• RSS
Thursday, February 25
1:50 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ

When the Flyers were struggling way back in December, the players repeated over and over again that the 82-game NHL schedule is a marathon and not a sprint. Now that the post-Olympic break portion of the schedule is about to begin, with the final 22 games of the season in just 34 days, the sprint has arrived.

The Flyers’ non-Olympians resumed practice today at the Skate Zone with an off-ice workout and lengthy skate under head coach Peter Laviolette.

“With the amount of games we’re playing in March, it’s definitely a sprint now,” said Danny Briere. “We put ourselves in a good position just before the break to get a couple points ahead of the pack. We have a few games in hand on some of the teams, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage. But, it’s going to be tough because we play, it seems, almost every second night.”

“We have a lot of work to do towards the end of the season here, so we need to make sure we’re getting back to that level that we were at before the break,” added defenseman Braydon Coburn.

Ah, before the break…it seems like ages ago, but it has been just 11 days since the Flyers were playing some of their best hockey of the season. There was timely offense, solid goaltending and a stifling defense as the club won four straight games – two against Montreal and two over the first place New Jersey Devils. The eight points gave Philadelphia sole position of the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, as well as a positive vibe heading into the break.

Furthermore, with 32 wins, the Flyers have put themselves in a good position, as the number of victories is the first tiebreaker should there be two teams with an equal amount of points at the end of the regular season.

Getting back to that level will be the goal before Tuesday’s game in Tampa Bay (7:30 p.m., Versus).

“We need to get that intensity up the next few days and the next couple of practices before Tampa. We have to go 110 percent in practice,” said Scott Hartnell. “We need to get our rest, stay mentally focused, and get our bodies going here in the few days we have at practice.”

“That break [was] welcome, but with that decompress, you have to get yourself back up,” said Laviolette. “I just want to make sure that we get ourselves back up to where we need to be, mentally and physically.”

Today was the first step in that process. The players got their blood flowing with some rare pre-skate cardio activites, which are usually reserved for training camp. After that, they utilized both sheets of ice at the Skate Zone facility – so they didn’t have to wait for the zamboni to resurface and could keep up the intensity.

Laviolette seemed generally pleased with the day.

“I thought that the guys worked hard. I thought the pace and speed was okay. We got out of it what we wanted to get out of it,” he said.

“We worked on some things, and moved up and down the ice and got a little bit of conditioning at the end. I think the one thing that you notice when you come off of a break like that, is probably the puck skills are just missing a little bit. They’ll come. But as far as skating and moving, I thought it was good.”

Laviiolette mentioned that the Flyers who are still in the Olympics would likely meet the team in Tampa on Monday. Mike Richards and Chris Pronger are playing for Canada, while Kimmo Timonen is with Team Finland.

Oskars Bartulis, whose Latvian team was eliminated on Tuesday, is back in the area but was given today off by the coaching staff.

Syvret update

Flyers defenseman Danny Syvret took part in the skate today, but is still not ready to return, he said afterwards. He suffered a Grade 3 shoulder separation against Dallas on January 12.

“If I got cleared today, I don’t think I would be able to go,” he said. “There’s still a lot of pain when I’m going to shoot, and little puck battles in front of the net, I’m pretty weak on my stick. Hopefully with time, that will come.”

Goaltender Ray Emery did not skate, but defenseman Ryan Parent did. Parent had back surgery on January 25 and was wearing a yellow practice jersey, meaning he is still not able to take part in contact drills.

Monday, February 14
1:59 p.m. – Philadelphia, PA

Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton has been named as the NHL’s second Star of the Week, the league announced this afternoon.

Leighton posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.98 goals-against average and .925 save percentage, helping the Flyers (32-25-3) record home-and-home sweeps over the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens.

"I am definitIely very excited. This is unexpected," said Leighton. "I am very proud of the way things have gone and very proud of my teammates. This week we accomplimshed a lot with getting four wins and climbed the standings a bit over two really good teams."

"Those were two big teams and they were eight points at stake. We definitely needed all eight, and we got them. That was our goal going into the weekend and coming into the break. We have played some good hockey."

The 28-year-old Ontario native is 12-3-1 with a 2.19 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 18 appearances with Philadelphia since being claimed off of waivers from Carolina on Dec. 17.

Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos was the first star, while Dallas goalie Marty Turco was the third star.

Here are some video highlights of Leighton's best stops from the past week:

Leighton stops Brian Gionta - Feb. 13 
Leighton denies Scott Gomez - Feb. 13
Another save on Tomas Plekanec - Feb. 10
Tom Pyatt...don't think so - Feb. 10
Glove save on Patrik Elias - Feb. 8
Andy Greene denied on a breakaway - Feb. 8

Carter coming home

Flyers forward Jeff Carter, who flew to Vancouver as the first alternate for the Canadian Olympic team, did not make the final roster. Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf was questionable with an ankle injury, but showed no ill effects during a two goal, two assist performance in the Ducks’ 7-3 win in Edmonton last night.

