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Saturday, January 30

6:05 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA
For the second time in a week, the Flyers had an apparent goal waved off by the referees.

Leading 2-0, a blast from Kimmo Timonen sailed past goaltender Dwayne Roloson with Philadelphia on the power play. Scott Hartnell was in front of the net, and bumped Roloson seemingly after the puck went in.

Kerry Fraser, who was standing right next to the net on the play, signaled it was a goal, while Roloson vehemently complained that he was interfered with. A quick meeting between Fraser and referee Rob Martell ensued, and the ruling came down that the goal would not count and Hartnell would serve two minutes for goaltender interference.

Peter Laviolette was not happy with last Saturday’s phantom high-sticking call on Simon Gagne that nullified a Mike Richards goal against Pittsburgh, nor was he pleased with the call today. After the goal was taken off of the scoreboard, he was seen laying into the refs from the bench, probably questioning why Fraser was calling it a goal and why the ref in the neutral zone supposedly had a better angle on the play.

He didn’t want to get into it after the game, though.

“I disagree with the call. I don’t want to comment on the refereeing,” said the head coach. “Next question. I’m frustrated.”

The flip-flopped call may have given the Islanders life at the time, as New York cut the lead to 2-1 minutes later, and had a strong third period despite not being able to get the equalizer.

“We thought we had [the goal], and obviously it got taken away, but you just have to bounce back from that,” said Darroll Powe. “It seems like they kind of took over after that. We kind of let it get to us a bit, maybe.  We need to do a bit better when things like that happen.”

“It was unfortunate, but we didn’t need that third goal tonight. It was a big two points for us,” added Hartnell.

Speaking of Hartnell, he was all over the ice on Saturday afternoon, breaking out of a scoring slump with a power play goal and getting involved in all sorts of pushing and shoving after the whistle.

He pumped his fists to the air after deflecting a pass from Mike Richards past Roloson in the first period, making it a 2-0 Flyers lead.

“It’s fun to score goals, that’s what hockey is about, helping your team win,” he said. “I was pretty jacked up. It seemed like everyone was pretty emotionally involved tonight. It was kind of a chippy game tonight, a lot of stuff after the whistles, but we got two points and it’s a great feeling when you can get a victory here after a loss last game.”

The Flyers’ longest homestand of the season ended with the club winning four of the six games.

Isles streak continues

The Flyers domination of the Islanders continued as they secured their 14th straight win against their Atlantic Division rivals. It is the longest active winning streak in the NHL vs. a single opponent.

During that streak, the Flyers have outscored the Isles 48-23. At home, Philadelphia has a streak of nine consecutive victories against the Islanders, dating back to Apr. 7, 2007. They have outscored the Isles 34-14 during that stretch.

Hartnell and Jeff Carter have led the way in the four wins this season, as they have each posted six points.

Pyorala reassigned

Flyers forward Mika Pyorala, a healthy scratch for 17 of the last 19 games, was reassigned to the Adirondack Phantoms today. Pyorala has two goals and two assists in 36 games this season.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren told reporters after the first period today that Pyorala welcomed the move.

Friday, January 29

1:49 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ
As with any loss, the Flyers will try and take some lessons from last night’s disappointing 4-3 defeat to Atlanta in which they started the third period with a 3-1 lead. Some of the Flyers admitted today that they might have felt the game was over at the second intermission rather than the final horn.

“We need to take some of the bad things that happened and learn from it,” said Ian Laperriere. “We thought the game was in the bag, and they took it to us in the third and they won the game. We need to realize there are no easy games.”

Head coach Peter Laviolette echoed Laperriere’s sentiments, and likely hammered home that point during a team meeting after the skate this afternoon.

“When it’s not the Penguins, and it’s not the Rangers, and you go into the third period, you just assume you’re going to win the game. That can’t happen,” he said. “Everybody’s got a good hockey team. The ones that are probably the most dangerous ones are the ones that are on the [playoff] bubble.

“Can we learn anything? Well, we might be in the same situation tomorrow.”

Laviolette is referring to Saturday afternoon’s home game against the New York Islanders (1:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets), another one of the many teams in the Eastern Conference battling to get into that Top-8 position. The Islanders sit in 13th place in the conference heading into Friday night’s games with 54 points, but are amazingly just one point behind the Flyers for seventh place.

Philadelphia will wrap up its season-long six-game homestand.

“Tomorrow is a huge game,” said Laperriere. “We need to climb; it’s unbelievable how many teams are in the same pack.”

Ray Emery will get the start in net for the Flyers, who leave for a three-game road trip to Calgary, Edmonton and Minnesota immediately following the game.

Hartnell, Powe flip-flop

With some of the team’s biggest names on offense struggling to find the back of the net right now, Laviolette made a change in his top two lines for today’s hour-long skate at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone. Scott Hartnell and Darroll Powe traded places, with Hartnell skating on the right side of Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, while Powe was on the left side of Jeff Carter and Danny Briere.

Most line changes occur when the team is trying to jumpstart its offense, and this one is no different. Hartnell has two goals in his last 25 games, while Gagne has one in his last 13 since his hat trick against the Rangers on Dec. 30.

“It’s more frustrating than anything,” said Hartnell today. “The new line with Gagne and Richie, hopefully it gives me and Gags a spark that we need personally, and we’ll get some goals for the team.”

“It’s just trying different things and hoping to get things going,” added Richards. “Sometimes, just a little change of scenery helps to kind of get back on the right page and maybe get some lucky bounces. We’ve been creating a lot; we just haven’t been scoring. Hopefully, we get a couple bounces.”

Hartnell mentioned that he doesn’t mind playing on the right side, and even had some success there two years ago when he was with Briere and Vinny Prospal during the Flyers’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008. He also played some right wing during his days in Nashville, where he spent the first six seasons of his NHL career.

Shoe drive tomorrow

You’ve all seen the hilarious outtakes from the Ian Laperriere PSA shoot, and now it’s time to donate.

Fans attending tomorrow’s game are encouraged to donate a new or gently worn pair of shoes as part of a collaborative effort between Comcast-Spectacor and KIWI® Shoe Care. The shoes will be donated to Soles4Souls, a non-profit organization that facilitates the collection and donation of shoes to those in need across the United States and worldwide. 

All fans who donate shoes will be eligible to win a Flyers MVP package, which includes game tickets, behind-the-scenes tours of the Wachovia Center, autographed memorabilia and a chance for a Zamboni ride at a future Flyers game.

And, if you haven’t yet seen the video of the Laperriere outtakes, click here.

Thursday, January 28

10:28 p.m. – Philadelphia, PA
The Flyers welcomed back a face that they hadn’t seen in a long time for tonight’s game against Atlanta.

Jim Longacre was one of the club’s main anthem singers in the old Spectrum days, and was filling in for regular Lauren Hart, who is in to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She and her husband, Todd Carmichael, are adopting their second and third children this week.

The two girls they are adopting, Yordi (5) and Selah (18 months), are the younger sisters of Hart and Carmichael's other daughter, Yemi.

Hart, who will also miss Saturday’s game against the Islanders (1:00 p.m., CSN), has missed just five games since the 2000 season: two due to illness, and three due to the adoption of her first child last year.

Longacre did an outstanding job filling in for Hart, and even did his trademark enthusiastic pointing towards the crowd, which Flyers fans from the nineties will remember well.

Birthday boys getting lucky

Danny Carcillo scored a goal in the second period on a night when he was celebrating his 25th birthday. Amazingly, he is the fourth Flyers player this season to score on his big day.

He joins Danny Briere, who tallied against Washington on Oct. 6; Chris Pronger, who scored vs. Anaheim on Oct. 10; and Claude Giroux, who lit the lamp on Jan. 12 against Dallas.

All eyes will be on Kimmo Timonen on March 18 when the Flyers are in Dallas, as the Flyers defenseman will turn 35 that day.

Wednesday, January 27

3:58 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ
The Philadelphia Flyers will welcome the league’s second-best Russian player tomorrow night when Ilya Kovalchuk and the Atlanta Thrashers visit the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets). The club skated this morning in Voorhees after a complete day off from the rink on Tuesday.

One of the most dynamic offensive players in the league, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette saw plenty of Kovalchuk while he was head coach of the Southeast Division’s Carolina Hurricanes. In 46 games this year, Kovalchuk has 30 goals and 26 assists for 56 points.

“He and [Alex] Ovechkin are up there as the most dangerous wingers in the league because of their speed their skill, and when they play the game they bring that skill,” said Laviolette. “That makes it difficult to defend off the rush. They both have a really big shot, and you know it’s obviously a challenge to play [against] top players like that.”

The Flyers’ coach mentioned he will get either Chris Pronger or Kimmo Timonen out on the ice against the superstar as much as possible. Timonen knows what kind of challenge he’ll be up against.

“I am sure if he were somewhere else in [a different] market, he’d be a bigger star. But, I think he’s a big star already,” said Timonen of Kovalchuk.

Getting back to Pronger, the giant defenseman has been on a bit of roll lately not just in his own end, but on the scoresheet as well. In the last 11 games, Pronger has three goals and 10 assists for 13 points, and is doing exactly what he was brought in to do when Flyers’ general manager Paul Holmgren traded for him in June at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

“Since the last fifteen games or so, he’s been rock solid for us back there,” said Laviolette. “I mean, that’s why Chris Pronger is here. He was brought here for his offense. He was brought here for his defense, and to play against the other team’s best players, which he does every night.”

