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Wednesday, December 30

11:50 p.m. - New York, NY
As recently as this evening, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette didn’t want to think about the Winter Classic.

Nor did he want his players dwelling on it. After all, the New York Rangers were two points ahead of the Flyers in the standings as the teams got ready to face off against one another at Madison Square Garden in a key divisional matchup.

After a resounding 6-0 win, it’s clear that Laviolette’s message got through.

“I don’t think, nor do I think the players, were looking ahead,” he said after the game. “I think the players know exactly where we are and how important the game was tonight. They did a good job of being accountable.”

The game was Philadelphia’s fourth straight win, moving the club back to a game over .500 and into the eighth position in the Eastern Conference with 40 points (19-18-2). The Flyers are a perfect 4-for-4 on their current season-long six-game road swing.

Chris Pronger sees the team making progress with each passing match.

“It was baby steps in Tampa (a 5-2 win on Dec. 23), and with each successive game we’ve gotten better and better. It’s up to us to continue to push ourselves, push the pace of the play, and play complete games each and every game.”

“You want to make sure you’re doing the things that you need to do in order to win hockey games,” added Laviolette. “I feel like we’re staring to take steps towards doing that.”

As they got ready to board a train to Boston, the players are now able to look ahead to the most hyped game of the NHL’s regular season when they face the Bruins on Jan. 1. The Flyers will practice on the Fenway Park ice on Thursday afternoon.

“It’s going to be a great day for us. We’re going to have a chance to skate on that ice tomorrow, and the win tonight is going to make it a little bit more fun,” said Simon Gagne, who recorded his third career hat trick.

One big question that will surely arise tomorrow is whom will the Flyers start in net? Michael Leighton made 22 saves tonight at Madison Square Garden to record the shutout and has been between the pipes for the last four wins, posting a 1.18 goals-against average and .952 save percentage during that span. Brian Boucher, although he has been healthy enough to be the backup, may or may not still be feeling the effects of a lacerated finger suffered on Dec. 21.

Laviolette was not willing to divulge his plans after tonight’s game. Leighton, who was essentially an afterthought in Carolina just two weeks ago as he was behind Cam Ward and Manny Legace on the depth chart, was not sure of the coach’s plans, either.

He’s just happy to be going, no doubt buoyed by the fact that he is having so much success of late.

“I don’t know if I’m playing, but it’s definitely just going to be exciting being out there,” he said. “The atmosphere is going to be great, and hopefully the weather holds up for us.”

“We move on,” said Laviolette. “We have a big game coming up in Boston, and we need to make sure we win it.”

Tuesday, December 29

3:00 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ
Under normal circumstances, the first trip of the season to the self-billed “World’s Most Famous Arena” would garner plenty of attention. With all of the hype surrounding the upcoming 2010 Winter Classic on Friday in Boston, though, it’s fairly easy to forget that the Philadelphia Flyers actually continue their road trip tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers (7:00 p.m., CSN).

That is, unless, you’re head coach Peter Laviolette.

FlyersTV: Briere and Gagne

“I don’t really want anybody thinking about the Winter Classic. We’re playing the Rangers right now,” he said after a lengthy team skate in Voorhees today. “They’re a team that is in our division, right next to us in the standings, and the only thing that matters is if we win that game.

“When the sun comes up the next day, we’ll deal with [the Winter Classic].”

That was the message to the team today, as the Flyers are looking up at the Rangers in the Atlantic Division standings. A regulation win tomorrow night would bring the 18-18-2 Flyers into a tie with the 18-16-4 New Yorkers.

Danny Briere echoed Laviolette’s sentiments about not looking too far in advance.

“This is a huge game for us with the Rangers. After that, we’ll start dealing with the excitement and everything surrounding Boston,” he said.

Still, it’s impossible to not think about what has become the NHL’s biggest and most heavily promoted regular season match. The Flyers would like nothing more than to enter that game in front of a huge national audience with a four-game winning streak. Philadelphia has won the first three games of its season-long six-game swing.

“We’re very lucky to be [in the Winter Classic], but for us, I think it was a big key to start [well] on this road trip to gain a little confidence before we play that game,” said Simon Gagne.

“I imagine it’s going to be like we’re 11 and 12 years old going to the rink outside, and have fun and play a hockey game. That’s going to bring back a lot of great memories from the past. It’s definitely going to be a great experience for all of us.”

Philadelphia began the road trip coming off of a 4-1 home loss to Florida on Dec. 21, which was arguably their worst and most disheartening loss of the season. Since that time, Laviolette has seen his players bring a different attitude towards their play. And it’s paying dividends.

“That last game that we played at home, we seemed almost crippled, and just a lot of things building up on us. We talked about just checking a lot of that at the door, and I thought the players did a good job of just going out and playing down in Tampa (a 5-2 win on Dec. 23). They’ve carried that through and continued to play an aggressive, but looser, brand of hockey.”

“Playing the way we have the last three games is very positive, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us,” added Briere.

Leighton to start Wednesday

Goaltender Michael Leighton will try for his fourth consecutive victory tomorrow night against the Rangers.

“Right now, Michael Leighton deserves to start,” said Laviolette. “He’s won three games in a row, he’s done it on the road, and he’s looked good doing it. He deserves to go back in the net.”

Brian Boucher is still dealing with the effects of a lacerated finger he suffered on Dec. 21 against Florida. He had it “frozen” before practice today, making it numb to reduce the pain he feels when his stick vibrates after contact with the puck.

“From a pain standpoint, freezing it was a good option,” said Boucher. “It’s just a matter of getting comfortable with the finger and feeling strong with my hand.

“The flip side is, it just feels weird. My whole finger is numb.”

Laviolette has not decided if Leighton or the Rhode Island-native Boucher will start against Boston on Jan. 1.

Two for the Olympics

A pair of Flyers defensemen have been named to their respective Olympic clubs, as Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (Norway) and Oskars Bartulis (Latvia) will partake in the 2010 games in Vancouver.

Bartulis is one of two NHLers for Latvia, while Tollefsen is the only NHL player for Norway (former Flyer Patrick Thoresen is also on Norway).

"It means a lot,” said Bartulis, who is just the third Latvian-born player to make it to the NHL. “It’s nice to play for your country, especially in the Olympics. It’s a big honor for me. It’ll be the first time for me, so I’m really happy.”

Tollefsen, out of the lineup since Dec. 14 with a knee injury, said today that he would begin skating again on Wednesday. Like Bartulis, it will be his first Olympic experience.

“It has always been a dream of mine, so this is something I am obviously looking forward to.”

The rosters for Canada and Finland will be announced tomorrow, while the United States will reveal its roster on Jan. 1 during the Winter Classic broadcast on NBC.

Sunday, December 27

9:44 p.m. - Uniondale, NY
Although his tone and demeanor rarely fluctuate during postgame media availability, it was clear that after this afternoon’s 2-1 win in Long Island that Peter Laviolette was very pleased with his team as it won its third straight contest.

After arriving in Long Island in the early morning hours due to weather issues, the Flyers’ strong skating effort offensively and tight-to-the-vest defense was enough to overcome the Islanders for a 2-1 win. It was their most complete effort since a 3-1 win in Boston on Dec. 14.