Carter has five goals in his last four games, and leads the Flyers with 27. He is also the team's leading scorer, with 52 points.

There are no substitutes in Olympic play regardless of whether someone is hurt during the tournament.

Mike Richards and Chris Pronger are on Team Canada; Oskars Bartulis is a defenseman for Lativa; Kimmo Timonen will help defend Finland’s silver medal from four years ago; and equipment manager Derek Settlemyre is acting in the same role for the Americans.

Saturday, February 13
11:29 p.m. – Montreal, Quebec

It was just about the perfect way to go into the Olympic break.

The Philadelphia Flyers solidified their hold on the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 6-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre tonight. It was their fourth consecutive victory, as the club swept home-and-homes with Montreal and the New Jersey Devils earlier in the week.

While the Flyers’ big offensive weapons led the way on the scoreboard, with Danny Briere (3), Jeff Carter and Mike Richards all lighting the lamp, it was a couple of role players that really set the tone for Philadelphia.

First, Ian Laperriere and Montreal’s Ryan O’Byrne dropped the gloves just four seconds into the game. It was likely a carryover from the game-ending scrum that ensued at the end of the Flyers’ 3-2 win in Philadelphia on Friday night.

Laperriere and O’Byrne squared off and each threw some punches that didn’t connect, before Laperriere popped a few left jabs and then came over top with two huge right hands that floored the 6’5’’ O’Byrne (who is, incidentally, four inches taller, 34 pounds heavier and 11 years younger than Laperriere).

“I really like the fact that Lappy was physical right off the opening faceoff,” said Peter Laviolette. “He made a point to let everybody know that we were here to play.”

"He asked me to go right from the get go,” said Laperriere after the first period. “[Friday] was a little bit chippy; I'm sure he didn't like what happened in the third period. I knew it might be a really good start for our team if the fight would go my way, and it did.”

Did it ever. Philadelphia scored the first three goals of the game all before the first 20 minutes were up to take a 3-0 lead for the second time in as many games.

In the second period, Montreal cut the lead to 3-1 on a tip-in goal by Brian Gionta, and then went on a power play when Braydon Coburn went off on a holding call at 10:10. That opened the door for Blair Betts, who forced a turnover at the Flyers blue line and raced in to convert a shorthanded breakaway to take the wind out the Canadiens’ sails.

“It was a timely goal. It seemed like at that point, the game could go either way,” said Betts. “If they get a goal, we’re back on our heels.”

“What a great shot that he made. You could say that was the turning point of the game,” added Briere.

The marker also took the energy out of the Bell Centre crowd, which seemed to only cheer for a defenseman playing in his second career NHL game: prospect P.K. Subban. In other words, it was a rough night for the home fans, who saw their team fall three points behind the Flyers (with three fewer wins and three more games played than Philadelphia).

It didn’t help that the focal point of much of their ire for years now, Briere, registered the hat trick.

“It’s a little extra special, having friends and family here, and all the people that are booing me,” said Briere, with a smirk.

Now, as the break hits, five Flyers head to the Olympics while the rest of the team is off until practice at the Skate Zone on Wednesday, February 25.

Although they have won four in a row, it could be a good time for some of the guys to get some rest after what has been a hectic and strange regular season schedule so far.

“It’s the time of the season where there are aches and pains, and we’re ready for a rest and to relax a bit,” said Michael Leighton, who improved to 12-3-1 as a Flyer.

“I know that when we get back [to practice] it will be an opportunity to work on some things in our game and get ready for that stretch run,” added Laviolette. “It should be fun.”

* * *

12:35 p.m. – Montreal, Quebec

Peter Laviolette gathered his troops this morning at the Bell Centre here in Montreal for a team meeting about tonight’s Flyers-Canadiens game – the final game for both clubs before the Olympic break begins (7:00 p.m., CSN).

With a 3-2 win last night, the Flyers jumped ahead of the Canadiens in the standings for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They would certainly like to remain there until the season picks up again in March – something the Flyers would achieve by just getting a single point in tonight’s contest.

That reason alone makes it easy for the guys to avoid looking ahead to either their time off or the upcoming Olympic tournament.

“It’s not too hard because of how important this game is,” said Braydon Coburn. “We don’t want to overlook this game because of where we are in the standings.”

“We all know [the break] is coming, but we have one more game to play and it’s a big one,” added Simon Gagne. “They are one point behind us and we want to finish on a strong note. We have 60 minutes to play, and then we’ll get the break, and I’m sure guys know that and they’re going to put everything on the line tonight.”

Laviolette would like to see his club match the desperation level he expects Montreal to play with tonight. After all, the Canadiens would also love to hold that sixth seed for the next two-plus weeks while the league is temporarily shut down.