“I’ve got a decent point total, but it’s a byproduct of the last 10-12 games of us scoring a lot of goals and playing well defensively,” added Pronger. “[That] allows us to get ahead in games and get power play goals, empty-net goals, 2-on-1’s, [and] quality 3-on-2’s, when teams are forced to kind of press and take chances.”

Syvret skating

Flyers defenseman Danny Syvret, who suffered a significant left shoulder injury on Jan. 12 vs. Dallas, continued to skate with the team today. Skating is just about all he is doing, however, as he is still unable to shoot the puck or take any contact.

While he was originally ahead of schedule, Syvret said today that he has hit a bit of a wall in his recovery. His rehab from the time of the injury was expected to be pushing six weeks, but Syvret is hoping to be ready before the start of the Olympic break on February 13.

“It’s progressed along pretty well so far, and then the last few days I have just sort of been stuck,” he said.

“Anything involving an explosive movement I have a tough time doing. I can push [the puck] really slowly along, but if I have to make a quick motion, it shuts down.”

In 21 games this year, the Ontario native has two goals and two assists for four points and 12 penalty minutes.

Phantoms add Bodrov

The Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, signed defenseman Denis Bodrov yesterday.

Bodrov, 23, began the season playing for Atlant Mytishchi in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League (incidentally, the team that Flyers goaltender Ray Emery played for last year). In 12 games this year for Atlant he scored one goal and had six penalty minutes. 

Atlant released the Moscow, Russia native at the end of November. The 6’0”, 215-pound Bodrov was drafted by the Flyers in the second round (55 overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

Monday, January 25

2:23 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ
With a rare three days off between games, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette held a spirited practice today at the Skate Zone, working almost solely on special teams. It was something he had planned even before yesterday’s 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh, in which all three goals came on the power play (Philadelphia was 1-for-9, while the Pens were 2-for-8).

There were a couple of added wrinkles to the drills. The penalty-killers in particular looked a bit odd, as they were forced to defend with shortened blades on their sticks and extra protection on their ankles and shins. That allows the guys who practice the power play to, 1: see the passing and shooting lanes better; and 2: wind up and fire on net without the fear of injuring a teammate.

It’s a drill that Laviolette brought with him from his days as the Carolina Hurricanes’ head coach, and allows him to better simulate game action.

“I just think it can give a little confidence to the power play,” he said. “Our power play does alright, but I just think it opened things up a little bit.

“If you don’t do it live, then you don’t get much out of it. If guys aren’t in the routes on the penalty kill, then it’s hard for the power play to work on something that’s game-like. We try to make it a little more real; a little more live.”

Simon Gagne, who plays on both the power play and the penalty kill, liked what he saw from today’s practice.

“I think it’s smart. You want to practice [special teams] like a game,” he said. “For the power play guys, you want them to shoot the puck on a one-timer, and hard. If guys don’t have on those shin guards or skate guards, you’re scared to maybe shoot at their feet and break a foot [of a teammate]. With those on, they are protected.”

“The last couple games I thought we were great at it, actually, so hopefully [last night] was a little slip,” added Mike Richards of the special teams play. “I liked it. I wish Pittsburgh would have had half-blades.”

Laviolette will utilize the remaining days before the next game against the Atlanta Thrashers at home on Thursday by giving the team the complete day off on Tuesday, and regrouping at the Skate Zone on Wednesday.

“Tomorrow is a day of rest for everybody. We’re just going to shut down completely,” he said. “We can come in and move up and down the ice [Wednesday] and work on some things for 40 minutes or so, ready to go again.”

Parent has successful surgery

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren released the following statement regarding defenseman Ryan Parent, who had back surgery today, performed by Dr. Scott Rushton at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

“Ryan had successful surgery this morning. A disc fragment was removed from a nerve root in his lumbar spine. Ryan will begin a walking program in a few days and start his rehab on February 7th. He will be out approximately 6 weeks.”

The 22-year-old defenseman has missed the last 15 games due to injury. So far this season, he has two assists and 14 penalty minutes in 28 games.

Response to ESPN.com

We got a bit of a surprise this morning when the official Twitter page of the team was criticized on ESPN.com in Pierre Lebrun’s blog. Lebrun apparently has an issue with our decision to post video clips of the Dan Carcillo-Marian Gaborik fight from the Rangers’ game last Thursday, as well as video of Carcillo’s post-game comments about the fight in which Carcillo said he was “licking his chops” when he realized that Gaborik had dropped the gloves.

Lebrun quotes NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly as saying: "I can't say I was aware [the Flyers] were doing this. It's not in violation of any existing policy we have."

Wrote Lebrun: “There are no rules against it, but it's in poor taste, in my mind.” To see the article, click here (it’s the fourth story down on the page).

To clarify: we stand by our decision to post the fights and the post-game comments from Carcillo to both our website and our Twitter page. In fact, the numerous fights from that game were clipped by our friends at NHL.com and forwarded to us here via email.

Guys like Dan Carcillo and Sean Avery, love them or hate them, help to sell and promote the game. Whether or not you agree with Carcillo’s comments, or with Gaborik’s decision to start a fight and subsequently end up losing it, they are events that took place and got tons of attention from the local media of both teams.

It only builds excitement for the next meeting between the Atlantic Division rivals, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, Janaury 24

4:41 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA
As heated as the rivalry has become, a loss to their intra-state rivals is bound to leave a bad taste in the Flyers’ mouths, no matter what transpired during the game.

Peter Laviolette experienced his fourth Flyers-Penguins game since taking over as head coach (and, incidentally, the third game in which the Flyers were playing the second half of a back-to-back while the Penguins were rested). He wasn’t upset with the Flyers’ effort; in fact, he praised the team for its work ethic after playing a game yesterday afternoon.

What he wasn’t happy with were some of the calls that went against his club, including a high-sticking penalty on Simon Gagne, wiping out a Mike Richards goal that would have made it a 2-0 game in the first period.

“Going back and looking at that game, there are just too many penalties that never happened,” said the head coach. “On that play in particular, Simon Gagne didn’t high stick anybody. So, it turns around and goes the other way.

“Scott Hartnell did not, in my opinion, interfere with the goaltender (at 7:44 of the first period). I don’t know if it’s a reputation from the past, but you know we want to play tough, physical…we don’t need to go to the box. But, we’re still going there, and our players aren’t taking penalties.”

Gagne was just as perplexed with the call, which also included coincidental minors to him and Evgeni Malkin. In fact, he didn’t even know it was a penalty until after the goal horn went off and the Flyers were celebrating.

“I went and talked to the referee after, and asked him what he called. He said I went and grabbed Malkin,” said Gagne.

Still, the Flyers had nine power plays in the game and managed to convert on just one of them (Pittsburgh was 2-for-8 on the man advantage). And it was Kimmo Timonen’s delay of game infraction late in the third period that proved to be the difference, as Matt Cooke tallied the game-winner with just 1:47 left in regulation.

“I don’t think we were bad on the power play, we were just a second late, [or] a half a second late on all the pucks around the net,” said Danny Briere. “I don’t think our power play was as much the problem, as the amount of penalties we took.”

The Flyers will practice tomorrow at 10:30 at the Skate Zone before a complete day off on Tuesday. They host the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday at the Wachovia Center in the fifth game of a season-long six-game homestand.

Saturday, January 23

5:14 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA
For Ian Laperriere, it was time to do something.

With the Flyers and Hurricanes tied at 1-1 after 20 minutes, Carolina came out of the gates hard to start with the second and had the Flyers reeling a bit in their own end. Enter Laperriere, who dropped the gloves with the Hurricanes’ Tom Kostopoulos, and may have tipped the scales back in the Flyers’ favor in the process.

Chris Pronger scored on the power play and Jeff Carter added another one later, and Philadelphia rode that momentum to a 4-2 win on Saturday: their sixth in a row on home ice.

“It’s part of my job. I felt it was the right time to do something like that,” said Laperriere after the game.

Chris Pronger was quick to praise the gritty veteran for taking matters into his own hands.

“A guy who’s been around like him knows a momentum change was needed. Whether it’s through a big hit, a fight, a blocked shot with his face…whatever it is, he’s willing to do it. He’s a consummate teammate, and that’s hard to find.”

Another possible momentum shift came courtesy of head coach Peter Laviolette, who called timeout after an icing call less than three minutes into the second, and promptly criticized the bench (to put it mildly).

“We needed that time out anyway. We had guys that were tired on the ice, but I didn’t like the way we’d played up until that point,” said the head coach. “Lappy, being the guy he is, jumped in there and tried to get some fire under us because we were pretty flat to start that period.

“For me, that was a turning point for us to get going and continue playing hockey because I didn’t like the way the second period was going.”

With the last-place Hurricanes visiting today, in-between divisional games against the Rangers on Thursday and Penguins tomorrow, this game today had “let down” written all over it. To the Flyers’ credit, they managed to secure the two points despite not having their A-game, according to Laviolette.

“I don’t know if we got caught a little bit in the drop of emotion from that Ranger game, and looking forward to that Pittsburgh game,” he said. “I give the guys credit because it wasn’t our best game and we walked away with points, and that’s the most important thing."

“We all know what’s at stake,” added Dan Carcillo, who scored one of the prettiest goals of the year today on a breakaway. “We jumped up into sixth here (in the Eastern Conference), and we’re just taking it game-by-game. We’re at home, and we’ve got to be ready for Pittsburgh tomorrow.”

