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Saturday, January 31

7:44 p.m.
Flyers defensemen Randy Jones and Braydon Coburn missed Saturday night's game in St. Louis with the flu, according to John Stevens. The team is battling a bug that is making its way through the locker room, and even made things a little bit difficult on Friday night's 6-1 win in Tampa Bay.

Jones had maybe his best game of the season in the game, scoring a goal and assisting on another in over 23 minutes of ice time - the second highest total for the blueliner this season after he missed the first 30 games with a hip injury.

"He played very well, but he was hurting on the bench and threw up after the game and again on the plane, too," said Stevens.

Luca Sbisa, who was a healthy scratch for the last six games, and Lasse Kukkonen, who sat out the previous nine games, were inserted back into the lineup against St. Louis.

Stevens was also asked several questions about his decision to start Antero Niittymaki in goal against the Blues. The head coach cautioned not to make too much out of the choice to give Niittymaki his fourth start in the last five games.
Antero Niittymaki has started four of the last five games, while defemsemen Randy Jones (right) and Braydon Coburn sat out Saturday night's game in St. Louis with the flu. (Getty Images)

"Sometimes we make too much of a goalie situation. For us as coaches, we're just looking at the team right now and the stretch of games and there's so many things we're trying to keep an eye on," he explained. "At the same time, when a guy like Niitty comes in and plays well, you don't want to keep him out of the net too long. When you have a guy like Marty who you count on a lot, you want to keep him active as well. For us, it's just getting through this workload of the season and getting ready for the push down the stretch.

"They are both players on our team here, and their job is to win us hockey games. We don't see it as anything more or less than that."

Stevens fully expects Biron, who he admits has not "played his best hockey of late," to return to his previous form.

"He's certainly shown the level of hockey that he's capable of playing," said Stevens of Biron. "Last year, at the end of the year and into the playoffs, is probably the highest level he's ever played and he's been there at times this year. From now until the end of the year, it's important to get him back to that level because he's certainly shown he has the ability to get there."

1:22 p.m.
After arriving into St. Louis in the early morning hours Saturday, the Flyers did not have a pregame skate today as they prepare for the Blues tonight (8:30 p.m., CW-57). Instead, the team held a meeting at the team hotel before the meal.

We caught up with John Stevens after the team meeting, where he said that goaltender Antero Niittymaki will start in net tonight. The goaltender, who made 41 saves in last night's 6-1 win in Tampa Bay, is 10-2-2 in his last 14 games with a 2.38 goals against average and .922 save percentage.

"I thought he played well last night and got better as the game wore on, and won us a big game," explained the head coach. "We're goig to put him back in the net and hopefully keep both of our goalies active as we move along."

Stevens would like to see a strong effort tonight with a home-and-home series with the Boston Bruins on the horizon.

"It would be great to get another two points here tonight against St. Louis before we have that big matchup."

To see the video from Stevens this morning, click here.

Thursday, January 29

6:04 p.m.
The Philadelphia Flyers remained in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the past three days and skated on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon at the BankAtlantic Center before boarding a charter flight to Tampa this afternoon. They will play the Lightning on Friday night at the St. Pete Times Forum (7:30 p.m., CW-57).

FlyersTV: Stevens/Knuble/Giroux - Jan. 29 | Jones/Carle/Lupul - Jan. 28

Along with some lengthy skates and conditioning drills, the team (and staff) were able to enjoy a stretch of days with the temperature in the upper 70's and abundant sunshine in a hotel situated on the ocean. It was a nice way to come out of the All-Star break, said John Stevens.

"In the middle of winter, it's nice to get away. It's a real nice place that we stayed at and we got some good practice time in," said the head coach.

"It's always fun to call home and find out how poor the weather is," added Mike Knuble. "It was a good time for the guys to refresh, hang out and slow down for a little bit and make sure to get ready for the second half."

The Flyers will look to avoid a two-game losing streak on Friday against a Tampa Bay team that is playing some of its best hockey of the season under former Flyer Rick Tocchet. The Lightning beat the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night, 5-3, and will play in Carolina on Thursday night. They have won three straight going into tonight's game.

Tampa beat the Flyers at the St. Pete Times Forum on January 15, 4-1, one of seven wins in its last 10 games overall.

"They are a big team that forechecks hard, and they are a little bit more physical on the forecheck than a lot of teams," said Stevens. "They have Mike Smith in net, who is playing extremely well, and is one of the better puck-handlers in the league. We didn't play very well down there last time, so we're expecting a good effort tomorrow."