That was likely his message to the players this morning.

“When you’re winning, sometimes your desperation level goes down, and when you’re losing, it goes up. So, does last night change the tide on that a bit? We’re in their building and it’s going to be more difficult to win.

“They lost, and you look at the standings, and they become more desperate. We need to make sure that we’re a ready hockey team and we play a desperate game.”

At the end of last night’s Flyers win over Montreal, some pushing and shoving ensued at the final horn. The game was a physical, chippy affair from start to finish, and that only intensified after Darroll Powe bloodied Montreal’s Jaroslav Spacek with a hit into the boards late in the third period when Spacek turned his back to Powe at the last second.

I asked Coburn if he expects the emotions at end of last night’s game to carry into tonight.

“I don’t know. We want to play a physical style and push the tempo, so whatever results from that is fine by us,” he said.

"I can tell you from our end we need to play a disciplined hockey game,” added the head coach. “We need to be physical and skating and play the game hard. We also need to stay out of the penalty box.”

Laviolette mentioned he would stick with the same lineup tonight against the Canadiens, with Michael Leighton back between the pipes (Jaroslav Halak will be in goal for Montreal). The Flyers are 5-5 in the second half of back-to-back games this season, and lost the only other game here earlier this year, 3-1 on Dec. 7.

Friday, February 12

11:38 – Philadelphia, PA

With the early start time tonight and a full-team practice yesterday in Voorhees the Flyers stayed off of the ice this morning, opting for a meeting at the Wachovia Center to talk about the start of a home-and-home with Montreal (6:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets).

The importance of the next two games is vital. Montreal leads the Flyers by a point for sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings, although Philadelphia has played three fewer games and has one more win than the Canadiens.

“It’s two huge games before we go into this break here and we have to get two wins,” said Danny Carcillo. “It’s a huge four points just because of how the standings are.”

“They’re right there in the standings, and it’s a chance to jump ahead and keep the games in hand,” added coach Peter Laviolette. “But, they’re looking at it the same way, so it should be a good hockey game. There should be urgency from both sides for the points [tonight].”

The Flyers visit the Bell Centre for their final game before the Olympic break begins tomorrow night (7:00 p.m., CSN), but aren’t looking ahead just yet.

“I think it’s important to keep things in the short term,” said Laviolette. “If we start thinking about big pictures and lots of games, you lose the focus of how important a game like [tonight] is.”

Both the Flyers and Montreal are confident teams. The Canadiens are coming off of a huge win in their previous game on Thursday at home, when they ended the Washington Capitals’ 14-game winning streak, 6-5. Philadelphia, of course, swept a home-and-home with the Devils, twice erasing 2-0 deficits and winning both games by a 3-2 final.

Carcillo was asked about the Flyers’ confidence level at the moment.

“It’s pretty high. We’re playing well and clicking, and getting good goaltending when we need it,” he said. "We’re getting goals from every line, everyone’s hitting and everyone’s being physical.”

Laviolette downplayed the momentum, instead focusing on another commonly used hockey adjective: desperation.

“You never know about momentum. Desperation conquers momentum, sometimes,” explained the head coach. “I think the desperation is probably the motivation for [tonight].”

Comcast SportsNet programming

While the Flyers are on break, Comcast SportsNet will keep the Flyers on the local airwaves. The network will be airing four instant classic games, two feature programs and exclusive behind-the-scenes access of the Flyers Postgame Live crew.

Also, the Orange Line show on Feb. 15 will feature the the 30th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice; and Peter Laviolette explaining his coaching style and how he’s adapted to Philly. Also, the Flyers organization recently pulled a prank on broadcaster Steve Coates, and James Van Riemsdyk helped celebrate Hockey Week in Philadelphia by helping to teach a local youth clinic.

For more information, click here.

Or, to see the prank pulled on Coatesy a couple weeks ago, click here.

Wednesday, February 10
11:04 p.m. – Newark, NJ

Following tonight’s 3-2 win in New Jersey in which he scored the game-tying goal in the second period, Jeff Carter reacted to being named as the first alternate for Team Canada in the upcoming Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Carter will join the team if the Anaheim Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf, who is questionable with an ankle injury, is not able to play.

“It’s pretty exciting. Obviously, I wanted to make the team the first go-round, and as an alternate I’m not really sure what’s going to happen,” said Carter. “Just to get the call to know that I still have an opportunity to go and play is pretty exciting.”

Carter will fly to Vancouver following the Flyers’ last game before the Olympic break on Saturday in Montreal.

Canada’s Men’s Olympic Team executive director Steve Yzerman issued the following statement moments ago regarding his decision:

“Earlier today, I contacted Jeff Carter of the Philadelphia Flyers and advised him that in the event that Ryan Getzlaf is unable to take part in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games due to injury, he will take his spot on the roster. I asked him to be ready and prepare in case he has to join us in Vancouver later this week.