Thursday, January 21

11:01 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA
It’s no secret that part of Dan Carcillo’s job is to be an agitator on the ice to whomever the Flyers are playing against. In tonight’s 2-0 Flyers victory over the Rangers, he also managed to enrage New York’s coach, John Tortorella.

Tortorella was specifically upset at Carcillo for a second period fight in which Rangers’ star forward Marian Gaborik tangled with the Philadelphia firebrand. Of course, Tortorella failed to mention in his post-game press conference that it was Gaborik who clearly dropped the gloves first.

“Well, there’s no honor in that,” said the Rangers’ head coach of Carcillo after the game. “I don’t play the game, I don’t wear the uniform. I don’t want to say too much about it, but there’s simply no honor in that.”

Predictably, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette saw it differently. In fact, anyone who saw a replay of the fight would agree with Laviolette that it was in fact Gaborik who started the whole thing.

“We were out numbered, Danny came in and picked somebody off the pile and Gaborik dropped his gloves first,” said Laviolette, stating the obvious. “So, Danny can either get punched or he can drop his gloves and fight. I think the ref saw it that way as well, because they [each] got five minutes for fighting.

“I don’t think [Carcillo] makes a habit of going after the other team’s top players and skilled players. He does a lot of dirty work that other people don’t want to do and usually it’s with guys like a [Sean] Avery or a [Aaron] Voros; guys that are pretty tough on the other side as well. I didn’t see it happen the way [Tortorella] did.”

Carcillo, who is quickly becoming a fan favorite in Philadelphia after coming over via trade last season, had some entertaining quotes following the game.

“I thought it was a good game, a hard-hitting game, and I didn’t really expect to fight who I fought but it kind of worked out,” he said.

When asked more about Gaborik wanting to tangle, he said: “I wasn’t expecting him to drop his gloves when he did. I was pretty much licking my chops.”

One more note regarding Tortorella: he was seen screaming towards the direction of the Flyers’ bench following the fight, but Laviolette said that he didn’t even hear it.

Emery gets the shutout

In his third straight start, Flyers goaltender Ray Emery recorded his first shutout since the opening game of the season in Carolina on Oct. 2. The Flyers’ defense did a good job limiting the Rangers’ chances, but Emery made some key stops when he was needed.

The goaltender deflected credit to the team in front of him for the win.

“The last couple nights really, the other team didn’t have much,” he said after picking up his 13th win of the year. “I think we did a great job, the guys played really physical and stayed out of the box as well. Anytime you can do that, you put yourself in a good spot.”

Laviolette was pleased with the entire game from top to bottom, including Emery.

“You’ve got to remember, he had surgery, he was off a long time, he wasn’t taking any shots, and you’re talking about a very difficult position – one of the toughest in professional sports,” explained the head coach.

“I think the biggest thing for him is just to get time and get comfortable in there. But, tonight he was very sharp. In my opinion, he was very sharp.”

Wednesday, January 20

2:21 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ
When the Flyers demolished the New York Rangers on Dec. 30 at Madison Square Garden, a 6-0 shutout paced by Simon Gagne’s hat trick, it was just another step in Philadelphia’s ongoing rebound from a bad stretch at the beginning of the month.

For New York, it may have been a turning point, as the Rangers are 6-2-3 since the embarrassing defeat. The two teams will meet tomorrow at the Wachovia Center for the third time this season, and first since that game in The Big Apple (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets). The Rangers lead the Flyers by four points in the Atlantic Division, but have played two more games than Philadelphia.

In order for the Flyers to get where they want to go, which is home ice advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs, the Rangers are one of the teams that Philadelphia will undoubtedly have to catch.

“I think it’s even more important that we beat certain teams, and obviously we have a big game tomorrow night,” said former Ranger and current fourth-line center Blair Betts. “If we beat them tomorrow night, we have a couple games in hand and we’re only two points behind them. If we come out with the same effort that we had last night, we should be alright.”

Peter Laviolette was just three-and-a-half weeks into the job as Flyers head coach at the time of the last head-to-head matchup, and it already feels like ages ago, he said today. Nine games have passed since then, including the frantic events surrounding the Winter Classic in Boston.

He was asked if the decisive nature of his team's win over the Rangers could provide even more motivation for New York.

“That seems so long ago, to be honest,” he said. “They took one in our building (a 2-1 win on Dec. 19), so can we use that as motivation? They’re playing really well right now.

“I think since that game, they probably weren’t happy with the way they played, they’ve come out and played really good hockey since then. It should be a good game. We’ll have to be skating, be banging, and be on that puck like we were last night.”

The game will be the second of a season-long six-game homestand for Philadelphia, which is in the midst of a stretch of four games in six days beginning with last night’s 5-3 win over Columbus. The Flyers host Carolina and Pittsburgh on consecutive afternoons Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

The club’s schedule has been quirky this season to say the least, and included long stretches between games earlier in the year. The team much prefers playing games rather than sitting around or practicing.

“Once you get playing every other day, which we are pretty much doing the rest of the way, you can get on a better rhythm and continue playing so you can get on a roll,” said Chris Pronger.

“I think playing every other day, you keep your mind and your body in the game,” added Betts. “When you get three and four-day breaks, sometimes your mind starts to wander a little bit. I think [now] we still have that extra day in between to recover, and obviously we practiced today but it was a little lighter than normal. We should have energy for tomorrow.”

Emery again

Peter Laviolette will give Ray Emery his third consecutive start in goal tomorrow night. The netminder notched his first victory in over two months last night, making 25 saves against the Blue Jackets.

The head coach thinks Emery progressed from his previous start in Washington on Sunday, but also mentioned that the team played better in front of him in the win.

“I thought last night was another step for him,” said Laviolette. “Defensively, I thought that we were tighter in front of him. We didn’t allow the odd-man rushes and didn’t turn the puck over.

“There were a couple of point blank saves that he made where somebody slipped the coverage when we had everybody back, and they got themselves into a hole right in front of him for a quick shot at the net and he made big saves.”

With back-to-back games this weekend, Michael Leighton may get a chance to return between the pipes for one of those contests: possibly against his old team, Carolina, on Saturday. For now, though, it looks like Laviolette has given Emery the #1 job back.

“It’s like anything, the more you get back in there and get on the horse, [the more] you’re going to feel comfortable riding it,” he said of Emery.

More on the line changes

We touched on this last night, and Laviolette reiterated today, that he liked Darroll Powe on wing of the Mike Richards-Simon Gagne line, while moving Claude Giroux back in the middle of James van Riemsdyk and Arron Asham.

Although the Richards line didn’t get on the scoreboard last night, Laviolette thought the trio had a strong game – especially in the first period.

“Darroll did a pretty good job just providing the forecheck and getting on the puck,” he said. “In the first period, I thought that Richie’s line really controlled the play in the offensive zone. They had 45-second shifts, 50-second shifts, and they had a shift that was 1:02 of just pounding down [in the offensive zone]. They had good scoring opportunities from it.”

He also gave a glowing review of Giroux’s play, which included maybe the assist-of-the-year so far when Giroux spun around and sent a backhanded, no-look pass to the slot for an easy goal by Asham.

“You got a look at [Giroux] coming through the middle of the ice five times last night, [and] it was pretty impressive,” said Laviolette. “When he gets off the wall and he starts moving, he’s gifted. And he’s got speed to do it.”

Tuesday, January 19

10:52 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA
After scoring just three goals over their last two games, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette made a couple of changes to his lines prior to tonight’s 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Darroll Powe skated on the wing with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, while Claude Giroux centered James van Riemsdyk and Arron Asham as that unit was reunited.

Laviolette explained the change, and what he saw of it tonight.

“Claude [Giroux] has always played well in the middle,” said the head coach after the game. “He seems to generate a lot of speed. You saw the way he attacked the ice, he can get off the wall and come with underneath speed.

“I think Darroll has played very well as a power forward. It’s just a different look for both lines. It puts a skilled centerman in the middle of that line and moves a power forward up with Richards and Gagne to give that a different look. We were just going to try it and see how it worked, and I think the first period was one of the best periods we’ve put together in awhile.”

Giroux tallied a picturesque assist in the second period, finding Arron Asham with a backhand to the slot for a goal that gave Philadelphia a 2-0 lead at the time.

"I saw Asham going backdoor so I just tried to throw it out there and got pretty lucky and got it on his tape," he said. "Playing center with [van Riemsdyk] and Asham is pretty fun. It doesn't really matter to me," he said.

Powe welcomed the move, and said that his game will stay relatively simple. That is, he’ll be in there crashing and banging the boards to try and create havoc for opponent’s defenses while giving his linemates more room to operate.

“It is always exciting when you get the chance to play with guys like Richards and Gagne,” said Powe. “But for me, my game doesn’t change. I just work hard and try and get the puck in their hands and then go to the net. When you get them the puck good things will happen. I just have to keep on playing my game.”

Tollefsen welcomes a son

Flyers defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen missed this morning’s optional pregame skate at the Wachovia Center for a good reason. His wife, Guro, was busy giving birth to their first child. Philip Tollefsen was born weighing six pounds and four ounces, and is 20 inches long.

Tollefsen was still wearing his hospital bracelet for tonight’s game.

“They are doing great. I am so proud of my family and I can’t be more happy,” he said after the second period.

Paddock honored

Congrats to Flyers asst. general manager John Paddock, who was inducted into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame today during a ceremony in Portland, Maine. The AHL is holding its annual All-Star festivities there.

Paddock had his greatest success as a player in parts of seven seasons in Portland with the Maine Mariners, winning Calder Cup championships in 1978 and 1979 and hitting the 30-goal plateau on two separate occasions.