"They've played well at home," said Knuble. "We'll have our work cut out for us, like we always do. The games are starting to get a lot more fun and there's a little bit more on the line, so hopefully that brings out the best in us."

Antero Niittymaki, who is 9-2-2 with a 2.49 goals against average and .920 save percentage in his last 13 starts, will be in net for Philadelphia.

"I think he's played well as of late. We'll get him back in the net and get us back in the win column," said Stevens.

The Flyers complete their three-game road swing in St. Louis on Saturday night (8:30 p.m., CW-57), before beginning a home-and-home with the Boston Bruins next Wednesday night at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, Tickets).

Good Timing - Rookie Claude Giroux's parents decided to pay their son a visit this week, and witnessed his first goal in the NHL on Tuesday night in Florida. Giroux took a great pass from Darroll Powe and beat goaltender Tomas Vokoun in the third period of a 3-2 loss.

"It was a special moment," said Giroux. "They were very happy. Big hugs."

Powe, incidentally, missed practice the last two days with the flu.

Meet the King
- After Tuesday's practice at the BankAtlantic Center, several Flyers ran into boxing promoter Don King, who was there for a press conference for an upcoming event.

King cordially posed for some pictures with the players, including Knuble and Riley Cote.

Monday, January 26

4:55 p.m.
After five days of rest following their previous game on Wednesday of last week, the Philadelphia Flyers convened at the Florida Panthers' practice facility in Coral Gables for a lengthy skate that began shortly after 4:00 p.m. on Monday.

FlyersTV: Knuble/Biron/Upshall - Jan. 29

Several players opted to meet the team at the rink rather than fly down from Philadelphia in the morning, coming into town from vacation locales or respective hometowns. That meant the charter flight down from Philadelphia was a light one, with much of the plane empty. Still, everyone except for Jeff Carter, who was excused for playing in the All-Star game and flew down from Montreal in the afternoon, was there for the skate.

As expected, the break was a welcome one for the players.
Mike Knuble and the Flyers got back to work on Monday in Florida following the All-Star break. (Getty Images)

"We just rested and relaxed and spent it in Michigan so it was good to go back and see some family," said Mike Knuble. "It was good to get out of Philly and just a change scenery for a little bit, and come back rested and ready to play again."

“I actually went down to the Virgin Islands to St. Johns with my girlfriend," said Scottie Upshall. "The weather was great; the beaches were nice. It was just kind of nice little get away from the game for a couple of [days].”

The unofficial second half of the season begins with a week in the state of Florida against the Panthers on Tuesday night (7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet), and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday (7:30 p.m., CW-57). Last season, the Flyers stumbled after the break, winning three of their first four but then dropping 10 straight.

The dramatic slide almost cost them a playoff spot, and that experience should prevent a repeat performance this time around.

"I think we learned a lot of things going down the stretch last year [when] we had some problems coming out of the All-Star break," said Martin Biron. "I think with the experience from last year, and the experience we have in the locker room, we are looking forward to keeping on the same roll [to] solidify our spot in the division and our conference.”

"We came back and faltered out of the All-Star break last year and made our path to the playoffs a little bit difficult," added Knuble. "These are the times, as players, you know the games are going to be close. It's a cliché to say these games are so important, but they are. You have to approach each game you are playing like it's the biggest game of the year."

Philadelphia has 36 games left in the regular season, and currently sits in third place in the Atlantic Division, although just two points behind first place New Jersey with a game in hand. Of the remaining games, 11 are against Atlantic Division opponents, including five against the Rangers and two each against the Penguins, Devils and Islanders.

The Flyers also have all four games left with the Eastern Conference leading Bruins, the only team in the conference they have yet to play. February begins with a home-and-home against Boston in what is the team's next home game on February 4 (7:00 p.m., Tickets).

Ross is fastest skater
- The American Hockey League All-Star game will take place tonight in Worcester, Massachusetts (7:00 p.m., The Comcast Network). The Phantoms have two players there representing the team - forward Jared Ross and defenseman Danny Syvret. Claude Giroux, who made the team, will not participate as he is currently on the NHL roster and doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Ross cruised to victory in the the fastest skater event, with a time of 14.187 seconds. For more on that, as well as the AHL All-Star game, click here.

Wednesday, January 21

12:40 p.m.
Flyers center Danny Briere will not return to the lineup for tonight's game against Atlanta (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Briere took part in the team's morning skate at the Wachovia Center, but declared afterwards that he would not play due to his groin injury.