So, coach, is the team turning a corner?

“Well, offensively, we had an identity. Defensively, we were pretty tight, and our goaltender (Michael Leighton) played well when we needed him,” said Laviolette. “What was consistent about the effort was that it came from everybody. Everybody was on the same page doing all the work.”

Kimmo Timonen had a more specific answer when he was asked what it is that the Flyers are doing right lately. He quickly gave credit to the forwards for their two-way play, and said that is the biggest key to the team’s success.

“I have to give credit to the forwards who have been working and skating,” he said. “When they do that, we win games, and when they don’t, we struggle. The last three games we’ve been skating and working hard and that makes us win games.”

The line of Scott Hartnell-Jeff Carter-Danny Briere led the way on the scoresheet, with a combined five points between them. It should have been more, as a goal by Danny Briere off of his skate was incorrectly ruled as a kick, despite the fact that he would have needed superhuman reflexes to manage that maneuver. “I don’t know how you can kick without looking,” said Briere after the game.

Still, Laviolette was impressed with all four of his forward lines, and specifically is pleased with Briere, who has goals in consecutive games for the first time since October 6 and 8.

“I can start to see an identity in the offensive zone with what we’re trying to do and that speed that you need to create down there. Danny, especially, gets it,” said the head coach. “I really liked the second half of his game last night and tonight I thought he was really strong.”

“We’re riding high right now, but it wasn’t just our line,” added Hartnell. “It was four lines tonight, right to the end of the hockey game.”

The penalty-killing was also a huge key tonight, as Philadelphia fought off two third period infractions to maintain its slim lead and was 3-for-3 on the night. Getting Blair Betts and Darroll Powe back in the lineup has been an obvious benefit.

“They were really sharp,” said Laviolette of the PK unit overall. “[New York] had a couple good looks from the point, but we had sticks in the lanes and bodies in the lanes and good pressure. They did a terrific job.”

Philadelphia will try and improve to a perfect 4-0 on Wednesday night with its first of three games this season at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m., CSN). The Flyers would like nothing more than to go into Fenway Park on January 1 with their winning streak intact.

“I think we’re fresh in body and fresh in mind. We have a tough little bit ahead of us on the road and we have to keep going with this,” said Hartnell.

Saturday, December 26

5:27 p.m. - Raleigh, NC
Although Brian Boucher will not start tonight in Carolina, he is available to play if needed, he said before tonight’s game in Carolina (7:00 p.m., CSN).

Boucher suffered a lacerated finger on December 21 against Florida, and practiced for the first time this morning at the RBC Center. He will back up Michael Leighton tonight against the Hurricanes. There is still a chance he could start tomorrow evening against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum (5:00 p.m., CSN).

“I feel okay. The vibrations hurt a bit with pucks off the stick,” said Boucher. “That was the first step I guess, to see how it held up with that.

“We just have to find a way to limit the vibrations off the stick. That was fairly painful.”

Boucher had the finger taped this morning during practice, and there is still a visible wound where the puck hit him after he dove across the goal crease to make a save. He required several stitches to close it up.

Peter Laviolette classified Boucher as day-to-day, and said: “I think we’ll hold off on starting him until he gets some work and his injury settles down a little bit.”

2:21 p.m. - Raleigh, NC

It is a reunion weekend, of sorts, for Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette.

Laviolette will make his first appearance in Carolina tonight since getting relieved of his head coaching duties here just over a year ago. He led the franchise to its only Stanley Cup championship in 2006 during a tenure that lasted parts of five seasons (2003-04 to 2008-09). Tomorrow, he will return to the site of his first head coaching job on Long Island, where he led that club to the playoffs in his only two years there (2001-02 and 2002-03) after seven straight of missing out on the postseason.

Like a typical coach, however, Laviolette isn’t making tonight’s contest against the Hurricanes into a personal grudge match.

“Our team is in a position where we need to win the game. We’re not where we want to be or how we need to be playing, and I think that’s first and foremost, to make sure that we play a good game tonight and collect points and try to push a little closer to the playoffs,” he said after the Flyers pregame skate this morning at the RBC Center.

“That’s really the main concern. Personal things, and what’s important to you personally, don’t really matter for me.”

Laviolette is obviously focused more on the present than reflecting on the past, as he tries to lead the Flyers back into playoff position.

“It’s been a year, and the page has turned,” he said. “I’m part of a tremendous organization that wants to win, and I feel fortunate to be here and to be given this opportunity and want to really work hard at it to see if we can’t bring success to Philadelphia.”

Also making his first appearance back in Carolina is assistant coach Kevin McCarthy, who switched mid-season from the Hurricanes to the Flyers after Laviolette was named as the head coach.

McCarthy’s presence has apparently helped Laviolette in his transition.

“I was glad when Carolina allowed us to talk to Kevin and he could come with us and be a part of the staff,” said Laviolette. “He’s one of those guys that is an honest, smart person in the game, and in life, as well. Guys like that are hard to come by, and I feel lucky to have him here.”

One more note from this morning is that goaltender Michael Leighton will get the start in net. He, too, is a recent Carolina transplant, after being claimed off of re-entry waivers earlier this month when Ray Emery got hurt. Brian Boucher made the trip with the team and will be the backup goaltender tonight.

Leighton made 31 saves in the Flyers’ 5-2 win in Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

“He played well down in Tampa,” said Laviolette. “We weren’t perfect in Tampa but he made big saves when he had to. It’s a good opportunity for him to come back in and get another start.”

Wednesday, December 23

12:57 p.m. - Tampa, FL
Darroll Powe will make his return to the lineup after a 16-game absence with a strained shoulder, confirmed Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette this morning. Powe skated between James van Riemsdyk and Arron Asham during the pregame practice at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, where the Flyers face the Lightning tonight (7:30 p.m., CSN).

The one word that both Powe and Laviolette used regarding the forward’s return was "aggressive.” That’s what has made Powe an everyday NHL player, and that’s the kind of system Laviolette is continuing to instill in his club.

“[Laviolette] plays an aggressive style and system, and that fits my game nicely,” said Powe this morning. “I’m antsy to get out there and see how I fit in.”

“It will be good to get him back in there with his speed and his aggressive style,” said the coach. “It just gives us, I think, a real good balance and real good depth on the four lines.”

Powe, who has six points (all goals) in 19 games this season, is one of the fastest skaters on the roster. With him, and the recent return of Blair Betts, Laviolette is hopeful that will help the Flyers play the game as a more rapid pace as they begin a six-game road trip in desperate need of points.

“I still think we need to play the game faster than what we’re doing right now. You get guys like Betts and Powe back in, who can really skate, I think that strengthens the identity that you’re trying to create,” he said. “We’re not there yet. At times during games, we’ve shown it. There wasn’t a whole lot of it last game.

“You bring guys like that back in, it gives you a better chance.”

Also, all indications point to a quick return for Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher, despite the fact that he did not make the trip to Tampa. Boucher said today that he hopes to rejoin the team in time for the game on Dec. 26 in Carolina, after suffering a lacerated finger in Monday’s loss to Florida.