As a coach, Paddock has a career record of 585-424-98, placing him third on the AHL’s all-time list of coaching wins and games coached (1,107). Only Bun Cook has more Calder Cups won as a coach than Paddock’s three. He never missed the postseason in 14 tries as an AHL head coach, and his 82 playoff wins and 149 playoff games coached both stand as league records.

* * *

12:14 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA

A couple of familiar faces will be back at the Wachovia Center tonight when the Flyers host Columbus (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets). Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock and center R.J. Umberger both have fond memories of playing here, and both reflected on their time in Philadelphia this morning.

For Umberger, it’s his first experience playing in Philadelphia as an opponent. He was traded to the Blue Jackets from the Flyers at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

“I’ve been waiting to come back here for awhile. It’s going to be weird being on the other side,” said Umberger, who has 15 goals and 18 assists in 51 games this season.

“When I was here, I loved every minute of it. It was a great city and I tried to be part of the community and really bought into the Flyers mentality here. I owe a lot to this organization. Paul Holmgren and Bob Clarke gave me my opportunity in this league, and there’s not a minute that goes by where I’m not thankful for this place.”

Umberger, who said he would try to catch up with his former teammates and friends after tonight’s game, will likely get a warm ovation from the home crowd. Former goaltender Antero Niittymaki was cheered before a game a couple weeks ago when he was the starting goaltender for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Hitchcock will be making his second appearance as a visitor behind the bench since he was relieved of his coaching duties on October 22, 2006. Ironically, his first game as head coach of the Blue Jackets came just over a month later on November 24 at the Wachovia Center in a 3-2 Flyers victory.

Never one to shy away from the media, Hitchcock touched on a number of topics this morning, including what he expects to see from the Flyers the rest of the season.

“If I was the teams ahead of them (in the Eastern Conference), I’d be looking over my shoulder. They are a team on the rise, and I don’t think anybody doubts that they are going to get in the playoffs,” he said.

“I would say this is a team that’s gone through a lot of adversity and they’re going to be stronger because of it. When they get in the playoffs, they’re going to be a tough opponent because they have seen the bottom of the barrel and they don’t want to be there again. They would be a pretty resilient group.”

Like Umberger, Hitchcock enjoyed his time in Philadelphia, as well as the pressure that comes along with the job. He spent parts of four seasons behind the Flyers’ bench from 2002-06, compiling a 131-83-40 record in the process.

“It’s a dynamic city that really grows on you because of the passion. Any time you get to coach in a city that has the passion for sports like Philadelphia, or New York, or Boston, I think it’s a very unique experience for a hockey coach.

“I’m sure there’s some general conversation on [Eagles quarterback] Donovan [McNabb] that’s going on now. I know when I was here there was conversation on [Phillies manager] Charlie [Manuel], and he turned out fine. So, you feel the passion.

“From a coaching perspective, it’s understanding that the experience of coaching under a microscope is a very unique experience and very valuable later in life.”

Monday, January 18

3:00 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ
Flyers goaltender Ray Emery will get right back in the net tomorrow night when Philadelphia begins a six-game homestand against the Ken Hitchcock-coached Columbus Blue Jackets (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets). Emery played for the first time since Dec. 5 in last night’s 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals, after missing close to six weeks with an abdominal injury.

Much like the 4-0 defeat in Toronto (in which Michael Leighton suffered the loss), head coach Peter Laviolette did not blame his goaltender for the result last night. Instead, he wants to see his team avoid turnovers and put together a complete 60-minute effort, as it was doing prior to the brief two-game skid.

“Ray’s got to get back in there and get some games, and this is an opportunity for him to jump right back in there,” said Laviolette. “We need to do a little better job of taking care of the puck in front of him. Some of those goals last night, we put him in a bad position.

“We want to give [Emery] a better game in front of him.”

The homestand will be Philadelphia’s longest of the season, and players like Danny Briere are looking forward to not having to go anywhere until they leave for Calgary on January 30.

“It’s going to be fun to get back and play a few games at home for a little stretch. It seems in the last couple months we’re home for a game or two before we get back out on the road,” he said. “It’s going to be nice to spend a little bit of time in front of our fans and get back on a winning streak.”

The Flyers have been playing better at home in January, winning all three games so far by a combined 16-6 score. Obviously, they would like to keep that success going at the Wachovia Center.

“We have to keep taking advantage of home games. It’s as simple as that,” said Mike Richards. “It’s a place that we have to make difficult for [opponents] to play.”

“It’s a chance for us to get some of the points that we let get away earlier in the season. Hopefully our fans can help us do that,” added Briere.

The Flyers host, in order: Columbus, the New York Rangers, Carolina, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and the New York Islanders before a three-game road trip starts on Feb. 1 against the Flames.

Holmgren on Richards

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren met with reporters today regarding Mike Richards and his relationship with the local media.

FlyersTV: Holmgren speaks

Specifically, Holmgren was asked if he is concerned about a perceived rift between Richards and the writers, stemming from some comments from Richards in an upcoming issue of The Hockey News and again last night in Washington.

“No, I’m not concerned at all. I really didn’t know what happened until I talked to Mike on the train on the way home after the game. I talked to him again briefly today.

“I’m not sure the question should have been asked at that time. We’re in a playoff fight here, trying to get in, and we just lost an emotional game. I’m not sure that was the right time for that question to be posed to Mike. None of us had even seen the article in question, including Mike. [The question] was just bad timing.

“He’s the captain of our team. He’s going to be put in the position where he’s got to answer difficult questions from time to time. I think over the course of time, Mike will get better in dealing with those questions as they come up, whether difficult or easy. He’s an honest young man and I’m sure he was stating his feelings. I don’t think it’s any big deal.”

Saturday, January 16

3:13 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ
There’s still no word yet from Peter Laviolette regarding the starting goaltender tomorrow afternoon in Washington (3:00 p.m., CSN). The team skated at its practice facility today before taking a train to the nation’s capital.

“Decisions are still being made. We will probably sit on this one until game time and go from there,” said the head coach.

Michael Leighton has started the previous 11 games, going 8-1-1 with one no-decision in the process. Although no one blames him for Thursday’s 4-0 loss in Toronto, Sunday may be a good opportunity to get Ray Emery back in the net, as the opening night starter is fully healthy. Emery has not played since Dec. 5, an 8-2 home loss to Washington in Laviolette’s first game as Flyers head coach.

Emery had abdominal surgery four days later.

“Whoever goes in there, we have to make sure we play a good game in front of him,” said Laviolette. “I thought we let Michael down a little bit last game. We weren’t real sharp. We gave up too much and we have to tighten things up on our end. 

“I know they all want to [play].”

Laviolette sees a different Flyers team now than he did the previous game against the Capitals when he was just one day into the job, but knows that the Southeast Division leaders will provide a tough challenge for his hockey club.

“If you look at their lineup they are big, strong, they skate and they have skill. Not even the obvious people,” he said. “You have to want to work, and you have to want to win against that team. If you don’t, you won’t.

“We should be excited and motivated and ready to play a desperate hockey game against a very good hockey team. It should be a lot of fun.”

Also, Darroll Powe and Scott Hartnell will both be in the lineup against the Capitals. Powe left Thursday's game early with an upper body injury, while Hartnell sat out due to an illness.

Friday, January 15

2:58 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ
Flyers forwards Darroll Powe and Scott Hartnell are probable to play in Washington on Sunday, according to general manager Paul Holmgren, when Philadelphia visits Alex Ovechkin and the Captials for a matinee matchup at the Verizon Center (3:00 p.m., CSN).

Hartnell has been battling flu symptoms, while Powe left last night’s 4-0 loss in Toronto with an upper body injury and did not return.

“We definitely missed them,” said Peter Laviolette today. “You’re talking about a couple of physical guys that skate and kind of thrive in the way we’re playing right now. Up until the time Powe went out, it was an even score (0-0 early in the second period).”

Powe, along with fellow center Blair Betts, have been unlikely keys to the Flyers’ success this season. When they are both in the lineup, Philadelphia has an extraordinary 18-3-1 record, including last night’s loss in which Powe left early.

While that stat may surprise many observers, don’t include Laviolette in that group.

“Everybody has their roles and their job on this team, but we’re talking about two big, strong, skating centermen,” said the head coach. “They say that you have to be good down the middle, and they give [us] that. Those players that can skate, hit, block shots, are strong on the puck, strong on the forecheck…they bring an awful lot to the table.

“When they come out, you miss them. That being said, there’s going to be injures. Every team deals with them. We’ve got to present ourselves better than we did last night in Toronto.”

Philadelphia stayed off of the ice today after getting back into town late last night, opting instead for a team meeting, and will practice on Saturday morning at the Skate Zone before training it down to the nation’s capital.

I mentioned to Laviolette that his team responded very well the last time it had a rough night, losing 7-4 in Ottawa on Jan. 3. The Flyers beat Toronto 6-2 in their next game, the first of a four-game winning streak. Laviolette included that fact in his message to the team today at the Skate Zone.

“We talked about that. [The loss in Ottawa] was the same type of game. They really mirrored each other,” he said.

“We need to turn the page. Let’s go back and pound some bodies, and pound some pucks, and get our minds and legs into it and execute our system.”

Parent update

While Holmgren gave good news on Darroll Powe and Scott Hartnell, the update on defenseman Ryan Parent was not as promising.

Parent is still day-to-day with a lower body injury, but did not skate today.