"Clearly, he's sore where we hoped he wouldn't be," said John Stevens after the skate. "We had hoped that he would be pain free right now, and he's not. Clearly he wants to play, it just looks like there's something going on there that's not allowing him to feel like he's ready to play."

Briere has missed 30 of the last 31 games due to injury.

Click here for more information on Briere's status.

Tuesday, January 20

2:42 p.m.
Paul Holmgren today spoke to the local media following the team's practice in Voorhees, New Jersey. Holmgren said that Danny Briere is unlikely to play on Wednesday against the Atlanta Thrashers, in the Flyers' final game before the All-Star break.

FlyersTV: Holmgren on Briere, roster | Stevens on Niittymaki

"He didn't feel that good today," said the general manager, who added that the Flyers will have to make some roster adjustments "sooner or later" to fit Briere under the salary cap.

Holmgren thinks that another five days of rest before the team's next game on Tuesday, January 27, could be good for Briere.

"It certainly can't hurt," he said. "I think the fact that he played three games for the Phantoms probably helped him a little, but he has to get back in at the NHL pace at some point and get back up to speed, too."
Antero Niittymaki has won all 11 starts in his career against Atlanta. (Getty Images)

Niittymaki starting Wednesday - John Stevens announced after practice that Antero Niittymaki will get the start in net against Atlanta (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet Tickets). He'll be going for his 12th straight win over the Thrashers.

Niittymaki missed Monday's practice with the flu, but was back at full speed today.

"If he didn't skate today I probably wouldn't have played him, but I just felt that if he could get back into the net today I would play him tomorrow," said the head coach.

Niittymaki made 32 saves in the Flyers' last game, a 3-2 shootout win over Florida. He stopped all three shots he saw in the shootout to improve to 9-3-4 on the season.

"I think he deserves a chance to get in the net and continue his strong play against Atlanta," said Stevens. It's going to take a good effort, because Atlanta is probably playing their best hockey of the season, both offensively and defensively."

Atlanta has won its last two games, including a 7-2 win over Nashville on Saturday.

With Niittymaki starting for the second straight game, that would mean Martin Biron will have gone 11 days without playing, should he get the call in Florida after the All-Star break. Stevens thinks the rest should benefit his playoff goaltender from a year ago.

"This is a conversation you have at times about your goalies getting tired, and this is certainly an opportunity for Marty to get rested and feel physically strong headed into the last third of the season."

Flu bug strikes again - Flyers forwards Scottie Upshall and Joffrey Lupul missed practice on Tuesday with the flu.

Monday, January 19

2:58 p.m.
After two straight days off of the ice, the Philadelphia Flyers held a lengthy, spirited skate on Monday morning at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone, in front of a packed house taking advantage of the day off due to the Martin Luther King holiday.

FlyersTV: Briere after practice | Stevens on Briere

The biggest development of the day was Danny Briere's return to the club following a successful three-game rehab assignment with the Philadelphia Phantoms. Briere finished with a goal and four assists in leading the Phantoms to three victories. More importantly, he felt his groin injury responded well to the test and he may be ready to return to the NHL.

"So far, it's looking really good," said Briere. "I'm confident for Wednesday."

Philadelphia hosts the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night at the Wachovia Center in the final game before the All-Star break (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, Tickets).
Danny Briere (right) had a goal and four assists in three games with the Phantoms this week, while Jared Ross (left) was named as the AHL's Player of the Week. (Len Redkoles)

Briere skated with wingers Claude Giroux and Scottie Upshall during Monday's hour-plus practice, which concluded with the team doing sprints up and down the ice for conditioning purposes. That doesn't mean that John Stevens will use that line, though, should Briere return for the game against Atlanta. At the beginning of the year, Briere was used as a winger with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne.

"Right now, I see him in the middle," said Stevens. "I think he has the versatility to move around a little bit, but I see him more than likely playing in the middle."

Stevens added that he wants to make sure that he spreads the deep offensive firepower the Flyers possess through at least three lines. The Flyers are the only team in the league with six players that have at least 15 goals.

"I thought in the month of November, the Richards, Gagne and [Mike Knuble] line was one of the best lines in hockey. In the month of December, you could say the same about the [Jeff] Carter - [Scott] Hartnell] - [Joffrey] Lupul line," explained the head coach. "But, nothing is locked in stone where we wouldn't change one or both of those lines to make it work to give us strength up and down the lineup."

