris has been consistent with his approach to the game day in and day out,” said Renney. “He’s been very professional and completely committed to help how we play and what we try to do.

“Because of that and his history, he knows that it’s only a matter of time. Obviously, time is of the essence for us, but Chris has played well.”

Monday, January 28

3:30 p.m.

Flyers winger Joffrey Lupul skated with the Flyers on Monday for the first time since sustaining a bruised spinal cord and mild concussion on January 5 in Toronto. Below are comments from Lupul as well as head coach John Stevens.

Stevens: “He was good. You know, he’s not allowed to have any contact, so he just stayed in for the first couple of drills, but I was trying to talk Jimmy [Jim McCrossin], into letting him hang around longer. I just enjoyed seeing him out there, and that’s a great first step.  I think anytime you see a player rejoin the team for even a part of practice, it’s a positive sign that we’re getting closer to his return, but we really have to honor the timeline with the kind of injury that he’s had. He feels good, he looks good and hopefully we’ll get him more integrated as we move on.”

Lupul: “It felt good. Obviously I’m not in very good shape, but it was still fun to get out, see the guys, laugh a little and try and get back going the right way.

“I feel good and I’m not scared or anything. I wish I could’ve stayed a lot longer, but right now I can’t, so I guess I should be happy with just going out there for a little while. But it was fun.

“I’ve been anxious the whole time. I was really having a tough time when I was just sitting around at home and waiting and not doing anything.  That was pretty boring for a while.”

On a timetable for his return, Lupul said: “I can’t really say right now.  I’m not sure.  Judging from how I felt today, I probably need at least a week to try and get back in shape, but I haven’t been cleared by the doctor anyway so I can’t really say. Maybe two weeks, but that’s just a guess.”

Tuesday, January 22

11:28 a.m.
With two games this week against the New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers have a chance to be in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division by the All-Star break if they can secure wins against two of their rivals. After the Penguins’ overtime loss to Washington last night, Pittsburgh leads both the Flyers and Devils by one point in the standings with 58.

The Flyers will try to make it a perfect 4-0 against the Sidney Crosby-less Penguins at home on Thursday night (Crosby is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain), and will attempt to snap a four-game losing streak against New Jersey tonight. Philadelphia beat the Devils 4-0 on October 18, but has lost every game of the season series since.

John Stevens is anxious for the game, as his club takes a 10-1-1 record in its last 12 into the contest. That one regulation loss came at the Prudential Center to the Devils on January 4.
Randy Jones and New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus collide during a game at the Wachovia Center on November 17. (Jack Cassidy)

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing them,” said Stevens. “They are obviously a very good team and a team we’ve struggled with. They’ve really got things going. It’s a real opportunity to make strides against another good team.”

Although it’s still not even February, with the closeness of the division, every point gained against a division rival is an important one.

“We all know these points will make a big difference in the standings at the end,” said Simon Gagne. “Our goal is to be first in the division before the break, and right now we’re up there. These games are going to make the difference.

“We need to be patient. They are going to wait for us to make mistakes, and that was the problem the first couple games against them. We tried to make fancy plays at the blue line and they make us pay. It’s going to be a tight game, and we might need to win the game 1-0.”

Scott Hartnell, who was named as one of the league’s players of the week for the second straight time on Monday, stressed that the Flyers have to keep things simple against New Jersey.

“It’s a hard game to play in [the Prudential Center], and when they come here we’re going to have to make it tough on them,” he said.

“We have to initiate rather than react to what they do. The last two games we’ve tried to be too fancy and turned the puck over, and that’s what they feed on is turnovers.”

On another note, this morning the Flyers reassigned forward Denis Tolpeko, who was recovering from a shoulder injury, to the Phantoms. In 24 games, the rookie recorded one goal and five assists for six points and 24 penalty minutes.

The Devils held an optional practice at the Wachovia Center on Tuesday morning in which a limited number of players skated.

Antero Niittymaki will make his second straight start in net.

Monday, January 21

12:54 p.m.
For the second straight week, Flyers forward Scott Hartnell has been named as the league's third Star of the Week.

According to the NHL press release:
Hartnell has been named the League's Third Star for the second consecutive week, posting six points (five goals, one assist) in three games. He began the week with a goal in a 5-3 win vs. Florida (Jan. 16); registered his second hat-trick in six games and added an assist in a 5-3 victory against NY Islanders (Jan. 19) and closed the week with a goal in the Flyers' 6-1 win over Ottawa on Jan. 20.

Wednesday, January 15

8:30 p.m.
Flyers winger Joffrey Lupul, currently out with a spinal cord contusion and mild concussion, visited with his doctor this afternoon at Pennsylvania Hospital. He spoke with 610 WIP during the first intermission of the Flyers-Panthers game at the Wachovia Center.