“He’s kind of had a few setbacks here. Today was better, and I think tomorrow we’ll have a better idea again,” said Holmgren.

Parent has been out since Dec. 23, and there is still no timetable for his return. He is one of two defensemen on the shelf for Philadelphia, along with Danny Syvret, who is likely out until after the Olympic break with a shoulder separation.

Ole-Kristian Tollefsen was inserted back into the lineup last night in Toronto, and played just under 13 minutes.

Thursday, January 14

11:26 p.m. – Toronto, ON
Well, it was bound to end sometime.

Goaltender Michael Leighton started his 11th consecutive game for Philadelphia in tonight’s 4-0 loss in Toronto. He entered with an unbeaten-in-regulation record of 8-0-1 record over the previous 10 games, with one no-decision, along with a sterling 2.17 goals against average and .928 save percentage in that span (he was pulled after he allowed two goals in Ottawa when the Flyers lost 7-4 there on Jan. 3).

Although he allowed four goals tonight, it was hard to fault Leighton for the loss. The Leafs’ Tyler Bozak opened the scoring with a highlight-reel goal after making a great move around defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen; Nikolai Kulemin scored on a two-on-one rush; Luke Schenn had his shot go off of Leighton’s glove and just underneath the crossbar, while Lee Stempniak capped the scoring on a three-on-one rush.

“All of [the goals] were from turnovers by us,” said Chris Pronger. “We contributed to their four goals, and didn’t allow them to have to work for theirs.”

“[Leighton] played a heck of a game. He’s one guy who played hard tonight,” added Peter Laviolette. “You can’t fault him on the goals. We let him down.”

Obviously, the Flyers did not play as clean a game as they had been playing of late as they climbed back into the Eastern Conference playoff race after a tough December.

“I don’t think that’s the game we had been playing the last two or three weeks, but we can’t win them all,” said Leighton. “We just have to bounce back the next game. It (a loss) was going to happen eventually.”

The defeat prevented Philadelphia from equaling its season high for consecutive wins, as the Flyers were trying for their fifth straight. The team last won five games in a row from Oct. 31 – Nov. 12.

Also, with Bozak’s goal, the Flyers’ streak of scoring first ended at 10. Philadelphia is 3-15 when falling behind 1-0; conversely, it is 20-5-3 when scoring the opening goal.

Finally, forward Darroll Powe left the game in the second period with an upper body injury and did not return. We’ll get more information regarding his injury when it becomes available. The Princeton grad recently returned from a 16-game absence with a strained left shoulder.

The Flyers are in Washington to play the Capitals on Sunday afternoon (3:00 p.m., CSN), before beginning a six-game homestand on Tuesday, Jan. 19 against Ken Hitchcock and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

1:03 p.m. – Toronto, ON

Most of the team participated in the optional morning skate today at the Air Canada Centre, including Dan Carcillo, who had a substantial media throng surrounding his locker when he came off of the ice. Carcillo was the center of attention for some of his actions in the previous Flyers-Leafs game, in which he was fined for taunting the Toronto bench after his picturesque goal in a 6-2 victory at the Wachovia Center on Jan. 6.

The Flyers players, nor their coach, were taking any of the bait from the local media, though. The last thing Philadelphia wants is to start any sort of war of words, as the team comes in having won four in a row while Toronto has dropped four straight.

“We’re here for two points. We’re not here to beat them up or see how many fights we can have,” said Scott Hartnell, who will be in the lineup after suffering from a brief illness the past two days. “We’re rolling right now.”

Carcillo also kept things tight to the vest, and when asked what he expects tonight, he simply said: “A hockey game at 7:00. It’s going to be a hard-hitting game. That’s about it, really.”

The Maple Leafs recalled rookie Jay Rosehill, a 6-3, 215-pound forward who will be playing in just his seventh career NHL game. Rosehill has one goal, one assist, and 122 penalty minutes in 23 games with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies this season. Rosehill’s recall certainly adds some muscle to the Maple Leafs’ lineup.

The addition of Rosehill could also be taken as a sign to expect some fireworks or retribution in tonight’s game, but Carcillo didn’t seem too concerned.

“We don’t really need to be fighting guys that are going to play three minutes,” he said. “We just have to play hockey, and play hard.”

“I can’t comment on their decisions over there and what they do,” added Peter Laviolette of the roster move. “We’re trying to chase down home ice. We’re going to battle, compete, hit, show up, skate, hopefully score some goals, and hopefully win a hockey game.”

Wednesday, January 13

2:12 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ
Flyers defenseman Danny Syvret suffered a Grade 3 shoulder separation in last night’s game against Dallas, when the Stars’ Steve Ott hit him from behind early in the first period. He will be out for approximately one month, according to general manager Paul Holmgren.

Essentially, that means that Syvret, who scored the first two goals of his NHL career on Jan. 1 in Boston and Jan. 6 against Toronto, will not be available until after the league breaks for the Olympics from mid-to-late February. It also means that Ole-Kristian Tollefsen will be inserted back into the lineup beginning tomorrow night at the Air Canada Centre against the Maple Leafs (7:00 p.m., CSN).

Tollefsen suffered a knee injury on Dec. 14 in Boston – his only appearance in the last 31 games overall. He admits that his conditioning level is not where it would be had he been getting more playing time, rather than battling injuries for much of the season.

“They have me working hard, but nothing like game shape,” he said after practice on Wednesday. “You have to be playing games to get into game shape. I just have to get back in there and do my best.”

Ryan Parent is still recovering from a lower body injury, although he has been skating on his own and is getting closer to a return.

Leighton again vs. Toronto

Goaltender Michael Leighton will be back between the pipes for tomorrow’s game in Toronto, head coach Peter Laviolette said today. Leighton will be making his 11th straight start, and is 8-0-1 with one no-decision in that span.

While Leighton’s play has been as big a reason as any for Philadelphia’s recent success, the fact that the team is getting leads for its goaltender has made the job easier. Philadelphia has scored first in each of the previous 10 games, going 8-1-1 in the process to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

“It’s usually tight in the first period or so, and all I have to do is make a couple of saves. It seems like the team responds in the second period and usually has an outbreak of goals, so that’s good,” said Leighton today of the Flyers, who are averaging 5.75 goals per game over the last five games overall.

Leighton and Laviolette stuck to the old cliché today about taking things one game at a time. Ray Emery and Brian Boucher are both healthy, but there is no indication just yet as to when either of them will get back into game action.

“The situation we’re in here with three goalies, I’m not trying to think about that too much, about what’s going to happen,” said Leighton. “I’m just trying to take it one game at a time, and tomorrow it’s Toronto.”

“I’ve said it before and I won’t change my tune on it – Michael Leighton is back in net because he deserves it,” added the head coach. “We’ve got three good goaltenders here and I know that all three want to play and want to contribute, but you reward a guy for what he’s done and he certainly has done what we’ve asked. He’s given us a chance to win every game.”

Laviolette pointed out that the Flyers’ schedule is not very taxing at the moment, allowing him to ride the hot goaltender. After a hectic December in which the club played 15 games in a 28-day span, Philadelphia is now in the midst of a January in which it has just two back-to-back situations, with the next coming on Jan. 23 and 24 against Carolina and Pittsburgh, respectively (both of those games are home matinees).

Carcillo plays down Toronto rematch

When the Flyers and Maple Leafs last met on Jan. 6 in Philadelphia, Dan Carcillo made some headlines with his play (he scored a beautiful goal in Philadelphia’s 6-2 victory over Toronto), but also with some of his extracurricular activity in a game that featured 80 minutes in penalties.

Carcillo was fined by the league for mocking the Toronto bench after his goal, but also got into a scrap with Toronto’s Colton Orr, after Orr was trying to retaliate against Mike Richards for Richards’ hit on Nikolai Kulemin.

It’s safe to say that tomorrow night’s game with the Maple Leafs could result in some fireworks. Carcillo was asked about the potential for that happening after today’s practice.

“We’ll see what happens. Maybe they’ll be a little bit fired up,” he said.

“Orr went after [Richards], so I was just sending a message that we’re not going to tolerate that. But, I mean, if he wants to take penalties all night and put us on the power play, then I’m sure we’ll be more than happy to do that again.”

Orr was called for roughing Carcillo late in the second period of the previous game, leading to a Richards power play goal early in the third that made it a 4-0 Flyers lead at the time.

Tuesday, January 12

10:13 p.m. – Philadelphia, PA
In sports, the numbers don’t always tell the story. In the case of the Philadelphia Flyers’ recent run of success (8-1-1 in their last 10 games, and four straight wins overall), they do.

Their goals-per-game average is a whopping 5.75 in the last five games. They have scored first in all 10 games. In the last five games, the power play is 9-for-17 (52.9 percent). Mike Richards, Chris Pronger and Simon Gagne all have five-game point streaks.

Oh, and by the way, Philadelphia is back in the playoff picture, jumping up into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

After the game, team confidence was the recurring theme.

“I think there’s definitely some confidence. I think winning does that,” said Peter Laviolette. “You start to feel good about the way you’ve practiced, the way you’ve worked, the way you play a game. Because of that you get results, and I think all of that leads to confidence.”

“[There’s] no better feeling when you win some hockey games. It makes practice more fun, [and] makes coming to the rink a lot more fun,” added Gagne. “We’re so different from a month ago when we were losing games and the mood in the locker room was not too fun, and practice was tough. It was tough coming to the locker room. Now it’s a good time…but we don’t want to stop there.”