Stevens also mentioned that he will ease Briere, who is one of the best power play weapons on the team, back into game action.

"He's not going to go from where he is now to where he was last year playing his best hockey," said Stevens. "It's going to take time to get him acclimated to the minutes and situations he was in before.

"At the same time, Danny is a guy that makes our power play better and makes our team better, both with his play and his leadership."

Briere views his return as almost a new beginning to the season. He has played in just nine games so far, and has missed 29 of the last 30 overall.

"I know at first it's tough when you come back. It's like missing training camp and takes a little time to catch up," he said.

Niittymaki misses practice - Goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who picked up the victory in Friday's 3-2 shootout win in Florida, missed Monday's practice with the flu.

Normally, that might not be a big development, but Niittymaki has been nothing short of dominant against Atlanta. Lifetime, he is 11-0-0 with a 1.64 goals against average against the Thrashers. That includes two wins this season; a 7-0 shutout on October 28 and a 4-3 win on November 16.

He is one of only two active goaltenders in the NHL with a perfect record in at least 10 decisions against one team (Detroit's Chris Osgood is the other, going 17-0-0 against Tampa Bay).

Ross honored by AHL
- The American Hockey League announced today that Phantoms center Jared Ross has been named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending January 18. Ross racked up six goals and three assists for nine points to go with a plus-5 rating in four games last week, helping the Phantoms to victory in all four contests.

He becomes the first Phantoms player to receive the honor this year.

For the official release from the Phantoms, click here.

Friday, January 16

6:20 p.m.
Kimmo Timonen said before tonight's game in Florida that he will be able to play despite getting hit with a puck in the face and receiving several stitches on Thursday night.

"He means a lot to our team. Certainly, when our team struggles and you get a guy like that back, that not only plays big minutes but brings a real calm and confidence to our team, if he's able to play I think it will be a big boost for us," said John Stevens.

"For any hockey player, the worst thing is not being able to play."

Timonen, who will wear a full cage to protect his injury, is the Flyers' leading scorer among defensemen with three goals and 25 assists for 28 points.

12:32 p.m.
Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who was hurt on Thursday night in Tampa Bay after getting a deflected puck to the face, will be a game-time decision tonight against Florida (7:30 p.m., CW-57).

The Flyers held a team meeting at the Bank Atlantic Center this morning, and we caught up with Timonen for a brief Q and A afterwards.

Q: Do you remember what happened?

KT: "I remember [Mike Richards] shooting the puck but I didn't see what happened afterward. It was a deflected puck which hit my upper right lip. I remember bleeding hard. I remember everything."

Q: Were you ever close to passing out?
KT: "I was pretty close. But like I said, I remember everything that happened and I don't have a concussion."

Q: What is the damage?
KT: "There isn't any bone or tooth damage. I just got 25 stitches, inside, outside, everywhere. That's it."

Q: Can you play tonight?
KT: "I'm going to take the warm-ups tonight to see how I feel. I will probably have to use a full cage or something similar to that. We will see how it goes."

Thursday, January 15

11:28 p.m.
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen suffered an upper body injury in the first period of the Flyers-Lightning game tonight after taking a puck to the face, and did not return. He is questionable for the Flyers' game at Florida on Friday night (7:30 p.m., CW-57).

Paul Holmgren updated Timonen's status following tonight's game. To see that video, courtesy FlyersTV, click here.

Timonen, who had an assist in each of his last four games, is the Flyers' leading scorer among defensemen with three goals and 25 assists for 28 points.

Kimmo Timonen highlights

5:53 p.m.
The Flyers made each of the NHL's three highlight reels this week, as Martin Biron had the ninth best save; Jeff Carter the fifth prettiest goal; and Luca Sbisa the top hit.

To see the highlights, click the links here:
NHL Top 10 Saves of the Week
NHL Top 10 Hits of the Week
NHL Top 10 Goals of the Week

Wednesday, January 14

6:18 p.m.
Add ESPN.com's John Buccigross to the list of media who think Philadelphia is the best hockeytown in the United States.

In his latest mailbag, Buccigross was asked to rank the top hockey towns south of the Canadian border. His response:

In terms of passion and priorities, no American city can probably match any of the six Canadian cities. But, as I've written in this space many times, I believe Philadelphia is the premier hockey city in the United States in terms of the personality of its fan base. I think it's the most loyal, passionate and supportive. A big reason for this is that the Flyers are a five-star organization in terms of how they treat players and chairman Ed Snider's desire and passion to win.