“In the meantime, we will give ourselves, Ryan and the Anaheim Ducks as much time this week as necessary to determine if he will be able to play for Canada in Vancouver.”

Carter leads the Flyers with 24 goals and 49 points in 58 games this season. Chris Pronger and Mike Richards are both on Canada’s Olympic team, while Kimmo Timonen (Finland) and Oskars Bartulis (Latvia) will also be in Vancouver.

* * *

5:55 p.m. - Newark, NJ

A report from TSN in Canada said today that Flyers forward Jeff Carter would be on the Canadian Olympic team should Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf be unable to play. Getzlaf hurt his ankle in the Ducks' 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings two nights ago, but hopes to play this weekend.

According to the report, Carter will fly to Vancouver following Philadelphia’s game in Montreal on Saturday night as a precaution. Should Getzlaf be healthy enough to play, Carter would not be on the Olympic roster at all, even if someone on Team Canada were injured during the tournament. There are no replacements once the final roster is set, regardless of injuries incurred during the Olympics.

Getzlaf said the following to the Ducks’ official website today:

"Skating Friday or Saturday is our goal right now. Hopefully I can play Sunday, or even Saturday, for that matter. Those definitely are the goals right now, to progress this week, stay off it for the next couple of days, then maybe put the skates on Friday or Saturday.

"All signs are point to things progressing to the way we want it to. We have our fingers crossed and hopefully things will keep going the same way and we don’t have any setbacks."

Tuesday, February 9
3:13 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ

Don’t expect any lineup changes for the Flyers-Devils rematch in Newark on Wednesday night (7:00 p.m., CSN).

Peter Laviolette commented today that he liked his lines and defensive pairs in the 3-2 victory last night at the Wachovia Center, meaning that Dan Carcillo will likely stay with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, and that newcomer Ville Leino will have to wait at least another game to get into the lineup.

“I thought it was good. [Carcillo] provided energy, he provided offense. I liked all the lines,” said the head coach. “I thought [Jeff] Carter’s line was very good and maybe the most dominating line on the ice was [Claude] Giroux’s line.”

Carter played with Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere, while Giroux was with Arron Asham and James van Riemsdyk.

Richards, who scored on the power play to break a 2-2 in the third period on Monday night, enjoys being on the same line with Carcillo. Known more for his physical play, Carcillo has managed four goals in the last 10 games.

“I think his skills are kind of under-noticed by how aggressive he is, and he definitely opens up a lot of room just with his physical play,” said Richards. “I like playing with him; he’s a high-energy guy, and you can’t help but feed off him.”

Richards was asked what he expects to see tomorrow night from the Devils, who have lost three out of four games to Philadelphia so far in the season series.

“I’m sure they weren’t happy with how they kind of played with the lead, and I’m sure they’re going to come out a little bit harder in their home rink,” said the captain. “We have to be ready for that, but not change too much of how we played at the end of the second and the third period.”

Leighton to start again?

With reports in the local media today concerning Ray Emery’s health, Michael Leighton may get his fourth straight start in net tomorrow night. Although he is 1-2 in the last three games, Leighton has allowed just four goals in that span.

Since coming over via waivers on December 15 from Carolina, Leighton is 9-3-1 with a 2.24 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. As he has done all season, he doesn’t want to look too far ahead, even if Emery happens to be out again (although nothing is confirmed at this point).

“I’m just trying to worry about how I’m playing and hopefully things will work out,” said Leighton.

When Emery missed six weeks with an abdominal injury, Leighton stepped in and went 9-0-1 in his first 10 starts as a Flyer. That run helped get Philadelphia back into the playoff picture after a miserable stretch in late November through late December.

When Emery returned and once against solidified himself as the starter with an extraordinary stretch of his own, Leighton didn’t see any action for eight straight games. Now, though, he could find himself as a focal point of the team once again.

“That’s kind of the way being a backup goalie is. You sit on the bench for awhile, and if the goalie gets hurt, you get an opportunity to play,” he said. “All I can control is the way I play, and give us a chance to win every night.”

Luukko to UVM

Nick Luukko, the son of Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko and his wife, Casey, has verbally committed to the University of Vermont men’s hockey team according to the USHR and Chris Heisenberg recruiting Web sites.

The 6’3’’, 190-pound, righthanded defenseman was recently ranked No. 150 in the Central Scouting Bureau’s midseason rankings of North American skaters eligible for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He was graded as a ‘B’ prospect, which often translates to a mid­round selection.

“UVM has an outstanding reputation both on and off the ice, which we feel is important for Nick,” said Peter Luukko. “The school produces great student athletes and my family is very excited. We can’t wait to see our son compete at the collegiate level.”

Luukko, currently a senior at Gunnery Prep in Connecticut, is scheduled to join the Catamounts in the fall of 2011. He is expected to play a season of junior hockey before attending UVM.