The Flyers are getting offensive contributions from all of their lines, and that was particularly evident in tonight’s 6-3 victory over Dallas. When it was all over, 14 different players had registered at least a point, including six different goal scorers. In fact, it was the first time the Flyers have had 14 players or more record a point in game since Dec. 31, 1997 in an 8-0 win at Vancouver.

The return of Blair Betts and Darroll Powe from injury just before the recent run began has been an obvious benefit.

“When you’re strong down the middle, I think you become a stronger hockey team. So when you add Betts and Powe down the middle to Richards and [Jeff] Carter, you’ve got good strength down the middle. Having Darroll back, as well as Blair, has been helpful in a lot of different areas.”

FSN Pittsburgh employee suspended

A Fox SportsNet Pittsburgh employee has been suspended over the goal-replay controversy from last week’s Flyers-Penguins game at Mellon Arena, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

On the play in question, the Flyers’ Simon Gagne appeared to score a shorthanded goal that would have given Philadelphia a 6-3 lead late in the second period. Although goaltender Brent Johnson’s entire body was over the goal line, the puck was not visible, and therefore the official ruling was no-goal.

Immediately following the referee’s announcement that the goal would not count, the Pittsburgh broadcast showed a clear view of the puck crossing the goal line. At that point, however, it was too late. The Flyers won the game, 7-4.

To see the entire article on the Post-Gazette’s website, click here.

In other Flyers-Penguins news, the game between the cross-state rivals on Jan. 24 has been chosen as the NHL’s Game of the Week, and will now begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Wachovia Center. There’s no word yet on if the Flyers will get to start that game up 1-0 to make up for the Gagne error (just kidding, of course).

Monday, January 11

1:37 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ
The Philadelphia Flyers will go with the hot hand tomorrow night when they host the Dallas Stars at the Wachovia Center, as goaltender Michael Leighton will get his 10th straight start in goal (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets).

With Ray Emery and Brian Boucher both healthy, all three goaltenders were on the ice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees for the team’s practice. Leighton had his own net, while Emery and Boucher split time on the other end of the ice, staying out later than most of their teammates to get a full workload.

It’s no surprise that head coach Peter Laviolette will remain with Leighton as his starter for at least another game, as Leighton is 7-0-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average and .931 save percentage with one no-decision in his last nine starts.

“I’ve said it for a week now – he’s earned the right to go back in there and play again. He’s been solid for us,” said Laviolette.

All three goaltenders recognize the fact that having three of them is a unique situation, but they also know that all they can do is prepare to play at a moment’s notice.

“Obviously, every goalie wants to play as many games as they can, but if a team is winning, you can’t argue with that,” said Emery. “You can’t control when you play, you just have to make sure that you’re ready when you get the chance.”

“You have to come to the rink and do a job, and sometimes your roles are not exactly what you envisioned for yourself,” explained Boucher. “But, whatever your role is at a given time you have to do it to the best of your ability and work hard. That’s what you can control, and stay positive, and hopefully things will work out.”

Leighton is a little bit more used to the three-goalie situation that his counterparts. He was the third guy earlier this year in Carolina, behind Cam Ward and Manny Legace, before getting placed on waivers and eventually joining Philadelphia. In fact, he was the third goalie for the Flyers at one point during his first stint with the club in 2007, at that point fighting for playing time with Robert Esche and Antero Niittymaki.

“I’ve been scrambling around with three goalies quite a bit in my career,” he said today. “It’s not a great situation for any of us, but we take it game-by-game.”

Leighton is also quick to point out that his play is not the sole reason the Flyers are 7-1-1 in their last nine games. The offensive production, a healthy lineup, strong defense and good special teams play have all contributed to the turnaround.

“We’re playing an all-around great game right now, so we just have to continue doing that,” he said. “If we keep winning I might get a chance to keep playing, and that’s our goal – to keep winning.”

Emery’s Adirondack outing

Ray Emery was assigned to the Adirondack Phantoms over the weekend on a conditioning assignment, and allowed two goals on 14 shots in the Phantoms’ 2-1 loss to Portland in Glens Falls, New York. It was his first game-action since Dec. 5 when he appeared in the Flyers’ 8-2 loss to Washington in Peter Laviolette’s first game behind the bench.

Although his workload was light, Emery was glad to get back between the pipes for some organized competition.

“It helps to get your feet back under you and it’s kind of reassuring that you still know how to play the game and get that competitive spirit back,” he said. “I felt pretty good before [the game], but it definitely helps.”

Emery had abdominal surgery on Dec. 9, causing him to miss the next month of the season.

“I feel better than I did before I got the surgery, but there’s still a little bit of a different feeling,” he explained. “But, it definitely feels strong and it feels like things are repaired.”

Carnival reaction

The annual Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival took place yesterday at the Wachovia Center. If you missed it, we posted some photos of the event, here.

Although the actual dollar figure of what the Carnival raised for charity has not yet been determined, there’s no question it was another successful endeavor.

“You love to see a good turn out, which it has been, and it is for a great cause. This is not only a chance for us to connect with the fans and get out in the community, but also raise some well-needed funds for charities that are going to do some good with it and help out the less fortunate,” said Chris Pronger.

Simon Gagne took part in the 10th Carnival of his Philadelphia career.

“It is always amazing to see all these people coming to this nice event that the wives put together,” he said. “It is a great chance to meet our fans and be a part of something big.”

Saturday, January 9

10:48 p.m. – Philadelphia, PA
Blair Betts recorded the second two-goal game of his career tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning, helping the Flyers improve to 7-1-1 in their last nine games. But that’s just half the story when it comes to the gritty forward.

Betts also spent just under four minutes killing penalties, helping Philadelphia go 5-for-5 on the PK. When he’s in the lineup, the Flyers are an impressive 17-6-2 (Betts has played just 25 games after missing some stretches with a shoulder injury).

His contributions don’t go unnoticed by his teammates, or his coach.

“He’s a selfless guy who’s going to throw his body in front of everything. He’s good on draws, and that’s what you’re looking for in a penalty killer, somebody who’s going to sacrifice himself,” said Chris Pronger. “It’s a big addition having him back healthy and contributing to the team, and obviously he’s chipping in offensively.”

“He’s really valuable because he does a lot of things really well,” said Peter Laviolette. “He’s a faceoff guy, he can play all positions, he can skate, he can hit, he can kill penalties, he can jump up and play on other lines, play in the last minute of a game. When you’ve got a player and you can start rambling on like that, you know he’s a valuable part of your team.”

Betts deposited the rebound of a shot by Ian Laperierre at 16:55 of the third period during a four-on-four to give the Flyers a two-goal lead, and with the Lightning about to go back on the power play. He added an empty-netter to seal the win for his first two-goal game since Dec. 23 in Tampa Bay (four of his six goals on the year have come against the Lightning).

“It gave us a little bit of insurance, and a little breathing room,” he said of his first goal. “Those are goals that make you a little bit more comfortable and a little bit more confident playing in the last few minutes of the game.”

Gagne hits 500

Simon Gagne got the secondary assist on Claude Giroux’s power play goal in the first period, to record his 500th point in the NHL tonight.

“I had a chance to get this one done in Pittsburgh but the goal was not good,” he said, referring to the shorthanded goal that should have counted at Mellon Arena on Thursday night. “It is a lot more fun to reach 500 here in Philly in front of our fans.”

Ironically enough, Gagne reached the milestone in his 626th career game – the same number of games it took Danny Briere to reach 500, which he did during Wednesday’s 6-2 win at home over Toronto.

“When Danny reached 500 he asked me after the game if I reached this one already or if I was close to it,” said Simon. “We looked at the stats and I was something like two points away from reaching 500 in almost the same time as Danny. It’s pretty fun to see that.”

All 500 of Gagne’s points have come as a Flyer.

12:37 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA

The Flyers held a team skate this morning at the Wachovia Center, preparing for tonight’s game with Tampa Bay. It will be Michael Leighton in the net for the Flyers, getting his ninth straight start, while former Flyer Antero Niittymaki is the goalie for the Lightning. As reported earlier, Ray Emery will be starting tonight for the Phantoms in a conditioning assignment and will rejoin the club tomorrow.

Philadelphia’s run of 6-1-1 in its last eight games began on Dec. 23 at the hands of the Lightning. The Flyers were coming off of a loss in Florida at home in their previous game, which may have been the low point of their season. It seemingly all turned around with a 5-2 win at the St. Pete Times Forum two nights later.

Peter Laviolette reflected a bit upon that game this morning.

“I thought we played a really good game. We played hard but a little bit looser,” he said. “We had left this building and we were uptight a little bit and we just loosened up.

“That was kind of the start of things for us. Our skating and work ethic has led the way here, and we have to make sure we’re doing that tonight.”

The Lightning played in New Jersey last night, but the game had to be suspended in the second period after the lights went out in the Prudential Center. Tampa Bay was leading that game at the time, 3-0, despite being outshot by the Devils 20-7 at the time.

Laviolette told a quick story this morning about the only game he could recall getting suspended like that.

“One time back in Providence when I was playing, they brought the mud in for the monster trucks,” he explained. “They dropped the plywood and then they put the mud down. The ice got wet or whatever, so the mud ended up going down all underneath, and then it froze. They had to postpone the game, and that’s the only game I’ve ever seen postponed that I was a part of.”