The Flyers had a bad stretch in the early '90s, but other than that, they have always had good and spirited teams. It's just a very interesting vibe when you see a Flyers game in person. You can feel the fans' presence make its way down to the ice.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.
ESPN.com's John Buccigross thinks that Philadelphia is the best hockeytown in the United States. (Getty Images)

5:55 p.m.
The Flyers arrived at their hotel in Tampa on Wednesday evening, after a full-team skate earlier in the day at the their practice facility in Voorhees, New Jersey.

FlyersTV: Stevens on shootouts, Giroux | Giroux on his return | Upshall and Hartnell on shootouts

The standard session concluded with the team working on shootouts, as the club is just 2-5 when a game goes past overtime. With the tight Atlantic Division sure to go down to the wire once again this season, every point in the standings is of vital importance.

"Reggie [Lemelin, the Flyers' goaltending coach], wanted to get some work in for the goalies, and I think it's important to get some work in for the shooters, too," said John Stevens afterwards. "We haven't [practiced it] in awhile, but we thought it would be a good idea to get some practice in before we go on the road today."

Philadelphia plays the Lightning on Thursday night and Panthers on Friday night, both at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and CW-57, respectively.

"You look down the stretch at how crucial each point is," said Scottie Upshall. "If we can get those five or six extra points coming down the stretch, that's going to be big for us."

The Flyers have had their struggles in shootouts well documented since the NHL instituted the tiebreakers following the lockout year of 2004-05. The team recently had three straight shootouts in a row, winning one in Anaheim and losing to Los Angeles and Washington. All-time, the Flyers are just 10-23.

Giroux ready - Rookie forward Claude Giroux is set to return Thursday night from a mild concussion suffered in Anaheim on January 2.

"We actually thought about putting him in yesterday, but he had only had one practice. He certainly played extremely well before he got hurt, and we hope that he will come back and play at the same level," said Stevens.

"He looks like he's back to where he was, and I would expect him to come back and be fine."

Giroux skated on a line in practice with Upshall and Glen Metropolit, and said he has no symptoms from the hit by the Ducks' Corey Perry. He has two assists in four games with the Flyers this season.

To make room for Giroux, forward Andreas Nodl was reassigned to the Phantoms.

Monday, January 12

2:09 p.m.
With a day off on Sunday following the latest victory the night before, the Flyers were back at it on Monday morning with a 10:30 skate at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone.

FlyersTV: Timonen/Richards/Biron - Jan. 12
PensTV Online: Therrien - Jan. 12 | Crosby - Jan. 12

The Pittsburgh Penguins will make their second of three visits to the Wachovia Center on Tuesday night, and the chatter in the locker room today was all about their recent struggles. Since dropping a 6-3 decision in Philadelphia on December 13, the Penguins are just 4-9 in their last 13 games, including a stretch of seven losses in their last eight games overall (all in regulation).

That run of futility has seen the defending Eastern Conference champions fall all the way into 10th place and out of playoff position.

Of course, the Flyers were sticking to politically correct responses when asked about facing the Penguins on Tuesday for the fourth time this season (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (left) has become the favorite target of Wachovia Center crowds. (Getty Images)

"It could turn around any moment. We know that. We went through it last last year. We lost [10] in a row and we made the playoffs," said Kimmo Timonen. "Everybody goes through tough times, and it's their tough time right now. It doesn't matter to us. It's a big game for us and we have to be ready to go."

"They have the power to turn it around just like that," added Mike Richards. "Every time we play them it seems like it's always a heated battle. I'm sure the intensity is going to be there."

Richards expects that the Penguins will view the game as a chance to turn things around against what is probably their biggest rival at the moment.

"It's a game where I'm sure they're going to be saying they want to make a stand," he said.

"This is a big rivalry we have with them," added John Stevens. "These are big games no matter what situation the teams are in, and this won't be any different."

It won't be easy for the Penguins, though, as the Flyers are riding their longest home winning streak in over three years with eight straight victories on home ice. Not to mention that the Wachovia Center crowds are often at their loudest and most rambunctious when Sidney Crosby and Co. are in town.

Crosby, specifically, has become the biggest target of the Philadelphia faithful.

"To tell you the truth, he does a great job kind of blocking it out," said Richards, who is often matched up against Crosby's line. "If I had so many people yelling at me and saying some of the things he probably hears it would be a little distracting."