His decision is pending admission by the university. Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon cannot comment on a recruit until he is admitted and has signed an official NCAA letter-of-intent.

Monday, February 8
11:01 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA

Jeff Carter addressed the media following tonight’s Flyers victory over the New Jersey Devils, talking about his hit of Anssi Salmela, who lay motionless on the ice and was taken off on a stretcher after a collision with the Flyers forward. Salmela converted an odd-man shorthanded rush early in the second period to give the Devils a 2-0 lead moments before the hit.

Fortunately, Salmela was not seriously hurt, and the Devils said after the game he was “up, walking and okay.”

Carter, who was thankful that Salmela appeared to be fine, gave his version of the events after the game.

“He’s driving wide, I’m coming back…I saw the replay, I got him right in the shoulder,” said Carter. “Apparently he’s fine, which is a good thing. I’m not a dirty player.

“Obviously, you feel remorse, you see a guy laying motionless on the ice. It’s a tough play. I wasn’t intending to hurt him.”

Carter was not given a penalty on the play, and Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire was fine with that.

“To me, it’s a hit that happens,” said Lemaire. “But, you hate to see guys getting injured like this.”

Some other notes from the exciting 3-2 come-from-behind win...

* With the win, the Flyers have improved to 17-11-2 at home, and have won eight of their last 10 games at the Wachovia Center.

* The Flyers now own a 3-1-0 record against New Jersey this season, with the teams set to face off again on Wednesday at the Prudential Center (7:00 p.m., CSN).

* Chris Pronger has five points, all assists, in the season series against the Devils, while James van Riemsdyk now has four points (2G,2A) in his four games against New Jersey thus far.

* Simon Gagne’s assist on Richards’ game winner was his 508th career point as a Flyer, tying him for 12th place on the Flyers all-time list with Rick Tocchet… Gagne is now six points shy of Reggie Leach for 11th all-time on the Flyers with 514 points.

* Mike Richards and Jeff Carter each recorded a goal tonight, they are tied for the team lead in goals with 23… Richards leads the team in power-play goals (12) and power-play points (23), while Carter leads the Flyers in scoring with 48 points.

* The last time the Flyers came back from a two-goal deficit to beat the Devils occurred on Oct. 7, 2005, a 5-2 victory in which the Flyers scored five unanswered goals to defeat the Devils.

* * *

12:44 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA

Just a couple pregame notes before tonight’s Flyers-Devils match at the Wachovia Center tonight (7:00 p.m., Versus, Tickets)…

Michael Leighton will get the start in net; his third straight. Ray Emery skated for over an hour today, and Peter Laviolette said after practice that Emery felt “good.”

Newcomer Ville Leino, a winger acquired on Saturday from Detroit, took part in his second skate with his new teammates but said afterwards that he did not expect to play tonight.

FlyersTV: Leino speaks | Laviolette pregame

Still, he’s excited at the prospect of getting in the lineup for his new team at some point.

“I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to getting a fresh start; starting all over,” he said.

Although the Flyers have had plenty of scoring chances over the last two games, they have just one goal to show for it in losing to Edmonton on Wednesday and Minnesota on Saturday. Peter Laviolette would like to see his club be more opportunistic tonight against New Jersey.

“It hasn’t bounced for us, and it seems like it’s been bouncing the wrong way. The only thing you can do is keep the process right and hope that they start to drop,” said the coach.

“We’re generating offense, and we have to take advantage of it. The opportunities are there, and we have to cash in on them.”

Saturday, February 6
5:12 p.m. – St. Paul, MN

Flyers goaltender Ray Emery will miss tonight’s game against the Wild with left hip tightness, general manager Paul Holmgren said this morning.

Holmgren was made available to the media moments ago regarding Emery’s injury, which is not related to the abdominal surgery he had in December that kept him out for six weeks.

“This is kind of an ongoing thing here that he…hadn’t been struggling with, but he had some hip issues on the left side,” he said. “Fortunately for us, he hasn’t missed any time until now, but it really started to act up on him yesterday in practice. Just as a precaution, we’re going to leave him out tonight.”

Emery will see a doctor when the Flyers return to Philadelphia, which will happen either tonight or tomorrow, depending on the weather.

“We’ll see how he is on Monday (against New Jersey), whether he’s able to play. We’re certainly going to get him checked out,” said Holmgren.

One option for Emery could be what is called a synvisc injection. Holmgren, who had the procedure done on his own knee recently, said that it would basically “oil the joint,” and a number of Flyers players have had it done in the past.

Super Bowl picks

Several Flyers weighed in on the Super Bowl between the Colts and Saints on Sunday. See below for some non-expert analysis from the team:

Matt Carle: "I'm going to go with the New Orleans Saints because Drew Brees has been my fantasy quarterback all year, and I am pulling for him. I think it is going to be a high scoring game."