10:48 a.m. - Philadelphia, PA
The Flyers announced today have loaned goaltender Ray Emery to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, for conditioning purposes. He will return to the Flyers tomorrow. Emery will play in tonight’s game for the Phantoms, who take on the Portland Pirates at 7:00 p.m. at the Glens Falls Civic Center, in Glens Falls, New York.

The Flyers host the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets).

Friday, January 8

2:53 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ
With Ray Emery’s return seemingly at hand, it is nearing decision time for Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette regarding the team’s goaltending situation. Laviolette said today at the Skate Zone that no decisions have been made as to whom will get the start when Philadelphia hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets).

Emery skated today along with the other players that did not play last night in Pittsburgh, and all indications point to him being available tomorrow. He has been out since surgery on Dec. 9 to repair an abdominal injury.

FlyersTV: Emery speaks

“Definitely, you want to come back as fast as you can, but you also want to make sure that you don’t rush it and that you’re ready when you get back. I think I’ve done both of those,” said Emery.

Of course, with the emergence of Michael Leighton, who has started the last eight games and gone 6-0-1 in the process, Emery’s return presents a good problem to have if you’re Laviolette. The head coach is quick to point out that Leighton is as big a reason as any that the team has lost just one game in regulation out of its last eight.

“He deserves credit for rising to the challenge, because we were a team that needed to win hockey games. He’s given us a chance to win games,” said the coach. “This is the first opportunity, with me anyway, that he’s gotten to be the [starter]. He’s done a really good job. He’s answered the bell.

“Hard decisions are always good decisions.”

Neither Leighton, Emery, nor Brian Boucher knew as of this morning which of them would dress for the game against Tampa Bay.

“I know it’s a tough situation. Right now I’ve been playing and winning, and that’s really our concern right now is just to win hockey games,” said Leighton. “I try not to worry about what’s going to happen the next week or so. It’s a tough decision but it’s not my decision that needs to be made. I’m just trying to play my best hockey and they can figure it out from there.

“I knew my role coming in here. I knew that the reason that they picked me up was because Ray was out. They told me that they wanted to give ‘Boosh’ some rest once in awhile. It was unfortunate that ‘Boosh’ got hurt (with a lacerated finger on Dec. 21), and that gave me an opportunity to play.”

Leighton also deflected some of the credit to the team, which is playing better as a whole in front of him.

“The team is scoring goals, we’re playing well, blocking shots, playing well defensively and I think all around we’re just playing good hockey. Any goalie will [tell] you, you’re only as good as your team is playing, and we’re playing good right now.”

Thursday, January 7

11:55 p.m. – Pittsburgh, PA
With tonight’s 7-4 victory over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, the question of the night afterwards was simple – was this a statement game? After all, Philadelphia came into the match having lost the first three games of the season series, and had won just twice in its last 13 games at the decrepit Mellon Arena.

Not to mention the Penguins ended the Flyers’ postseason run the last two years.

Although there was no denying that the victory was big, improving the Flyers’ record to 6-1-1 in their last eight, no one in the locker room seemed to want to blow it too far out of proportion. To the players, it’s just another two points in the standings as Philadelphia continues its climb in the Eastern Conference.

“It definitely helps with what we’re trying to do. It all depends on how we come out the next game (on Saturday at home against Tampa Bay),” said Matt Carle, who tallied his first goal since Oct. 31 to go along with two assists. “We can’t be satisfied with this. If anything, we’ll use it as a stepping stone for the rest of the season.”

Chris Pronger added: “I think it might be a little early for statement games. It’s just a matter of us continuing to gain confidence and not make a statement – we’ve got to worry about ourselves and how we’re playing. Statement games can come later.”

Peter Laviolette was quick to credit his players for their recent effort and workers mentality as the club has lost just once in regulation since Dec. 23. As he has said numerous times during this stretch, he sees things starting to come together.

“It’s another step. We’ve got things going in the right direction,” he said. “I think it’s important that we stick with what we’re doing and the identity that the guys are playing with. You throw one game out in the last eight, and the guys have played pretty hard. Because of that, we’ve gotten some results.”

One of the big keys to those recent results has been getting out in front early. The Flyers have scored the first goal in eight straight games, and improved to 18-5-3 when doing so. By comparison, Philadelphia is just 3-14 when falling behind 1-0.

Jeff Carter opened the scoring with a turnaround wrist shot from the slot that beat goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury at 6:39 of the first period, while James van Riemsdyk made it 2-0 on a breakaway just 31 seconds later.

"It was definitely big. We played last night and wanted to come out strong and this is a tough building to play in, so when we get off to a start like that it helps,” said Carle.

While Pittsburgh was never able to tie the score, the game was not settled until Mike Richards tallied into an empty net with 32 seconds left in regulation.

“Starts against [Pittsburgh] haven’t been the best for us the last two or three games against them,” said Pronger. “We were able to get that lead and push forward and stay on top of them.”

JVR delivers, from Asham

James van Riemsdyk scored two breakaway goals – one on Marc-Andre Fleury and another on backup Brent Johnson with similar backhands through the five hole – to register the first two-goal game of his young career. With 26 points this season, van Riemsdyk trails the New York Islanders’ John Tavares by just two points for the rookie lead, despite playing just over 13 minutes a game.

“I got some great passes tonight, from [Arron] Asham especially, and I was fortunate enough to bury them,” he said.

Asham had the primary assist on both goals, catching van Riemsdyk sneaking behind the Pittsburgh defense.

“I think our line has been playing great the last four or five games,” he said. “It’s huge for us to chip in and create goals from our third and fourth lines to give our top two a little bit of a break. ‘Reemer’ scored a couple nice goals for us tonight.”

Van Riemsdyk, who hit a bit of a wall with nine straight scoreless games from Dec. 15 to Jan. 1, now has three straight multiple-point games.

"I just wanted to keep my feet going,” he said after the second period. “The coaches keep telling me to do that, and when my feet are going I'm playing a lot better. So, I want to keep my feet going out there and get into open ice."

Wednesday, January 6

11:03 p.m. – Philadelphia, PA
Flyers center Danny Briere recorded a pair of goals tonight, securing his 500th point in the NHL when he scored in the third period. He has seven points in his last six games (5g, 2a), and is now second on the team in goals with 16, trailing only Mike Richards (18).

The goal gave Philadelphia a 5-1 lead at the time, and he received a nice ovation from the crowd when it was announced on the ArenaVision scoreboard. It was a little short-lived, though, as Toronto scored during the ovation and the crowd’s cheers turned to some muffled groans.

“Too bad Toronto scored right away, it kind of killed the buzz,” he joked afterwards.

Briere gave the politically correct answer about reaching the milestone, focusing on the team before any personal marks.

“Those are achievements that, right now, they don’t mean much,” he said. “I mean, it’s pretty cool, it’s pretty exciting, and I’m sure at the end of my career looking back, this is something I will [take] pride in and enjoy and cherish even more. I’ll certainly remember that goal for a long time.”

Briere’s contributions of late may be a sign that he is the perfect player for Peter Laviolette’s aggressive system. It is a system that emphasizes speed, and Briere certainly has that element to his game.

“He’s just a guy who is really quick and agile and hard to contain,” said Laviolette. “He gets into areas, and he’s got skill and is a great playmaker and a great goal-scorer. I did see enough of it on a different angle (when he coached other teams), but being on this angle when he’s playing his game, he’s effective. Really effective.”

Laviolette was also very pleased with another of his forwards in Dan Carcillo. The fiery Carcillo was all over the ice and contributed the prettiest goal of the night, skatng around a couple Toronto defenders in the slot and sliding the puck past goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to give Philadelphia a 3-0 lead.

It was the perfect game for Carcillo, as things got physical late in the second period and throughout the third. Carcillo fought Toronto’s Jamal Mayers in the final frame, leaving the Leafs’ tough guy with a sizeable knot on his forehead (Carcillo once again played to the crowd just as he did following his knockout of Shawn Thornton in the Winter Classic, giving a devil-horns sign with both hands as he skated to the box).

He continued to play disciplined hockey, something that he has been criticized for in the past. Leafs resident cement-head Colton Orr tried to goad him into a penalty shortly before the goal, but Carcillo didn’t take the bait. It paid off.

“It was a pretty dirty game. We came out on top and we just played hard and I tried to stay out of the stuff after the whistle,” said Carcillo.

“He’s been really effective, and he has stayed out of the box,” added Laviolette. “Danny hasn’t done a lot of things that would put him in the box. He’s been in control of his game and has got some skill, and he can play physical. He’s the type of guy that can wear it on his sleeve. He was good tonight. Really good.”

5:28 p.m. – Philadelphia, PA
Prior to tonight’s home game with the Maple Leafs, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette was asked about the progress of goaltender Ray Emery. CSNPhilly.com reported earlier today that Emery expects to be ready in time for Saturday’s home game with the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets).

“He looks good out there. I think he’s feeling better and more confident, and the more work we can get him I think the better he’s going to feel,” said Laviolette. “He seems to have some push and explosiveness, and those are the things that he said he didn’t have before [the injury].”

Laviolette said that he looks forward to getting Emery back, but that the Flyers goaltending has been good since the netminder underwent abdominal surgery on Dec. 9. Brian Boucher played well while getting the starts immediately following Emery’s injury, and Michael Leighton elevated his game after Boucher suffered a lacerated finger on Dec. 21.

“We will certainly be glad when Ray becomes available to us, but our goaltending has been okay. It hasn’t been a problem.

“Prior to [the 7-4 loss in Ottawa on Sunday], I think our goaltending has given us a chance to win hockey games. That’s what you want from your goalies,” said the head coach.