Tuesday, December 22

2:40 p.m. - Tampa, FL
Although the Flyers do not play the Tampa Bay Lightning until Wednesday (7:30 p.m., CSN), the club flew to Florida last night in order to prepare for its last game before a two-day break for the Christmas holiday.

Unfortunately, a scheduled afternoon practice was unable to take place, however, as a sewage leak at the St. Pete Times Forum prevented the skate from happening. The players and staff made the best of the situation by going to a team lunch a short distance away from the rink on a sunny, picture-perfect 68-degree day.

Perhaps the time together will suit them well, as they try to get back into the win column against the Lightning before the brief respite.

“We’re approaching it as another game but it’s a game that, before the break with the couple days off, we obviously would like to win,” said Mike Richards. “It’s a big game for us to try and get our team on track. Whenever you get the opportunity to get a win, it’s big for us. We’re kind of looking at it as a little bit bigger than normal.”

“[A win] is definitely something that we need at this point. It would be very nice if we can finish on a good note and go into the break with a win,” added Danny Briere. “Hopefully we can reenergize and refocus because those last two or three weeks have been extremely tough.”

Although the club doesn’t want to look too far ahead, Richards said that with the schedule as hectic as it has been lately (11 games in 19 days), some time away might suit them well after tomorrow night’s match.

“We haven’t had really a day away from the rink for about three or four weeks now. It will be nice just to kind of get away from everything for a bit,” said the captain.

Peter Laviolette said he is leading a team right now that feels like it is carrying a huge load on its shoulders in trying to right the proverbial ship. He would like to see them try and forget out their recent struggles of three wins in 17 games and go out and play the way that he and everyone else knows they can.

“We’ve got to let loose on the ice and I think sometimes you are carrying around everything else that goes with you and we have to drop all that, and play a better game that is more creative,” he said. “We just seem to be weighed down by what’s going on. We need to drop that.”

Boom Boom Powe

One positive development is that forward Darroll Powe should get back into the lineup tomorrow night. Powe has missed the last 16 games with a strained shoulder.

"I skated with the team yesterday with no pain. I saw the doctor yesterday. He signed the papers and cleared me to play so if all goes well tomorrow morning, I will be good to go," he said.

The tenacious forward has six goals in 19 games this season and is obviously looking forward to getting back on the ice.

"It has been tough sitting back watching things not go so well," said the 24-year-old. "It will be good to get back into the lineup and try and turn things around here.”

Boucher out

Brian Boucher did not make the trip with the team due to a lacerated finger he suffered on Monday against Florida, meaning that Michael Leighton will get the call in net against the Lightning. Leighton, who was claimed on re-entry waivers from Carolina last week, came on in relief of Boucher last night and allowed two goals on 17 shots.

“I don’t know how long Boosh is going to be out for, but I just have to work hard and play well. That’s all I can do right now,” said the 28-year-old netminder.

"I’m definitely looking forward to the opportunity. I didn’t get really get this opportunity in Carolina. Cam Ward got hurt and they got [Manny] Legace and started him right away. It’s definitely a good opportunity for me to just try to prove myself and get back into a little bit of a rhythm again.”

Leighton is in his second stint with the club after getting claimed by the Flyers in January, 2007. He posted a 2-2-0 record in four games with a 3.69 GAA and .882 save percentage during that brief career stop.

Johan Backlund was recalled from the Phantoms today and will act as Leighton’s backup tomorrow night.

Monday, December 21

11:21 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA
Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher suffered a lacerated finger on Monday night and could be unavailable to play in Philadelphia’s game in Tampa Bay on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., CSN).

Boucher, who has started the last nine games and seen action in 12 straight, was hit with the puck in the right hand while diving across the goal crease to make a save in the second period of the 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers.

“The puck hit me right in the finger and just basically sliced it wide open,” he said after the game. “Bad break, I guess. They stitched it up. It was cut pretty good.”

Regarding his status, he said: “The pain medication is starting to fade away so it’s starting to throb pretty good. I don’t know what the game plan is.”

The Flyers will recall goaltender Johan Backlund from the Adirondack Phantoms should Boucher not be able to play. He would back up Michael Leighton, who was claimed off of waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes last week.

Leighton allowed two goals on 17 Florida shots in his first appearance for the Flyers this season in relief of Boucher, who allowed two goals on 13 shots. Backlund has dressed as the backup for seven games, but has yet to see any NHL action.

The Flyers left for Tampa immediately following tonight’s game, and will practice at the St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday afternoon.

Darroll Powe, who has missed the last 16 games with a strained shoulder, is likely to return for Wednesday's game.

Saturday, December 19

4:27 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA
Playing in his first game since October 25, Flyers forward Simon Gagne said after today’s 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers that he was pleased with how he felt on the ice.

“For the first game [back], I felt pretty good,” he said. “The thing I was looking forward to was to play the game and feel good. From a surgery stand point, it felt very good, and so it’s a good thing.”

Gagne, who had surgery to repair two small hernias in his groin area, registered an assist on Chris Pronger’s power play goal in the first period and logged a little more than 20 minutes of ice time. He had two of the Flyers’ 37 shots on goal, while playing with Mike Richards and Dan Carcillo. The only facet of the game in which he didn’t play was on the penalty kill.

Now that he is back to playing with his teammates rather than watching them from the sidelines, Gagne was asked what he sees of the team from his perspective back on the ice and on the bench.

“I think that we are a team that’s not very confident right now, and you can tell on the ice,” said Gagne. “Watching on TV it’s different, it’s easy to look at a game and say, ‘Oh you should do this, should do that,’ but when you get in and play a game it’s different. You know what the guys are going through, it’s a hard game, and everybody wants to win.

“If we just win one or two games, confidence is going to come back and I’m sure you’re going to see the Flyers start winning some hockey games, but right now we [are] in a deep hole and it’s going to be hard to get through. But, we just have to keep battling and get through it.”

Friday, December 18

2:58 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA
When Flyers winger Simon Gagne makes his return to the ice tomorrow afternoon (1:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets) to play in his first game in nearly two months, he will be excited for a couple of reasons.

One, of course, is that he’ll be fully healthy for the first time all year since getting hurt in Team Canada’s Olympic orientation camp in August. The second is a little more personal.

FlyersTV: Gagne speaks

“I have some family coming in for Christmas, and my [6-month-old] son [Matthew] will be there,” he said after practice today at the Skate Zone. “It’s going to be fun to not be by myself when [I] go back in and play a game.”

The longest-tenured Flyer, who has a goal and four assists in nine games, last played on October 25 in a loss at home to San Jose. He underwent surgery to fix a pair of hernias in his groin shortly after and has been on the shelf ever since.

According to Gagne, the Flyers’ doctors told him that everything in the groin is healed and he doesn’t have to worry about any damage to the repair. He may feel some scar tissue breaking up, but that is just a normal occurrence.

“Today was pretty much the first time I enjoyed myself in practice,” he said. “I knew the way I was feeling today that tomorrow was going to be my first game back, so I’m pretty excited.”

His return should immediately help the club on offense, according to head coach Peter Laviolette. Gagne skated beside Mike Richards and Dan Carcillo during line rushes on Friday.