Scott Hartnell: "Saints, 35-28. Drew Brees is going to pick a part the Colts defense. Peyton Manning will have to throw the ball, but it just won't happen."

James van Riemsdyk:  "I'm going to go with the Colts by at least two touchdowns. Peyton Manning is probably the best player in football, and they will figure out a way to win.”

Danny Syvret:  "I'm going to go with New Orleans, because I had most of their offense in my fantasy pool. I will be rooting for them. They are a good team. It will be a high scoring game but I think it will be pretty tight, probably three points or less.”

Claude Giroux: "The Saints, 21-20, because they are a better team."

Assistant coach Craig Berube: “Indianapolis Colts will win because I don't think you can stop Peyton Manning. The Colts have too many weapons, and a very good defense and they will shut down New Orleans. I know Drew Brees is a very good player, but they will shut him down. I say the Colts win, 27-21."

Simon Gagne: "I think Indy is going to win with Peyton Manning. They have a good offense, but it will be a good game. It is going to be a close game, 35-28 [Colts]."

Arron Asham: "The Winnipeg Blue Bombers. No, actually I will pick the Colts by a touchdown.”

Friday, February 5
4:24 p.m. – St. Paul, MN

With the way Wednesday night’s 1-0 loss in Edmonton ended, as the Oilers scored the only goal of the game with just 16 seconds left, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette is hoping yesterday’s off day will help the team put that tough loss behind.

The Flyers got back to work with an hour-long skate at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul today, and will face the Wild on Saturday night (8:00 p.m., CSN).

“Sometimes it’s good to have that day off. I’m sure everyone’s still kind irritated about [the Edmonton game], the way it ended with [16] seconds left off of a rush. You felt like you really left something there – points, or a point at the minimum,” said the head coach after today’s practice. “You get a day off, get back and practice today, it gives you a chance to focus.

“It’s not going to be an easy task here tomorrow. They have one of the top home records going, and they play a physical game and a pressing game. If you’re not ready to work, you’re not going to like the end result.”

Minnesota is 7-0-1 in its last eight games at home.

According to the Wild’s website, goaltender Anton Khudobin will make his first start in the NHL tomorrow night against the Flyers. He came on in relief of Josh Harding last night, who was hurt in Minnesota’s 4-2 win over the Oilers. Regular starter Niklas Backstrom is still sidelined with an illness.

Khudobin made nine saves in less than 10 minutes to preserve a Wild victory in his first appearance in the NHL. The Flyers will try and make things more difficult for him than Edmonton did.

“For us, it doesn’t matter who plays [in net],” said Danny Briere. “With the last game, not scoring, we need to throw pucks at the net and try to crash and get in there. In Edmonton we had lots of shots, but not a lot of good second chance opportunities. It was one shot and we were outta there.

“I’d like to see us get in closer, get more traffic, and get our nose a little dirtier around the net.”

No word yet on who will be in goal for the Flyers.

Flyers comment on Kovalchuk deal

The Atlantic Division got a little tougher yesterday when the New Jersey Devils acquired winger Ilya Kovalchuk from Atlanta in exchange for Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, junior prospect Patrice Cormier and New Jersey's first-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

The Devils lead the division with 72 points and are in second overall in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have a home-and-home with their rivals beginning on Monday night at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., Versus, Tickets).

“I’m not sure it’s going to change the look of their team,” said Briere. “New Jersey is known to be very defensive, they don’t take chances and wait for you to make mistakes. Now that they have a guy like Kovalchuk, it might give them a chance to add that dimension [since] they didn’t scare as many teams as much before with their offense.”

“It’s part of the game. Trades happen. Some people might think they got stronger, and some people might think that they didn’t,” added Chris Pronger. “I don’t know if his lack of playoff experience in Atlanta is going to effect him or not. I guess time will tell.”

Laviolette was asked if he would prepare any differently for the Devils now that they have such a high-powered scoring weapon.

“We’re probably not going to change the way we play. Maybe we’ll move a defenseman to be on that certain side, maybe, but I don’t know where they’re going to put him or how they’re going to use him,” he said.

“I’ll go back to what I always say: It’s about us and how we play the game. Yeah, they got a good player.”

Thursday, February 4
1:27 a.m. - Edmonton, Alberta

In the day and a half leading up to the Flyers’ road game against the last place Edmonton Oilers, Peter Laviolette and the players were preaching that they couldn’t take their opponent lightly. Still, the match provided a good opportunity to get goaltender Michael Leighton back in the net and give starter Ray Emery a rest after playing every minute of the last eight games.

“When you’re looking at a spot to maybe get a guy in or get him some ice [time], you probably don’t do it against the San Jose Sharks or the Chicago Blackhawks or the Pittsburgh Penguins,” said Laviolette before the game. “That’s not being disrespectful to Edmonton, because they just took care of Carolina (4-2 on Monday), and Carolina was one of the hottest teams in the last seven or eight games.”