Q:  Give us the update on your doctor’s (Dr. William Welch, neurosurgeon at Pennsylvania Hospital) appointment today.
Lupul:  “They did a little work on my head. I had a concussion and they feel that has come along pretty well. I have been cleared to start exercising next week as far as off ice, like bike rides and maybe lift some weights and things like that. 
Derian Hatcher hits Toronto's Alex Steen as well as teammate Joffrey Lupul during a game at the Air Canada Centre on January 5. (Getty Images)

"As far as the neck goes, it’s still unclear there. It looks like it’s going to be maybe a little longer then first anticipated by me, anyway. I am going to keep working on that, and hopefully go back in a couple weeks and get another MRI. If that is all good, hopefully [I’ll] be in the lineup by the start of February.”

Q:  Did they give you any kind of timetable just even for skating yet?
Lupul:  “Not really. I am still having a little bit of dizziness and things like that so they thought skating was probably not the best idea right now. But some light workouts and things like that won’t hurt. I am excited to do that and kind of gauge how I feel. It’s tough to say how you feel when you are just sitting around doing nothing all day. It’s going to be fun to at least get a little workout in and hopefully if I feel good, then we keep going harder and harder with that.”

Q:  Are you getting bored?
Lupul:  “It’s terrible.  For a couple days I thought ‘this isn’t so bad,’ this laying on the couch watching movies and things like that, but right now it’s killing me not doing anything.  Thank God the guys are winning these games or it would be even tougher. It makes it easier when you see the guys doing as well as they are. Hopefully they can keep that up. It takes a little stress off me.”

Q:  So your personal timetable is the beginning of February to come back?
Lupul:  “Originally I had hoped even sooner, but I think they kind of put a stop to that today so I think the start of February would still be pretty optimistic.  That is what I have circled in my calendar and that is what I am going to train for here and work for.  I will be ready when that day comes to play at the same level that I left off at.”

11:57 a.m.
The Flyers announced today that defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick has been placed on Injured Reserve with a sports hernia. In 19 games with the team this season, Fitzpatrick has one assist and 11 penalty minutes.

Monday, January 14

11:39 a.m.
The NHL announced this morning that Flyers winger Scott Hartnell has been named as one the Stars of the Week.

According to the release:
Hartnell posted eight points (five goals, three assists) in four games, beginning with a goal and two assists in a 4-1 victory over the  Atlanta Thrashers Jan. 8. He notched his second career hat trick in a 6-2  victory over the New York Rangers Jan. 10, scored one goal in a 4-3  overtime loss to the Boston Bruins Jan. 12 and finished the week by  registering one assist in a 6-4 victory over the
Scott Hartnell and Steve Downie celebrate a goal in New York last Thursday. (Getty Images)
Washington Capitals Jan. 13. Hartnell has 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 41 games for the  Flyers (23-15-5, 51 points), who improved to sixth overall in the Eastern Conference.

"Obviously it is an honor to be recognized what you do on the ice," Hartnell told On the Fly on Monday. "But more importantly, we got a lot of points and wins. Our only loss was in overtime against Boston. We are playing well right now as a team and everyone is stepping up and playing hard. We just have to keep our focus here through the All-Star break."

Hartnell was asked to what he attributes his recent success.

"I just feel more comfortable out there now. John Stevens is putting me in more situations. Confidence is a weird thing; once you get one or two goals then they come in bunches. It just seems that this week everything is going in. I am just playing hard and doing the things that I do well."

Friday, January 11

3:16 p.m.
Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymaki will make his fourth straight start in net when the Boston Bruins visit the Wachovia Center on Saturday afternoon (1:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Martin Biron will get back on the ice on Sunday in Washington (1:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).

After practice on Friday, John Stevens explained his thinking process.
Contrary to some other reports, Scottie Upshall was out last night with a sprained right ankle. (Getty Images)

“Really, the Ranger game was the swing game that put Niittymaki in the net more than he has been to this point,” said the head coach. “He seems to have momentum in his game and I think we’ll need both goalies playing well the way the schedule is.

“Marty is going to get back in and I expect him to play extremely well. They are both team guys and when you put the interests of the team at the forefront of our cause here, I think everything is fine.”

As expected, Niittymaki is getting more and more comfortable with each strong performance. He has won his last four games, surrendering just five goals over that span.

“I’m gaining confidence every game, pretty much,” he said. “It wasn’t easy early in the year, but every game I felt better and better. I’m playing well right now and hopefully it keeps going."