“I think any time you get a Top-6 [forward] back, you’re getting a boost to your lineup,” said Laviolette, who added that Gagne will probably see time on the power play. “The name of the game is offense, and the top teams in the league are scoring goals. He gives us more of a threat when he’s on the ice.”

Laviolette explained his thinking on putting Gagne with Richards and Carcillo.

“It keeps [Jeff] Carter’s line (with Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere) intact, and I thought [Giroux’s] line (with James van Riemsdyk and Arron Asham) did a good job.

“It should be a good balance.”

Carcillo impressing Laviolette

Speaking of Dan Carcillo, Laviolette was asked today about the feisty forward’s increased role in the offense lately. Carcillo’s ice time has increased under the recently named head coach, and has also included ample time on the power play.

Carcillo helped to set up Giroux’s power play goal last night against Pittsburgh by getting a shot on net from a tough angle, forcing goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to leave a juicy rebound in the slot.

“He brings some speed and a lot of energy,” said Laviolette. “He’s brought a lot of pop, I think. It’s just the way he plays the game. He’s on the puck, he’s forechecking, he’s skilled enough to make plays…you have to respect him when he’s on the ice.”

Effort must continue

Despite the shootout loss to Pittsburgh last night, the Flyers said after the game that they were happy with the effort they gave against the defending Stanley Cup champs. That game, as well as the game against Boston on Saturday, will have to be the way they play night in and night out if they are to move up in the standings, and Peter Laviolette hopes that message is now crystal clear.

“We did have some good pop [yesterday]. You can’t play the game without it and expect to be successful,” he said today. “I hope we’re realizing that. We played a flat game the night before in Pittsburgh and a tough first period against New Jersey (on Dec. 12, a 4-1 loss), and you find out what happens when you don’t have that pop.

“It seems like the top teams in the league find that jump on most nights. Washington, Pittsburgh, New Jersey…you can see why they are where they’re at. We need to get to that level.”

Chris Pronger also saw an improvement from the 6-1 loss at Mellon Arena on Tuesday night.

“I think we feel like 5-on-5 we outplayed them,” he said. “We did a lot of good things and had a lot of opportunities to win the game in the third and in overtime, and unfortunately we weren’t able to get that winning goal. But, it was a vast improvement over the previous game against them in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

“We need to take all the positives we can out of that came, built upon them, and play even better on Saturday against New York.”

Thursday, December 17

5:28 p.m. - Pittsburgh, PA
Flyers winger Simon Gagne will miss at least one more game tonight, as he recovers from hernia surgery in early November, head coach Peter Laviolette said moments ago before tonight’s matchup against the Penguins (7:00 p.m., CSN).

Gagne experienced a little tightness after the morning skate today in Voorhees, according to Laviolette. He has not been ruled out for Saturday’s matinee against the Rangers, however (1:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets).

“He’s coming off of a surgery that, with his history and everything else, he wants to feel good about getting back in the lineup,” said Laviolette.

Darroll Powe, who has missed the last 14 games with a strained shoulder, is a little bit further off. His target date is sometime next week, presumably after the three-game homestand.

Also, it appears that Laviolette will ride goaltender Brian Boucher for the immediate future. The coach mentioned that the team, although it has a hectic schedule on the horizon, doesn’t have back-to-back games until January 6-7 (at home against Toronto and on the road in Pittsburgh). One of those two games could be newly acquired backup Michael Leighton’s Flyers season debut. But for now, it will be Boucher getting the bulk of the work, unless something unforseen occurs.

“I feel like if we put on a good performance in front of our goaltender, Boosh has done the job and done it well," said Laviolette. “I hope Boosh keeps going the way he’s been going, which has been steady.”

Wednesday, December 16

1:27 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA
The Flyers will get at least one of their injured forwards back tomorrow night, when Blair Betts returns from a shoulder injury that has kept him out of the lineup since November 21. The 6-3, 210-pound center was hurt during a game in Phoenix, the second time Betts has suffered a shoulder ailment this season. He will wear a protective harness now that prevents him from reaching his arm too high so there is not another reoccurrence of the dislocation.

“I think I just have to be a little conscious of not using that arm to reach for pucks or anything like that,” he said after skating in Voorhees today. “It’s a tough thing to do when you’re playing the game, but we’ll just see how things go.”

Whether it’s a coincidence or not, the Flyers record with Betts in the lineup as compared to him sitting out is worth noting. Philadelphia is 10-3 when he plays and just 5-13-1 without him.

Peter Laviolette commented on what Betts brings to the table, including being a key penalty-killer. The Flyers are 23rd in the league on the PK with a 78.6 percent success rate.

“He’s a big guy that can skate. He can play against anybody, and I think he takes important minutes and takes them away from other guys so they can be a little bit more energized in their game,” said the head coach.

“He’s a role player that fills an important role. Killing penalties is an important role. Being able to play against the other team’s best players, that’s an important role. He’ll come in and provide that for us.”

Betts, although the has just a goal and as assist in 13 games, was playing on an effective checking line with Ian Laperierre and Dan Carcillo when he got hurt. He remained modest when asked about the team’s mark when he plays.

“I don’t think anybody can read too much into that. I think timing has a lot to do with that number,” he said.

Regardless, he will be a welcome addition as Philadelphia tries to rebound from a 6-1 defeat in Pittsburgh last night. The Flyers will host the Penguins at the Wachovia Center on Thursday night (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets).

After an impressive 3-1 victory in Boston on Monday, the Flyers flew into Pittsburgh late that night and had to face a fresh Penguins team that came out strong and played a complete hockey game. Laviolette is anxious to see how the Flyers react to the lopsided defeat.

“We get them again, and that’s a good thing. Back in our building, we’ll see how we respond,” he said.

“We got on a plane and traveled to Pittsburgh, caught the Penguins fresh, ready to play. I want to see how we do tomorrow night. It is [a more level playing field], so we’ll see.”

Leighton arrives

The only Flyers on the ice today after playing back-to-back games on the road were the injured players, healthy scratches, Scott Hartnell, and recently acquired goaltender Michael Leighton who will dress as the backup goaltender tomorrow night against Pittsburgh.

Leighton, who was claimed on re-entry waivers yesterday, said that he is in a much better situation personally than in Carolina.

“The last couple of weeks in Carolina I didn’t really get much practice time in with three goalies,” he said, referring to Cam Ward and Manny Legace. “For me, personally, it wasn’t a good situation. I was not taking a lot of the practice and sitting out most of practice.

“I’d like to get a few practices under my belt and feel a little bit more comfortable, and the last two days I’ve gotten some good skates in so it’s just a matter of getting a few more practices in and feeling comfortable again.”

Laviolette mentioned that he has not decided when Leighton will get into a game.

Other notes

Simon Gagne and Darroll Powe will likely remain out for at least another game. The Flyers play again at home on Saturday against the New York Rangers (1:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets). … Andreas Nodl and Johan Backlund were reassigned to Adirondack.

Tuesday, December 15

5:34 p.m. - Boston, MA
After sitting out Monday’s game in Boston with an ankle injury, Braydon Coburn will return to the lineup tonight in Pittsburgh (7:00 p.m., Versus).

Originally, it was thought that Coburn had a high ankle sprain, but it turned out that it was something much less severe. He explained his situation before the game.