Leighton played extremely well in Wednesday night’s 1-0 loss to the Oilers, allowing only a Ryan Potulny power play goal with just 17 seconds remaining in regulation. He stopped 26 of 27 shots overall in his first game action since suffering a 4-0 loss on January 14 in Toronto.

“He was ready to play,” said Mike Richards after the game. “He’s [been] playing hard in the net in practice, and it showed tonight.”

“I felt good. The team played well in front of me,” Leighton said. “Defensively, we’re still playing really well. We’re blocking shots and the penalty kill was good tonight, but the [Oilers] kind of [got] a lucky bounce at the end there.”

Emery, who had major abdominal surgery Dec. 9, will likely be back between the pipes for the last game of the Flyers’ three-game road trip in Minnesota on Saturday night (8:00 p.m., CSN). He is 5-2-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in his last seven starts, and stopped all 18 shots to earn a 3-0 win at Calgary on Monday to start the trip.

Laviolette, Emery, Leighton, Brian Boucher and even general manager Paul Holmgren have all commented at one time or another that a three goalie rotation is not the ideal situation. It means splitting time in the nets during practice, and not having one of them dress for games. Boucher had not dressed since January 9 in Tampa Bay, but acted as Leighton’s backup tonight.

That meant Emery didn’t have to worry about the game at all, after hitting the ice for about 30 minutes this morning at the pregame skate.

“I guess it’s a luxury that you get when you have three goalies and your starter has played that many in a row. You can just take him out, and not have him have to think about the game or really do anything to prepare tonight,” explained Lavioltette.

“I guess that’s one of the advantages of having three goaltenders. There’s not many, but maybe that’s one.”

The Flyers immediately flew to Minnesota following the game, and will have a complete day off on Thursday in St. Paul. They will resume practice on Friday.

Tuesday, February 2
6:04 p.m. – Edmonton, Alberta

At yesterday’s morning skate in Calgary, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette mentioned that newly acquired defenseman Lukas Krajicek would be paired with rookie Oskars Bartulis for the game against the Flames.

Later in the day, though, he changed his mind...and ended up looking like a genius.

Instead, the head coach decided to put Krajicek with veteran Kimmo Timonen, and pair Bartulis with Braydon Coburn. The result of the move was what some players were calling the team’s best 60-minute effort in quite some time. Philadelphia allowed just 18 shots on goal and came away with a 3-0 shutout win over the Flames.

Laviolette explained the rationale behind the move after today’s practice at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

“Once we went over their lines again, we thought it would be best to have three units that could go out there and play against anybody,” he said. “We felt by splitting it up, we were strong enough with all three pairs to go anywhere we wanted with [them].”

Bartulis, of course, is still a rookie, while Krajicek was playing in his first game as a Flyer. With the Flames getting the last change since they were the home team, Laviolette wanted to make sure he had at least one experienced player on the ice at all times.

“You’d end up with Bart and Lukas coming in for the first time…with Lukas and Kimmo, that really strengthens up that pair, to the point where you feel confident.”

“I really liked it. I thought we played a real good defensive game.”

Krajicek, who had been watching tape of Timonen and Matt Carle leading up to the game so he could learn how to play on the left side in Laviolette’s system, was told of the change about 30 minutes before the game. He adjusted quickly to the right side in an impressive Flyers debut, and credited Timonen for helping him along.

“Kimmo makes it easy on you. He doesn’t put you in any trouble, or give you the puck when you’re not supposed to get it. It felt pretty good,” he said.

Laviolette said today he would likely keep the defensive pairs the same for tomorrow's game against the Oilers (9:30 p.m., TCN).

* * *

There was not much else to note from today’s practice, other than Ray Emery did not skate due to a “maintenance day.” Laviolette will reveal his goaltender for the game against the Oilers tomorrow morning.

With the Oilers struggling, winning for the first time in 14 games last night over Carolina, it could provide an opportunity to give Emery a night off. The goaltender has played every minute of every game for eight straight, going 5-2 in the last seven with a goals against average of less than two.

Laviolette cautioned that the Flyers can’t afford to take Edmonton lightly, despite their struggles and place in the standings (17-31-6 for 40 points and last place in the Western Conference).

“Any time you get into that game where you think it’s going to be an easy game because the team is down at the bottom, you’re probably going to get handed a loss,” he said.

Catch the Phantoms on XM

With the NHL’s Olympic break beginning in less than two weeks, XM Satellite Radio will carry a select number of American Hockey League games.

The Adirondack Phantoms will be featured twice: on Wednesday, Feb. 17 when they visit Binghamton; and Wednesday, Feb. 24 when the Syracuse Crunch visit Glens Falls. Both games begin at 7:00 p.m. NHL Home Ice can be found on XM 204 in the United States and Canada.