"The thing is, you play against Sidney a little bit, the first thing you think is he's whining around and complaining a little bit, and then you realize he's always involved in the physical part of the game," said Martin Biron, who will start in net on Tuesday. "His nose is always in the crease trying to dig at the puck. He's always going to get involved in the pushing matches and the cross-checks and all of that because he doesn't shy away from that.

"Because of that, and because you have a guy that is one of the faces of the NHL and always a competitor, fans are going to have a tendency to try and get him off his game more."

Easy January? - After coming off one of their toughest stretches of the season, both at home and on the road, the Flyers' remaining January schedule looks promising. As of today, none of the seven games left in the month is against an opponent currently in playoff position.

The Flyers will face Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay twice, Florida twice, as well as Atlanta and St. Louis before February opens with a home-and-home with the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins (who have yet to play Philadelphia).

Still, Timonen said the team won't want to look too far ahead.

"We've got to go on a game-by-game basis," he said. "We'll focus tomorrow, and then we'll move on."

Injury update - Defenseman Ossi Vaananen, who missed Saturday's game with a lower body injury, skated today and should be ready to play on Tuesday, he said. Claude Giroux, out with a mild concussion sustained on January 2 in Anaheim, also skated and is questionable. Antero Niittymaki, who has missed the last three games with a groin strain, will return and serve as Biron's backup on Tuesday.

Danny Briere is still not ready, but could be back by the end of the week, he said.

Saturday, January 10

7:18 p.m.
Flyers forward Josh Gratton underwent stomach muscle surgery yesterday and will be sidelined for 4-to-6 weeks, according to club general manager Paul Holmgren.

Gratton, 26, has a goal and two assists and 57 penalty minutes in 19 games with the club this season.

5:48 p.m.
Flyers defenseman Ossi Vaananen will miss tonight's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a lower body injury. Vaananen, who is being listed as day-to-day, will be replaced in the lineup by Luca Sbisa.

In 34 games this season for the Flyers, Vaananen has one goal and eight assists for nine points and 20 penalty minutes.

Friday, January 9

3:25 p.m.
Following today's 11:30 a.m. skate at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone, the topic of discussion was the state of the team at the halfway point of the regular season.

FlyersTV: Stevens - Jan. 9 | Carter/Richards/Gagne/Upshall - Jan. 9

Through 41 games, the 22-10-9 Flyers sit in first place in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference with 53 points.

"The first half was good. We obviously like the position we're in," said captain Mike Richards. "We're getting better."

"I think as a team we've come a long way," added Scottie Upshall, who quickly referred to the team's struggles out of the gate, including an 0-3-3 start. "Our last couple months here have been really good. I think, as a team, we're overcome a lot of obstacles and adversity. I really like the bunch of guys we've got in the room, and we're looking forward to getting into the second half."
Scottie Upshall and the Flyers reached the halfway point of the regular season with a 3-1 win against Minnesota on Thursday night. (Getty Images)

On paper, there are many stats to be happy about. Along with the division lead, Philadelphia has the second ranked power play in the league (26.3 percent), and is fifth in goals per game (3.27). Jeff Carter is tied for the league lead in goals with 27, and the Flyers have five players with at least 15 goals (Carter, Richards, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell and Mike Knuble). Detroit is the only other team with that much scoring depth.

"Halfway through the year, we've done a lot of good things that we've wanted to do," said John Stevens on Friday. "We're really happy with where we're at, but we have a lot of work to do to be a better team. If you look around the league, there are some really good teams that are good in all areas. We've done well against a lot of those teams, but for me, if we're going to be able to compete at the end of the year we're going to have to continue to get better in a lot of areas. I think it's just a process you go through."

Although they are just five points better than they were at this point last season, including the same number of wins, Stevens sees a more seasoned club than the 2007-08 version which made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

"The one thing I [can] say now is, I think we've matured to the point where we're very comfortable in close games. We have a sense of calm about us. You can refer to guys like [Kimmo] Timonen and [Derian Hatcher] and those guys last year that had that calming effect, but I think there's guys now that were young guys last year that you could say that about as well."

Assuming it takes 93 points to make the playoffs (as it did last season), the Flyers would need to secure 40 points over their last 41 games to qualify.

Lupul healing - Stevens gave an injury update after Friday's practice, and said that Joffrey Lupul could return as soon as Saturday when the Flyers host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).

"He looked good today. He looked like he was flying today," said the head coach. "There's a real good chance he could get in tomorrow."

Lupul has missed the last three games with a lower body injury sustained in Anaheim on January 2.