“Luckily it wasn’t something that they originally thought it was, a high ankle sprain,” he said. “The layman’s [terms] are that there was a cyst that ruptured in my ankle that basically caused it to fill up with fluid and [we] basically kind of immobilized it for two days.”

Coburn will have to deal with some amount of pain, but it’s not enough to keep him out of the lineup. It comes at a good time, too, as his replacement, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, suffered a knee injury last night in Boston and will miss the next 3-to-4 weeks.

Coburn phoned Flyers trainer Jim McCrossin last night from his home in Philadelphia when he saw Tollefsen get hurt, and said that he felt good enough to play. He flew to Pittsburgh this morning, skated, and he’s ready to go.

“Braydon was cleared back home, took a flight out and skated this morning with no issues. He’ll be in the lineup,” said head coach Peter Laviolette.

Also, on an unrelated note, defenseman Danny Syvret’s recall earlier today has been voided due to travel issues. When the team learned that Coburn would be ready to play, and that Syvret would not arrive into Pittsburgh at 6:00 p.m. at the earliest according to Paul Holmgren, the club decided his presence would not be necessary.

More on Leighton

With the Flyers claiming goaltender Michael Leighton off of re-entry waivers from Carolina, Holmgren was asked to comment on the move.

“Obviously, Michael is an experienced guy in the NHL now. He’s been around quite a bit and I think more than anything it strengthens our goaltending in our organization,” he said.

Leighton is expected to arrive in Philadelphia tomorrow, although it is not clear whether or not he or current backup Johan Backlund will dress for Thursday’s home game against Pittsburgh.

“Johan, even though he’s not a young guy (28), it is his first year over here. We’re extremely high on him,” said Holmgren.

Carter staying on the wing

Laviolette will keep Jeff Carter on the wing with Mike Richards for tonight’s game against the Penguins. That benefits the club in a couple of different ways, he explained, including allowing Claude Giroux to stay at the center position.

“What I really saw was someone go back into the middle that I thought did a terrific job in [Claude Giroux]. He used his speed to get to the middle of the ice, and he was able to generate a lot of chances,” said the head coach. “Sometimes when you get on the wing you end up standing or posting sometimes; a centerman always gets to keep his speed and come from underneath and I really liked what he did.

“You have a combination up top (Carter and Richards) that likes playing with each other and hopefully they can feed off of each other. And, that was my first look at [Giroux] at center and I thought he did a good job. I thought he was an impact player last night.”

Dan Carcillo completed the Carter-Richards line on Monday, while Giroux was between James van Riemsdyk and Arron Asham.

Monday, December 14

11:17 p.m. - Boston, MA
After dropping a 4-1 game in New Jersey on Saturday and getting roundly criticized by new head coach Peter Laviolette after it was through, the Philadelphia Flyers responded in Boston tonight with a complete effort and came away with a 3-1 win in what was a preview of the 2010 Bridgestone Winter Classic.

One of the more encouraging aspects of the victory is that despite trailing 1-0 after the second period, the Flyers came out and played their strongest 20 minutes of hockey in weeks and scored three times to seal the game. It was their first win when trailing after two periods all season long (1-9), and was Boston’s first loss when ahead after 40 minutes (10-1).

“That is the way we can score goals,” said Kimmo Timonen, who tallied twice and added an assist in the game.

“The way we were playing against New Jersey, that isn’t us. We were embarrassed. We were horrible. They were a way better team than we were and that can’t happen. We came out today, and you [could] feel it in the warm up, and the locker room before the game that everybody was ready to go. Everybody wants to get a win. We are a better team than [Saturday].”

Laviolette, who improved to 2-4 as head coach of the Flyers, was asked after the game if this is a victory the club can build upon. Philadelphia faces the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night at Mellon Arena, and again at home on Thursday.

“I think so. We talked about it after the second period. You’re on the road. You’re down a goal. Things aren’t going your way. You’ve got some guys out of the lineup. It’s one of those wins that you maybe can put a [positive] mark on,” he said. “You’ve got to build on it. It’s one win.”

The Flyers suffered another casualty in the game, when Ole-Kristian Tollefsen left with a left knee injury that will sideline him for the next 3-to-4 weeks, according to Paul Holmgren (who added that the club will recall Danny Syvret from the Phantoms on Tuesday morning).

Tollefsen’s injury in the first period forced Timonen and the other defensemen to play more than usual. Chris Pronger logged more than 30 minutes of ice time, while Matt Carle checked in with 26:51 and Timonen 23:22.

“Obviously, it is not good for Peter [Laviolette], but it happens during the game and then you are short one guy during the game and I thought we did a pretty good job,” said Timonen.

Laviolette noticed several other players including Jon Kalinski, who registered an assist on Timonen’s first goal and played his strongest game of the season to date since he was recalled on Nov. 28 to fill in for injured forwards like Blair Betts and Darroll Powe.

“Really strong game tonight,” he said of Kalinski. “He was strong on the puck. He used his speed. He established his shot off the drive.

“I thought [Claude] Giroux was flying out there. He was utilizing his speed. It was my first time really seeing him in the middle behind the bench. I liked what I saw.”

James van Riemsdyk broke a 12-game scoreless drought when he tipped in a great pass from Arron Asham in the corner to tie the game early in the third. The rookie forward has 20 points on the season (7g, 13a).

“Sometimes you get in a tough little slump here, and the pucks aren’t going in like they usually do, or like you’re used to,” he said. “You have to just keep playing through it.”

Sunday, December 13

5:05 p.m. - Boston, MA
The Philadelphia Flyers will be without defenseman Braydon Coburn for the time being.

Corburn suffered an ankle injury during Saturday's 4-1 loss in New Jersey, and is listed as day-to-day according to general manager Paul Holmgren. He will miss at least Monday's road game against the Bruins.

That means that Ole-Kristian Tollefsen will get his first action in over a month. On November 7 against St. Louis, Tollefsen left with a mild concussion but recovered from that injury weeks ago. He has been a healthy scratch for some time now, but has continued to work hard in practice so he would be ready when his number was called once again.

"It will be good to just get my legs underneath me again and show that I can play," he told me after the team skated this afternoon at the TD BankNorth Garden in Boston.

"You just have to have a good working mentality, and just be ready all the time. Work hard every practice, and try to pretend you're in every game."

Defensive pairings were all mixed up during the skate on Sunday, and Tollefsen was not yet sure who his partner would be for the game.

Visiting Fenway

After practice on Sunday, the Flyers were given the opportunity to check out the layout of Fenway Park for the 2010 Bridgestone Winter Classic. Tollefsen, Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Darroll Powe and Jon Kalinski all visited the legendary ballpark. The entire coaching and training staff also went to see what kind of setup they would be dealing with for the game on January 1.

Preparations are underway for construction of the rink, and everyone was allowed to walk out to where it would be for the game itself.

"I've never been here before. It's special when you see it on TV. There is so much history to this place and I can't wait to play here," said Giroux.

"I've been here for a game before but never been down here in the locker room and on the field," said New Jersey native van Riemsdyk. "It was cool being down on the field. The atmosphere for the Winter Classic seems like it is going to be pretty cool."