The Flyers visit the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night before returning home on Saturday.

12:01 p.m. – Philadelphia, PA
After a rare day off from the rink yesterday, the Philadelphia Flyers convened at the Wachovia Center this morning to prepare for the Maple Leafs tonight (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets). Since none of them skated yesterday, the entire team hit the ice shortly after 10:00 a.m.

Pregame skates are back at the Wachovia Center for at least this month after a brief relocation to the Skate Zone, mainly due to the fact that the Flyers were not having the results in their own building that Peter Laviolette was looking for. Philadelphia will try and break an 0-3-1 stretch on its home ice after a much better 4-1-1 road trip that ended on Sunday.

“We’re disappointed with the way we had been playing at home prior to the road trip. I think getting back on the road kind of helped us sort things out,” Blair Betts told me this morning. “We did play some pretty good hockey with the exception of the last game against Ottawa (a 7-4 loss). We’ll learn from that, forget about the bad things we did, and hopefully we’ll come out with a good effort tonight.

“It was nice to stay away from the rink and just relax with our families. Hopefully, we’ll feel fresh tonight.”

Chris Pronger was also among the players who said that the day off should help the Flyers as they host Toronto tonight, and get ready for a divisional game against Pittsburgh tomorrow night in a building in which they have won just two of the last 13 times in the regular season.

“It was a nice day of mental relaxation. I think with a six-game road trip, intermingled with Christmas and the Winter Classic and all that, we were on a pretty good stretch there.

“We kind of took a step back in our game in Ottawa [on Sunday], and it was just a chance for us to kind of refocus and get back to the previous five games before that Ottawa game.”

Also of note is that Michael Leighton make his sixth straight start in net tonight for the Flyers.

JVR proud

As one of three Americans on the Flyers’ roster, James van Riemsdyk was especially pleased with the results of Team USA’s thrilling victory in the World Junior Championships last night. The Americans won the game 6-5 over Canada in sudden death overtime to capture the Gold Medal.

Van Riemsdyk played on that team the last three years before turning pro, and mentioned that he knows at least half of the players on this year’s squad.

“It’s a huge win for USA Hockey in general. I was definitely proud to be an American hockey player, and those guys did a great job out there. They battled hard the whole game,” he said.

“It’s tough going up to Canada and playing in that tournament, especially in the end there when [Canada] tied it up (late in the third). They really battled through it and stepped up.

“It’s cool to be an American hockey player today.”

In 2008, van Riemsdyk led the entire tournament in scoring with 11 points in six games en route to being named to the media’s All-Tournament Team.

Tuesday, January 5

5:23 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA
With a complete day off for the team today (except for injured players), there wasn't too much news coming out of Flyer-land. Paul Holmgren did give a brief injury update on defenseman Ryan Parent, however.

According to Holmgren, Parent was examined by a doctor today and it "went well. Ryan should begin skating within a few days. He [is] expected to return in about two weeks," he said.

Parent, 22, has two assists in 28 games this season. He has been sidelined with a lower body injury since Christmas, and has missed the last five games.

Monday, January 4

2:34 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ
Flyers goaltender Ray Emery is primed to return earlier than originally projected.

Added as a free agent over the summer, Emery had abdominal surgery on Dec. 9 and was originally slated to miss 6 weeks. By the looks of things, though, Emery will return much sooner. He is set to see Dr. William Meyers this afternoon to get a better idea.

“Ray looks like his explosiveness is back, and I’m looking for good news today,” said general manager Paul Holmgren. “He’s getting close. I think it would be a stretch to say he’d be ready for the next game (at home Wednesday vs. Toronto), but he’s getting close.

“He’s healed quicker than any of us anticipated. Because of the position he plays we thought it would be 6 weeks with the injury, but he’s coming along very nicely.”

Emery has watched from the sidelines as the team has taken some positive steps over the past couple of weeks, going 4-1-1 on its recent six-game road swing. He attended the Winter Classic in Boston over the weekend, and took part in the team’s skate at Boston University on Saturday.

Although he is ahead of schedule, Emery is going to make sure that he is 100 percent when he gets back into game action.

“I want to make sure that when I come back it’s going to be for good, and it’s the right time,” he said. “I don’t want to play three or four games and then find out that I kind of jumped the gun.

“It’s a combination of [getting back] as quickly as you can, but making sure that you’re ready.”

Should Emery return this week the Flyers could conceivably carry three goalies for the time being, with Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton also on the roster, Holmgren added.

Check back later today should there be any updates from the Flyers regarding Emery’s visit to the doctor.

Putting Sunday behind them

Although a 4-1-1 road swing should be considered a successful one, the Flyers’ 7-4 loss in Ottawa to conclude the trip has left a bitter taste in their mouths. Philadelphia played very well in the five games preceding Sunday’s loss, and would like to get right back to that aggressive and structured style of play when the Maple Leafs visit the Wachovia Center on Wednesday (7:00 p.m., CSN).

“We sat down this morning and just kind of talked amongst ourselves about what did happen last night,” explained defenseman Braydon Coburn.  “None of us really played the way that we usually play last night. I think when you have a bad game like that, the [best] thing to do is just to forget about it and move on. That’s what we’re going to try and do.”

“There’s nobody happy with the way we played yesterday,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “The previous five games, we’re okay with; the way we played and the style we played, and the discipline with which we played them with.”

Laviolette decided to have practice today despite the hectic trip, but said that he also wants the team to make sure it gets the rest that it needs as the Flyers get set to begin the second half of the regular season. The players will have a complete day off on Tuesday.

“You try and balance all of that in together on when you practice and when you give them some time to heal,” he said. “I think the rest is every bit as important as the practice, [but] there hasn’t been a lot of that either just because of the schedule.”

Saturday, January 2

1:30 p.m. – Boston, MA
For the first time in a couple of days, the Philadelphia Flyers got a chance to skate with a roof above their heads. The team spent the night of the Winter Classic in Boston with family and friends that were here at the game, and practiced this morning at Boston University’s Agganis Arena before boarding a flight to Ottawa.

Sunday afternoon’s game with the Senators (1:00 p.m., CSN) will mark the 41st game of the regular season – the halfway point. It has undoubtedly been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but the team seems to be re-establishing itself as a contender in the Eastern Conference with a 4-0-1 road trip that concludes tomorrow.

“We started the season well, then we hit the slump, and now we’re playing good. It’s kind of been weird,” explained defenseman Kimmo Timonen after the skate. “Still, we have so many games left, [and] everything is in our hands. I’m sure we’re going to be way better in the second half.”

“I think these last five games have to be a building block for the second half,” said Chris Pronger. “They have to show us how we need to play to be successful, how we need to play to inspire one another, push one another, and energize one another to continue to try and get better. While it’s been a good four or five game run, it’s a small part of the season.”

The team will try and avoid a letdown tomorrow after dealing with all of the pomp and circumstance of yesterday’s Winter Classic at Fenway Park, in which Boston tied the game late and then won in overtime (with two extra players on the ice…but we won’t go there right now).

Pronger mentioned that the hype surrounding the event was more media-driven than internal, and expects the club to continue its recent strong play.

“I think in the locker room we were more focused on the next game at hand, and not worrying about [the Winter Classic],” he said. “Two weeks ago, we had a lot more things to worry about than yesterday’s game. It’s good to have it past us.”

“It wasn’t that much of a hype for me, personally,” added Timonen. “It was a great atmosphere and great experience, but I’m kind of glad it’s over. Now we can move on. I don’t think it’s going to matter tomorrow.”

* * *

Since he took over the job early in December, head coach Peter Laviolette has been implementing his aggressive system. It’s taken some time, but the coach sees the players starting to understand what it is that he expects.

“I think we’re starting to play a certain style, and lately there’s been more of what [we] need to be successful,” he said. “There are a lot of times I like what I see. I think the guys have picked up, for the most part, what it is that we’re trying to give to them.

“Lately we seem to be executing with more of a purpose. I think that’s why things are starting to go our way.”

Laviolette had concerns at the beginning of his tenure here about team conditioning. His system requires players to be in tiptop shape, and there has been no shortage of long practice sessions.

Timonen agrees that may have had something to do with it, but that wasn’t the issue entirely.

“His system is more go-go-go. His system requires being in good shape. That’s what he was probably thinking when we were losing, that we’re not in good enough shape to play his system.

“That might be true, [but] I think it was more that everyone was thinking, ‘What should I do? Where should I go?’ and everyone was a little late [to the play]. It’s probably both. But, he wants us to be in great shape, and that’s alright.”

Fortunately, things seem to be coming together. Now, Laviolette wants to see how the team reacts in Ottawa after a disappointing overtime defeat.

“Good teams, winning teams, respond with some conviction. I’d like to see that,” he said.

Emery update

Flyers goaltender Ray Emery flew to Boston to attend the Winter Classic, and was on the ice today skating with his teammates as he continues his recovery from abdominal surgery on Dec. 9.

Originally, the timeframe for his return was six weeks. Emery thinks he’s closer than that.

“I’ve skated four or five times now, and I feel good,” he said. “I have to get my feet back under me, but since I’ve started I’ve felt strong. Things are still tight in there, but I think it’s more just trusting myself to do certain things. I think it’s healed, I just need to get confidence in it again.”

Emery will see the team doctor when he returns to Philadelphia to get a better idea of when he could return.

“The fact that [Emery] is back at practice and doing what [he needs] to do to get back into game shape, is always a positive sign,” said Laviolette.