Kimmo Timonen took the day off from skating today but will play, while Danny Briere, Antero Niittymaki and Claude Giroux are still out for Philadelphia.

Schenn over Sbisa? - Flyers rookie defenseman Luca Sbisa was not chosen to participate in this year's YoungStars Game in Montreal, part of the NHL All-Star weekend. The game features 10 NHL rookies and 10 sophomores playing against one another.

Two defensemen are chosen from each conference, and Toronto rookie Luke Schenn was picked ahead of Sbisa despite playing in eight fewer games and having four fewer points for a club that looks poised to miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season. He is the only representative from a Canadian team on the Eastern Conference squad.

Schenn was drafted fifth overall by Toronto and Sbisa 19th overall by the Flyers in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Thursday, January 8

9:40 a.m.
Flyers head coach John Stevens called into NHL Live! on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics with hosts Don La Greca and former Flyer Jim Dowd. To listen, click below.

 John Stevens - Jan. 7

Wednesday, January 7

1:43 p.m.
Tune in to Bill Clement's Hockey World radio show tonight from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. when Bill talks with Flyers forward Andreas Nodl.  Fans can call in and ask Nodl questions toll free at (888) 922-2149. The show can be heard live on 1490 AM or by logging on to www.wbcb1490.com

Fans can watch the taping live from Chickie’s & Pete’s at 11000 Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia.

Also, Jeff Carter's goal in Vancouver on December 30 has made the NHL's Top 10 goals of the week. To see the complete list, click here.

Tuesday, January 6

5:55 p.m.

Flyers coach John Stevens and forward Riley Cote responded today to comments in the media from Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who suggested that Philadelphia ran the score up on his club in the Flyers' 7-1 win on December 20.

Boudreau was unhappy that the Flyers were playing their top forwards in the closing seconds of a game that was already decided.

"I don't know how much they like us, but we don't like them," he told the Washington Post. "I think the animosity [at the end of last month's game] was more frustration on our part. We thought we had played a pretty good game, but yet we were down, 7-1. There were a lot of boiling points.??"They wanted to pile it on as much as possible. They were probably bummed out that their tough guy (Cote) got beat up twice, so they started coming after our guys."

Cote fought the Capitals' Donald Brashear twice in the game.

Said Stevens on Tuesday morning: "I'm not getting drawn in tit-for-tat stuff. I don't know where this is going. Bruce coaches the Washington Capitals. I don't care what he says. I've got my team to get ready here. This is obviously an important game, a hard game, and I don't care what he said, to be honest with you. He can say what he wants. Our team plays the way we play. We're a standup, honest hockey team, and he can save that stuff for the media outside of me because I don't really care to hear it."

Cote said the following, before the Flyers-Capitals game at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night: "I didn't read the article, I only kind of heard about it second hand. The fact that he's wasting his energy and time talking about something like that, he's just nit-picking I think. He's digging for something to talk about. We won last game, we played a good team game. You get into a couple fights, and you win some and you lose some. Brashear is a tough guy, there's no question. I don't feel bad. So I did my job, came out on the wrong end of the stick, big deal? It's a whole new game tonight and a brand new battle.

"I'll be the first one to tell you I got my [rear end] kicked. I really don't care, I got back up and fought him again. For me, it's no big deal. All that stuff just gives me more incentive to do my job better. I'm sure the team can say the same thing.

"If you've got a coach chirping at the way we play, I take that as a compliment because that's Flyers hockey and we're not going to back down from anybody no matter how physical a team is."

Cote also scoffed at the suggestion that the Flyers were running up the score.

"How do you run the score up in hockey? I mean, it's a hockey game. You try to score goals. I don't know how you can run the score up unless you pull the goalie or something."

As for his shot at Cote for losing the battles with Brashear...

"He can carve me up all he wants, I'm still going to come out swinging."

Monday, January 5

3:47 p.m.
After a cross-country flight home from California on Sunday, the Flyers were back to work during their brief stop home with an 11:00 a.m. skate this morning at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone. Although their West Coast adventures are over, the team still has one game on the road left when, Tuesday night at the Verizon Center, they take on the Washington Capitals (7:00 p.m., CN8).

FlyersTV: Richards/Gagne/Briere/Niittymaki - Jan. 5

It may be the toughest game that the season long six-game trip has to offer, as the Capitals are 11-1 in their last 12 games to jump into second place in the Eastern Conference with 55 points. That one loss should be familiar to Flyers fans, as it came in the form of a 7-1 defeat to Philadelphia at the Wachovia Center on December 20.