Peter Laviolette grew up not too far from here in nearby Franklin, Massachusetts, and is now even more excited for the NHL's now annual showcase.

"Playing here for the Winter Classic is going to be awesome. You go out there and stand on the rink, even though the ice isn't in yet, you take a look around and you just know it is going to be a pretty good day," said the head coach.

Saturday, December 12

6:26 p.m. - Newark, NJ
Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette gave a brief injury update before tonight’s Flyers-Devils game at the Prudential Center.

Injured forwards Simon Gagne, Blair Betts and Darroll Powe all made the three-game road trip with the club in order to practice with their teammates. Obviously, that’s a sign that they are all nearing a return to the lineup.

“They are all close. Next week at some point, the end of the week or weekend…somewhere in that area, I’m not sure exactly,” said Laviolette. “But, all those guys are in practice now and they are taking contact and look really good out there.”

Counting tonight’s game in New Jersey, Gagne has missed the last 21 games after hernia surgery; Powe the last 11 with a strained shoulder; and Betts has been out the previous 10 games with a dislocated shoulder.

Also tonight, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren confirmed a report in the Philadelphia Daily News that the club has signed goaltender John Grahame to an American Hockey League tryout with the Adirondack Phantoms. Grahame last played an NHL game in the 2007-08 season for the Carolina Hurricanes under then-head coach Laviolette.

Holmgren, however, denied that the move was made to prepare Grahame for an NHL return as Brian Boucher’s backup with Ray Emery out of action for the next six weeks.

Johan Backlund was recalled earlier in the week after Emery had abdominal surgery on Wednesday.

Wednesday, December 9

4:26 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ
Despite playing back-to-back games the last two nights, the Flyers took part in a hard skate at their practice facility today. The Ottawa Senators make their second appearance at the Wachovia Center tomorrow night (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets).

FlyersTV: Saunders sits down with Boucher

With every day that passes, the team becomes more accustomed to its new head coach, Peter Laviolette. There was a hard skate halfway through practice, and it’s likely that occurred because of some of the penalties the team took in the second period of last night’s 6-2 win over the Islanders. Leading 4-0 at the time, New York scored twice on the power play to make it a game at the time before Claude Giroux sealed the win with two scores.

The Flyers are 26th in the league in penalty killing (77.8 percent) and lead the league in penalty minutes per game (18.2). Laviolette was asked about player accountability after practice.

“I think it’s just important to make sure we’re in check with our game,” he said. “There’s a lot that goes into accountability. There’s a system, there’s penalties, there’s everything. There’s a lot of things you need to do to be successful. Last night, that got away from us a little bit in the second period. Guys know that we have to stay out of the box.”

Conditioning is of primary importance, as Laviolette had the team take part in a post-practice workout session after the skate (which, incidentally, he participated in as well). In the last two games, there has been a noticeable difference in the way the Flyers have attacked the on the forecheck. It is a more aggressive style, which means that the players will have to be in tip-top condition in order to be effective for 60 minutes.

“These guys are in good shape, I just think you need to be in that good shape and you need to maintain it for a long period of time,” said Laviolette. “The end of the playoffs is way deep in the summer. You have to make sure you’re conditioned enough when you get there.”

On the defensive side of things, Laviolette noted that Philadelphia has given up just one odd-man rush in the last two games (resulting in a goal by Montreal’s Mike Cammalleri on Monday). The aggressive forechecking scheme should not be confused with a wide-open, pond-hockey style, he explained.

“I don’t want to go chance-for-chance, and I certainly don’t want to give up odd-man rushes. Will they happen? Sure they will. Everybody gives up odd-man rushes. But, so far, to this point in the two games where everything has been in place, there hasn’t been any, with the exception of the turnover.

“What [the system] does do is it just emphasizes puck pressure. If you get one guy puck-pressuring, [and] you get four guys backing up, you should still be in a safe, responsible place defensively.”

Laviolette was also asked if he would work backup goaltender Johan Backlund into a game at any time in the near future, as the 28-year-old Sweden native has yet to experience any regular season NHL action. It sounds as if Brian Boucher will start at least tomorrow night and several games after that, however.

“We’ll figure that out as we go. [Brian Boucher] has been playing pretty good for us. Before I got here, he was on a pretty good roll.

“Right now, he’s going to be the guy that runs with it.”

Gagne update

Good news on the Simon Gagne front, as the injured winger was cleared to take contact in practice today. He skated with the still-suspended Dan Carcillo and Riley Cote on a line today.

“He’s been cleared to get into the grind a little bit,” said Laviolette. “Nobody hit him, but he was in the grind and [in] those battle drills that were going on out there.”

Gagne will likely not play in any games on the upcoming road trip to New Jersey, Boston and Pittsburgh, but Laviolette believes he is “not too far down the road.”

Blair Betts and Darroll Powe remain out, and were wearing yellow jerseys in practice today, signifying that they are still not able to partake in contact drills.

Successful surgery for Emery

Flyers G.M. Paul Holmgren released the following statement today regarding goaltender Ray Emery’s abdominal surgery:

"Ray Emery had successful surgery this morning to repair a significant tear of his rectus abdominus on the left side of his lower stomach. Surgery was performed by Dr. William Meyers at Hahnemann Hospital. Ray will be released later today and initiate his rehab tomorrow.

“Ray will be out of action approximately six weeks."

Tuesday, December 8

5:31 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA
With the surprising news that goaltender Ray Emery will miss the next six weeks with an abdominal injury, Johan Backlund was recalled from the Phantoms and will act as Brian Boucher’s backup beginning with tonight’s Flyers-Islanders game at the Wachovia Center.

Backlund, who signed a one-year contract in March with the club, is currently in his first professional season in North America. The 28-year-old has a 6-8-0 record, 2.81 goals-against average and .903 save percentage with two shutouts in 15 appearances with the Adirondack Phantoms (AHL) this season. He spent the previous five seasons playing in the Swedish Elite League.

He was informed last night that he would be needed with the big club by goaltending coach Jeff Reese, whom Backlund has been leaning on for advice since the start of training camp.

“I’ve been working with Jeff a lot, with the different game over here with the different angles. It’s a lot of things that we’ve been working on. I’ve been getting into it more and more, so it’s good now to play on the [smaller] rink.”

Backlund got a taste of the NHL game in the preseason, when he appeared in two matches with the Flyers. He stopped 14 of 16 shots vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs on September 17, and 11 of 14 shots against the Minnesota Wild on September 29. He played approximately 30 minutes in each game.

“It was a new experience. It was really fun, and a different game for sure than back in Europe,” he said.

He was asked if he is ready to play in the NHL, should he be needed.

“Yeah. You never know until you’ve played the first game, but I’m here now. I feel ready.”

Monday, December 7

12:42 p.m. - Montreal, Canada
The Flyers held their pregame skate this morning at the Bell Centre, with the entire team on the ice as they look to get their first win under coach Peter Laviolette tonight against the Canadiens (7:30 p.m., TCN).

Brian Boucher will get the start in net for Philadelphia, his fourth in the last six games. He will try and help the club quickly move on from its 8-2 loss to Washington on Saturday.