On another note, Scottie Upshall is now healthy and will be able to play in Saturday’s game. Contrary to some other reports, Upshall was not a healthy scratch last night in New York and remained out with a sprained right ankle. Stefan Ruzicka has been reassigned to the Phantoms.

11:49 a.m.
The NHL will announce at 12:15 today that Flyers forward Mike Richards and defenseman Kimmo Timonen will represent the Flyers and the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Game in Atlanta on January 27.

For more on that announcement, including reactions from Timonen, Richards and John Stevens, click here.

In other Flyers news from today's practice, goaltender Antero Niittymaki will make his fourth straight start tomorrow afternoon when the Flyers host the Boston Bruins (1:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Philadelphia will be trying for its seventh win in the last eight games.

Thursday, January 10

11:44 a.m.
Returning to the lineup tonight for the Flyers in their game against the New York Rangers (7:00 p.m., CSN) will be Simon Gagne, Jason Smith and Sami Kapanen. Scottie Upshall is still out with a sprained right ankle, meaning Stefan Ruzicka will play in the game.

To make room for Smith, Lasse Kukkonen will sit out.

On another note regarding the Phantoms, center Jared Ross has been named an AHL All-Star. He joins defenseman Alexander Picard in represeting the Flyers' affiliate at the game in Binghamtom, New York, on January 28.

Wednesday, January 9

2:13 p.m.
The Flyers have reassigned forward Ryan Potulny to the Phantoms, as they have several players who could return to the lineup in time for tomorrow's game against the New York Rangers.

In other news regarding the Flyers' AHL affiliate, defenseman Alexandre Picard has been named an All-Star. To read the official Phantoms press release, click here.

12:58 p.m.
Following Wednesday’s practice at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone, it was revealed that goaltender Antero Niittymaki will start in net against the New York Rangers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Niittymaki, who has won his last three starts and surrendered just three goals over that span, will be making his third straight start.

Also, the Flyers could have as many as four players back in the lineup for the game. Simon Gagne, Jason Smith, Sami Kapanen and Scottie Upshall all skated during today’s practice for the duration.

For the full report from today's practice, click here.

Tuesday, January 8

1:37 p.m.
When the Flyers take to the ice against the Atlanta Thrashers tonight (7:00 p.m., CN8, WPHT 1210), they will go up against of the superstars of the league in Ilya Kovalchuk, who is leading the NHL in goals with 34. He is also third in the league in scoring with 59 points.

There is a couple of familiar faces to Flyers fans on Kovalchuk’s line, as former Flyer Mark Recchi is on the right wing while another former Flyer, Todd White, is at center.
Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk is pursued by Jeff Carter during a game last season at the Wachovia Center. (Getty Images)

Recchi was acquired off of waivers earlier this season from the Pittsburgh Penguins and has paid immediate dividends with seven goals and seven assists for 14 points in 14 games. Thrashers general manager and coach Don Waddell has been pleasantly surprised with Recchi’s production.

“He’s been a great fit,” said Waddell after Atlanta’s pregame skate at Philips Arena on Tuesday morning. “We did a lot of research on Mark. He might not be as fast as he used to be, but the smartness hasn’t gone away. We presented the opportunity and he’s taken advantage of it. He’s given us more than we could have expected at this point, and he’s a good guy in the locker room. That will only get better as the season progresses.”

Recchi has had good chemistry with Kovalchuk, according to Waddell.

“His hands are still really good. He has scored some goals on great passes from Kovalchuk because Kovalchuk is a great passer. Kovalchuk knows if he gives the puck to Mark one of two things are going to happen: Mark is going to get the chance to score or he might get the puck back.”

Waddell’s club (21-21-1) is coming off of one of its best games of the season in a 5-2 home win over Buffalo on Sunday.

“If there’s such a thing as a perfect game…we played pretty well for 60 minutes,” he said.

The game will also be a homecoming of sorts for Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn. The 22-year-old defenseman was originally drafted eighth overall by the Thrashers in the 2003 draft, and played a total of 38 games with the big club.

“It’s kind of nice to see some of the guys that I was with last year. Obviously there are some guys here that have been called up from Chicago that I know really well,” said Coburn, referring to Atlanta’s American Hockey League affiliate.

“I played a couple games already [in Philadelphia], but it will be a little different here. It should be fun to be in this building playing with those guys.”

Coburn was acquired by the Flyers last season in exchange for veteran defenseman Alexei Zhitnik.

Finally, Johan Hedberg will be in goal for Atlanta, facing Antero Niittymaki, who is coming off of a 54-save performance in Saturday’s 3-2 win in Toronto. It will be the first time this season Niittymaki has made back-to-back starts.

Monday, January 7

12:57 p.m.

Flyers right wing Simon Gagne said after practice on Monday that he expects to return on Thursday night when the team is at Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Gagne has missed the last 25 games with a concussion.