It will be the first meeting between the two clubs in Washington, (where the Capitals are 17-1-1 this season), since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series last year in which Joffrey Lupul scored in overtime to advance the Flyers to the second round.

The Flyers are 2-2-1 through the first five games of the trip.

"We've got to be ready for them," said Mike Richards on Monday afternoon. "We can't have a lull of getting back here for a day and then going back on the road. We have to try and carry the momentum of the last couple of games into Washington. We kind of took it to them last game a little bit, and I think we have to understand that they're going to be gunning for us tomorrow."
Scott Hartnell and the Flyers rolled to a 7-1 win over the Washington Capitals on December 20 at the Wachovia Center. (Getty Images)

Richards may be more right than he knows. Both Alex Ovechkin and Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau spoke with their team's official website on Monday about the growing rivalry between the Flyers and Capitals.

"Yeah, probably," said Ovechkin, when it was suggested the Flyers are the team that the Capitals don't like the most. "They are good, and most of the time when we go there, lots of fans boo us.

"They are a great team, and it's always fun to play against a great team, especially with the story we have in the playoffs."

Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau was asked about the animosity as well, some of which stems from the end of the Flyers' 7-1 win just over two weeks ago.

"I don't know how much they like us, and I know we don't like them," he said. "I think the animosity was more frustration on our part. We played a pretty good game and we were down 7-1. They wanted to pile it on as much as possible."

Adding to the difficulty of Tuesday's game will be the growing number of injuries that the Flyers are suffering from. Players either out of the lineup or not ready to return include Danny Briere, Antero Niittymaki, Joffrey Lupul, Claude Giroux and Jon Kalinski.

Simon Gagne, however, looks like he is probable to get back in after missing the last two games with a hurt shoulder sustained early in a 3-2 win at Vancouver on December 30.

"I did test the shoulder a lot today, and it felt pretty good," said the team's third-leading scorer with 40 points (18g, 22a). "If I don't feel too sore tomorrow from it, there's a big chance I will be able to play the game."

Van Riemsdyk scores in overtime - Although the United States finished a disappointing fifth place in the World Juniors, Flyers prospect James van Riemsdyk had maybe the goal of the tournament in overtime to beat the Czech Republic.

According to a story currently running on NHL.com: James van Riemsdyk took a breakout pass from Colin Wilson, caught a break when defenseman Michal Jordan fell and broke in alone to score the winning goal at 2:49 of overtime to give the U.S. a 3-2 victory against the Czech Republic and a fifth-place finish at the 2009 World Junior Championship.

While it was a disappointing tournament overall, van Riemsdyk's video game-style goal made it a positive finish. Van Riemsdyk shot the puck between his legs and past Tomas Vosvrda for the winning margin.

"Wilson made a great play to chip it up to me," said van Riemsdyk. "I wasn't thinking about it, I just was looking at the net, saw that was open and it just kind of came natural from there."

Although it's not the greatest quality video, here's a clip of the goal from YouTube.

Thursday, January 1

6:26 p.m.

The Philadelphia Flyers held a skate shortly after noon today in Anaheim, as they continue their road trip with a game against the Ducks on Friday night (10:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).

Simon Gagne was one of several Flyers players that did not skate, as he is nursing a shoulder injury sustained in the opening seconds of Philadelphia's 3-2 win in Vancouver on Tuesday night. The left wing is hoping to return by the end of the six-game road swing in Washington on January 6.

FlyersTV: Gagne on injury | Stevens after practice

"The shoulder felt pretty good today. It's a little bit tight, but that's expected. I'm very positive the way things are going right now," explained Gagne.

"I'm [staying] positive that I might be back before [January 6]."

Gagne was checked into the boards by Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa shortly after the opening faceoff and did not return to the game.

Also not skating today were Darroll Powe [lower body injury] and Arron Asham [lower body injury], and both are questionable for Friday's game, according to John Stevens. Scottie Upshall, however, may get back into the lineup after missing the last three games with a right knee sprain.

Danny Briere remains out.

Stevens was asked about preparing for the Ducks (19-15-4, second place in the Pacific Division).

"They are a big, strong team. They play a physical, aggressive style, and they have two of the best defensemen in the world in [Scott] Niedermayer and [Chris] Pronger. You certainly have to keep them on the radar screen. [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry have kind of taken over offensively for this team.

"We're going to have to be ready to come out and play hard and manage the hockey puck, because they are a very good forechecking team and you can get bottled up in your own end."