“I think it’s one of those games that you just say, it was an unusual circumstance where an unfortunate set of events took place, with the penalty kill and the rest of it,” explained the goaltender. “It was just a bad game, so just shake it off. I think it’s good that we’re on the road, we’ll have a solid road game tonight, and hopefully we can get things rolling.”

Laviolette will attempt to get the Flyers to play a more aggressive style tonight and get the offense going against a club that has lost four of its last five games.

“I’d really like to attack tonight. I’d like to go after the net in the offensive zone, and see if we can’t score some goals and put some pucks in the net,” he said. “Obviously you have to play defense along the way, but I’d really like us to get moving in all three zones.”

Laviolette on Richards

With lots of false, unsubstantiated rumors swirling earlier over the weekend about the team captaincy, Laviolette was asked to explain his early impressions of Mike Richards.

“From what I’ve seen, he’s a really good leader. He’s a fierce competitor, and he’s a young kid. Like a young coach, or a young leader, or a young hockey player, I think you always learn. But, he certainly displays the qualities and the characteristics that you would want to see in a captain.

“When it comes to leadership, I think there’s always people who exemplify that in a room as well, and we’re fortunate that we have other guys that can contribute too, but based on my early observations, Mike Richards is the leader of this team. He’s exemplifies what you would want in a captain.”

Carcillo reacts to suspension

Dan Carcillo will sit out the first of a four-game suspension tonight, but accompanied the team to Montreal anyway. He was approached by the large contingent of local media for his reaction to the NHL’s ruling.

Specifically, he was asked if he plans to change his fighting style.

“I think [the suspension] is pretty stiff, but I’m not going to do anything different. No chance,” he said. “I’m not going to wait [to throw a punch]. No fighter waits. You ask any guy in this league who fights, nobody waits. You see the gloves come off, and you start throwing. You’re in a fight.”

Interestingly, Carcillo said it wasn’t the act of punching the Capitals’ Matt Bradley that the league was upset about, but what happened immediately prior to that.

“It’s just hitting him, cross-checking him when he was on the ice. That’s the only part that they didn’t like. Everything else, they didn’t mind,” he said.

Sunday, December 6

2:34 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ
With the first game under their new head coach now in the books, the Flyers today got to experience their first regular practice under Peter Laviolette. The team spent over an hour on the ice at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone before boarding a charter flight to Montreal where they will play the Canadiens on Monday night (7:30 p.m., TCN).

Several players reacted to Laviolette’s first practice. Check out some of the quotes below, courtesy of the Flyers’ communications department.

Scott Hartnell: "Peter is a real intense man. We were out there practicing, [and] he is almost moving his feet more than we were. He wants action; he wants a lot of stuff happening around the puck, a lot of ‘go’ on the offense. I think this intensity is going to be contagious.”

Ian Laperierre: "He is a lot more vocal. He gets into the drills. He does the drills with the boys. He was out of breath, so there you can tell he hasn't coached for a while. It is good. He is in the mix and that is what we need right now. We need a boost. We need a spark, and if it can come from him, it would be great."

Mike Richards
: "It is just a different approach to the offensive part of the game.  There is a lot of cycling, a lot of movement that's what we've been working on. It is going to take a little bit of time to get our systems down. But, the pressure on the ice is going to be a lot better for us.”

Danny Briere
: "It is exciting. This is something new. It is going to take a little bit of time for us. Right now, we are going through the basics, the emotions and the new systems. But the mood is good and the guys are excited about it. We believe this is going to work.”

Obviously, Laviolette was not happy with the team’s effort in the 8-2 loss to the first place Washington Captials in his first game behind the bench on Saturday night. Although his systems are different from his predecessor, what he would like to see first and foremost on Monday at the Bell Centre is better team discipline.

“I care most about the way we play the game tomorrow night, and how much we wear it on our sleeve, [but] with discipline, because we were undisciplined last night,” he said. “Let’s face it. You go to the box for that many minutes…and I’m not picking on Danny [Carcillo], because there were other players that were undisciplined last night, too.

“We can’t lose somebody on a lazy penalty from behind. We’ve got to control our penalties. It has to happen, otherwise we’re not going to be successful.”

Today was the Day One for Laviolette to communicate his philosophy to the club.

“Today, for me, is the first step to try and get there. You put in a foundation, and you’re not going to climb the mountain in one day, but now there’s a base in there and from that base you can have at it.”

Other notes

Laviolette would not commit to a goaltender against Montreal, but stated that he will need both Ray Emery and Brian Boucher in the weeks to come. Philadelphia plays three games in four nights starting tomorrow. … Carcillo was suspended for four games by the league for punching out Matt Bradley last night during a skirmish. There was no word as of this afternoon if the team would recall a player from their AHL affiliate. If no one is recalled, Riley Cote would likely be inserted into the lineup against the Canadiens.

Friday, December 4

1:55 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ
Despite being shut out in their previous two games, the Philadelphia Flyers and their head coach agreed that the club is still generating scoring chances. What is not happening right now, however, is that the team is not capitalizing on those chances and has not been in the right place to deposit rebounds or pounce on loose pucks around the goal crease and in the slot.

Much of that has to do with not getting to the so-called “dirty” areas of the ice; to be specific, in front of the crease and next to the opposing team’s goaltender. Last night, for example, the Flyers fired 38 shots on Roberto Luongo, but the all-world netminder remarked after the game that he was able to see most of the pucks on their way to the net.

“I don’t know how many shots Luongo saw from the point, and there was no one in front of him,” said Scott Hartnell after a Friday morning practice at the Skate Zone. “He’s just blocking them, and the best goalie in the league is just going to be able to cover up the rebound if there is one. We definitely need to get to the front of the net and we’re just not going to those hard areas. You need to, in order to win games.”

John Stevens’ focus today during the hour-long skate was running a number of team drills that emphasize getting to the net and trying to create havoc in front of the goaltender.

“We’re creating enough chances here, as many as we were when we were winning games,” he explained, “but I think we really have to dig in, in the hard areas of the offensive zone. That’s in front of the net. Don’t go by the net; get there sooner. I think we’re making it a little too easy on the goaltender to see pucks, especially with a guy like Luongo. I think they are seeing them too easy now.

“You really have to fight for that space in front of the net because that’s where you score goals.”

Danny Briere agreed that while the chances are numerous, and the team is playing a sound defensive game, the positioning to score goals is eluding them.

“We still created like 16 or 17 scoring chances yesterday, which is really good,” he said. “Same thing in Atlanta (a 1-0 loss last Saturday). The puck is not going in. We have to find a way to get body position and get nastier in front of the net and get loose pucks. That’s probably the little thing we’re missing.”

“You have to be able to take a whack or a punch in the face,” added Hartnell. “After the whistles, you’re hacking away if the goalie’s got it, and you might have to drop the mitts. We have guys that can take care of themselves and aren’t afraid to get their noses dirty, and it has to change now. This losing stuff isn’t fun.”

The Flyers held an already well-publicized players-only team meeting following last night’s game. Losing six of seven games and not scoring a goal in over eight periods, immediately following a streak of six wins out of seven games, has many of the team’s leaders and veterans frustrated.