To see video of Gagne's media availability from this morning, click here.

Also, the Flyers have recalled forward Ryan Potulny from the Philadelphia Phantoms. Potulny has one assist in six games this season.

In addition to Gagne, Scottie Upshall, Joffrey Lupul and Jason Smith are all out for the Flyers on Tuesday with various injuries when they play in Atlanta (7:00 p.m., CN8). Sami Kapanen is doubtful for the game.

Finally, John Stevens announced that goaltender Antero Niittymaki will start against Atlanta. It will be the first time this season Niittymaki has started back-to-back games.

Saturday, January 5

8:48 p.m.

Steve Downie registered the first goal and first point of his NHL career on Saturday night in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, when he scored at 10:04 of the first period. The goal gave Philadelphia a 1-0 lead.
Steve Downie celebrates his first NHL goal. (Getty Images)

"It is a childhood dream. I really can't explain it any other way than that. It is just unbelieveable," said Downie after the first period.

Downie, a rookie who was drafted in the first round by the Flyers in 2005, was scoreless in his first three NHL games earlier this season.

In another note, the Flyers suffered two injuries during the first period of their game with the Toronto. Joffrey Lupul was helped off of the ice after colliding with teammate Derian Hatcher and will not return due to dizziness.

Earlier in the game, Sami Kapanen was hit in the face with a puck and received 25 stitches. He also will not return.

Friday, January 4

6:42 p.m.
Flyers center Jim Dowd and defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick both cleared waivers on Friday at noon. Below are quotes from Dowd and coach John Stevens prior to the team’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

“I just have to be ready to play, that’s all,” said Dowd. “I’m just always ready to play. I’ve been around a long time, so that’s the only thing. I try not to think about the other stuff. You can only control what’s in your hands, and that’s just being ready.”
Jim Dowd celebrates a goal earlier this season with Lasse Kukkonen and Randy Jones. (Getty Images)

“They’re both professional, and they’re both quality individuals. That’s the reason that they are in the NHL right now is because of their attitude,” said Stevens. “They’re not happy about it and we don’t expect them to be happy. They obviously want to be in the NHL and want to be playing and I think, like I stated yesterday, it just gives us some flexibility with our situation with the amount of injuries we have.

“We have a lot of young players that we think have really progressed and can step in and play right now. It gives us an opportunity to bring in a different player if need be, but they’re both on our team still.”

1:12 p.m.
The Philadelphia Flyers had their pre-game skate this morning at the Prudential Center in Newark in preparation for tonight's game (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet), and are anxious to get their first win in the impressive new building after dropping the first two here.

“We have a chance to finish the season 2-2 here,” said Mike Knuble after the skate. “We really don’t care what building; we just need to win against these divisional teams which are even more important. With how tight everybody is, it’s a big two points.

“It’s a building we have to play in a lot, so we have to start winning some games.”

R.J. Umberger, who took line rushes with Danny Briere and Stefan Ruzicka, is also hoping to gain ground on the Atlantic Division leaders.

“We’re extremely anxious,” he said. “With the way the league standings are, there’s no better time to do it than tonight.”

The Devils, with 47 points, hold a five-point edge over Philadelphia in the standings (although they have played two more games than the Flyers). After winning the first head-to-head game of the season against their rivals, 4-0 on October 18, Philadelphia has dropped the last three decisions.

John Stevens thinks he knows why.

“We were playing well then, and they were just getting used to a new coach here,” said Stevens, referring to Devils coach Brent Sutter. “They seem to have really settled in and gotten back to their roots of strong defensive play.

“Where we’ve fallen short is, we haven’t shown the patience we’ve need to, to battle through their checking. You’re not going to get the number of opportunities against the Devils as you would against other teams, and I think we need to understand that.”

Philadelphia is battling some injury issues at the moment, but fortunately defenseman Kimmo Timonen is over the flu bug that hit him yesterday and he joined the club this morning. He will play tonight. Among the players still out for the Flyers are Simon Gagne, Scottie Upshall and Jason Smith.

Thursday, January 3

11:00 a.m.
The Flyers have recalled forward Stefan Ruzicka from the Philadelphia Phantoms.

Ruzicka has one assist and 19 penalty minutes in eight games with the Flyers this season. In 26 games with the Phantoms, he has nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points and 45 penalty minutes. He is second on the team in scoring.

Wednesday, January 2

9:59 a.m.
The Flyers have recalled forward Steve Downie from the Philadelphia Phantoms.

Downie is scoreless in two games with the Flyers this season, and has five goals and 12 assists for 17 points and 114 penalty minutes in 21 games with the Phantoms this season.