“I feel like crap right now. I come to the rink mad, and hopefully everybody is pissed off,” said Ian Laperierre. “We need to [be], and hopefully that carries onto the ice. By saying that, I’m not saying go out there and fight and take stupid penalties, but bring some emotion out there.”

Laperierre was asked if he brought that up in the meeting.

“I might have said it, I might not have said it, and I won’t say what happened in that meeting. That’s behind closed doors. But, everybody knows.”

Caps without Ovechkin

Alexander Ovechkin will miss tomorrow night’s Flyers-Capitals game at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets) due to suspension. He will be serving the second of a two-game ban for a knee-on-knee hit against Buffalo’s Tim Gleason.

That didn’t stop the team that sits in first place in the Eastern Conference last night, however, as Washington rolled over Florida, 6-2.

“It doesn’t seem to slow them down,” said Briere. “They’ve been scoring a lot of goals lately. They are on a roll. They are confident, and it doesn’t seem to matter if he’s there or not.”

Other notes

In practice today, Stevens made a conscious effort to put at least one of his grittier guys on each of his lines. Mike Richards skated with Dan Carcillo and Danny Briere; Jeff Carter was with Scott Hartnell and Mika Pyorala; while Claude Giroux centered James van Riemsdyk and Arron Asham. … Stevens announced that Ray Emery would start in net against Washington tomorrow night, after Brian Boucher got the nod for the previous two games. … Kimmo Timonen, who revealed to the media last night that he has a broken toe on one of his feet, did not skate today. The sore digit will not force him to miss any games, however, according to Stevens.

Wednesday, December 2

4:05 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ
On a busy day in Philadelphia Flyer-land between Jim Jackson’s mustache-shaving, John LeClair being inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, James van Riemsdyk being named as the NHL’s Rookie of the Month, and the signing of Oskars Bartulis to a contract extension, the team spent its morning with another practice at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone as the Vancouver Canucks visit on Thursday night (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets).

John Stevens announced that he would ride the hot hand of goaltender Brian Boucher, who has played very well in his last four appearances, lowering his goals against-average to 2.01 and save percentage to .930. Boucher stopped 17 of 18 shots in Saturday’s 1-0 loss in Atlanta.

FlyersTV: Boucher and Richards

“You just try and be consistent every day, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do, is trying to be sharp in practice and it’s obviously that’s carried over into games,” said Boucher after today’s skate. “I’ve had a chance to show my teammates and my coaches that I’m feeling pretty good.”

Boucher played just once in the Flyers’ first 17 games, losing 4-1 to San Jose on October 25 at the Wachovia Center. Since then, he has led the team to a 3-2 win in Los Angeles on Nov. 18; stopped 13 of 14 shots in relief of Emery on Nov. 23 in Colorado; and made 28 saves on 29 shots in a 2-1 win over the Islanders on Nov. 25 in addition to last Saturday’s performance.

“He’s proven to us that he can play in any situation, whether he’s had a long layoff or whatever it is,” said Mike Richards. “We’re confident in him, and he’s proven that he can steal some games for us which he has twice, I think.

“It’s a good confidence boost that whenever Ray [Emery] takes a night off, it’s nice to see that he’s in there and we can be confident in him and have success.”
Nadine Gustafson, the girlfriend of Braydon Coburn, and Sgt. First Class Anthony Peterson pack boxes for troops overseas. (Flyers Photos)

Of course, suggesting there is any sort of goaltending controversy at this point is downright ridiculous. John Stevens is simply rewarding Boucher for his recent strong play, as he often likes to do with any player. The Flyers will have to count on both goalies in the month of December, particularly, as the club plays 15 games in 28 days leading up to the Winter Classic on January 1 at Fenway Park. Not to mention, Boucher is more familiar than Western Conference teams than Emery, having spent the past two seasons in San Jose.

“I understood what the schedule was like [earlier in the season],” said Boucher, referring to several long layoffs during the first seven weeks of the season. “I understand my role, I understand the big picture and I know what I have to do to be ready to play.

“I knew the schedule would get hectic and I’d have a little bit more chances to play, and that’s what happened on that last road trip.”

Treats for Troops

Flyers alumni Tim Kerr and Brian Propp, along with some of of the Flyers' wives and training staff joined troops and volunteers at the annual Treats for Troops packing event yesterday at Flip & Bailey’s Bar and Grill in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. The items for the packages were collected at various locations over the past month, including the Wachovia Center and Flyers Skate Zones. The care packages will be shipped to local servicemen and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

LeClair, Hartnell call in to NHL Live! radio show

Flyers legend John LeClair, as well as current winger Scott Hartnell, both called into NHL Live! yesterday to speak with hosts Rob Simpson and Billy Jaffe. To check out the audio, click the links below.

John LeClair 12/1/09
Scott Hartnell 12/1/09

Tuesday, December 1

4:07 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ
After missing Saturday's game with the flu, and the previous two due to suspension, the Flyers will be happy to get Danny Briere back in the lineup as well when they host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets).

FlyersTV: Briere | Stevens

Briere was leading the team in goals with 10 when he went out of the lineup for hitting Colorado’s Scott Hannan on November 23 in Denver (Mike Richards has since overtaken Briere for the team lead with 11).

He was back skating on his regular line with Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell today during another lengthy team practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees today.

“Danny is a guy who is a game-breaking kind of a player. He can score big goals at key times, and he can score goals that other guys can’t,” said John Stevens after practice.

Still, Briere’s return isn’t going to automatically mean the Flyers will regain their offensive form. That will have to be a total team effort, he said.

“At this point, goals are a little bit tougher to come by, so hopefully I can help, but it’s not one player that changes everything,” said Briere, who saw the club score just four goals in its last three games. “It’s a team game, we all know that, but I hope that I can give a little spark.”

“You can’t just expect one guy to everything, I think everybody has to do more,” added Stevens.

Stevens said that the biggest key to breaking out of the offensive funk the team finds itself in right now is to work harder in the tougher areas of the ice.

 “It all comes down to really digging in the hard areas of the rink to score goals,” he said. “Winning battles along the wall in the offensive zone and being a little more determined and competitive at the offensive net.

“I think in the Atlanta game (a 1-0 loss on Saturday), the way we played defensively is the way we need to play. We created good offensive chances we just didn’t finish. That’s where the determination and the urgency has to come; not just when we don’t have the puck, but when we do.”

Stevens also declined to announce who the starting goaltender would be for Thursday's game.

More on the mustache

Flyers broadcaster Jim Jackson once again called into 93.3 WMMR this morning to discuss how he is preparing for his big day tomorrow morning. Jackson will shave off his trademark ‘stache for charity. Donations can be made by clicking here.

We asked around the locker room today what the players thought of the impending change in his appearance.

“I’ve been here now for 10 or 11 years, and I’ve been around Jim a lot, so to see him for the first time with no mustache is going to be weird,” said Simon Gagne. “Maybe he’s going to look younger. We don’t know what’s behind that mustache.”

Dan Carcillo is currently the only player in the locker room who sports a mustache, and was asked to compare his with Jackson’s.

“Everyone keeps talking about this mustache. I’ve been growing mine since about September,” he said. “It’s not the best mustache; I think he’s got me.”