Adirondack returns to action on Wednesday, February 3 as they travel to Pennsylvania for a 7:05 p.m. face off with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. The Phantoms’ next home game is on Friday, February 5 when they host the Manchester Monarchs for a 7:00 p.m. face off at the Civic Center.

* * *

1:10 a.m. – Calgary, Alberta

It was just about the perfect way to start a weeklong road trip.

Several Philadelphia Flyers commented after tonight’s 3-0 win over Calgary that it was the club’s best 60-minute effort in quite some time; and possibly the season so far. Some of the positive notables from the game included the third shutout of the season by Ray Emery; two goals from captain Mike Richards to break out of a scoring slump; an impressive debut from Lukas Krajicek, who was signed over the weekend; and a beautiful breakaway goal by Claude Giroux.

“That was probably our best 60 minute effort of the year,” said Chris Pronger. “We were moving our feet for 60 minutes, played solid in our own end and [Emery] made a couple good stops when we needed him to. For the most part, we played a tight defensive game and were able to score on the chances that we got.”

“I think the boys made it about as easy as it can get,” said Emery, who finished with 18 saves while making his eighth straight start. “I think we played probably our best defensive game of the year, and did a good job of working in their end and putting to rest their little bursts of energy.”

Krajicek, signed as a free agent on Saturday, finished the night with 18 minutes and 25 seconds of ice time on defense paired mostly with Kimmo Timonen. Peter Laviolette was asked what he thought of Krajicek’s Flyers debut.

“I thought he was really solid. He skated well and made good plays defensively,” said the head coach. “He made some strong plays with the puck when we were in trouble in our end. He didn’t seem to panic or get nervous, and positionally he was sound.”

As for the captain, Richards was mired in a bit of a scoring rut with one goal in his last 10 games entering tonight, but hit a career milestone with his 100th NHL goal. It came in the second period to put the Flyers ahead, 1-0.

"It feels good. It has taken a while to get there with the last couple of games,” said Richards. “The goal was just a little bit of a scramble. I got lucky and the puck popped to me. I actually missed my shot, and it went in."

Richards admitted that it felt good to get the monkey off of his back, but when asked if he kept a souvenir from the goal, he simply replied: “I’m not a big puck collector.”

His power play goal at 17:44 of the third period sealed the win.

The Flyers practice at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Tuesday afternoon, before the game there against the Oilers on Wednesday night (9:30 p.m., TCN). The road trip concludes on Saturday night in Minnesota.

Monday, February 1
3:17 p.m. – Calgary, Alberta

There was no shortage of media today at the Pengrowth Saddledome, as a multitude of cameras and reporters from all across Canada were on hand to catch a glimpse of the new-look Flames, who will host the Flyers tonight (9:30 p.m., CSN).

But, we’re not here to talk about the trade that sent defenseman Dion Phaneuf and Keith Aulie, and forward Fredrik Sjostrom to the Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Ian White and forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers.

Instead, the Flyers commented after their ice time this morning that they expect the Flames to come at them hard tonight.

“They’ve obviously got some fresh faces coming in and they want to make a statement to the fans, the city, and their new teammates,” said Chris Pronger. “They are going to play with a lot of energy, and we have to counter that ourselves by playing energetic ourselves and playing with a lot of life.”

Mike Richards agreed.

“They’re going to come out hard. I think that goes without saying. We just have to match that work ethic,” said the captain.

The Flames recently ended a nine-game losing streak with a 6-1 win over Edmonton on Saturday night. But, as Peter Laviolette has been preaching since the start of his tenure with the Flyers, he’s more concerned about how his own club performs, no matter the opponent.

“I don't think it is ever easy to come into this building and walk away with easy points,” he said yesterday. “This game is really important for us to keep worrying about us, and what we are trying to do and what we are trying to accomplish.”

Krajicek to debut

Newly acquired defenseman Lukas Krajicek will make his Flyers debut tonight, taking the place of Ole-Kristian Tollefsen in the lineup. Krajicek will begin the night paired with rookie Oskars Bartulis, but Laviolette mentioned that he might move his d-men around during the game.

The head coach reiterated today that it is a fresh start for the former first round draft pick.

‘He’s got a blank page, and he can do what he wants with it,” said Laviolette. “It’s up to him to make the most of his ice time and get in there and show what he can do.”

There will be no other lineup changes tonight, meaning Ray Emery will start his eighth straight game. Emery started all six games of the just completed homestand, going 4-2 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .929 save percentage over that span.

Homecoming for Coburn

It’s not often the Flyers get to play in Calgary, so defenseman Braydon Coburn had this date circled on the schedule for some time. Coburn grew up about six hours from Calgary and has plenty of friends and family attending the game tonight.

"When I was growing up, Calgary was my favorite team,” he said on Sunday. “It will only be my second time playing here, so it will be special.  It is a good chance for my family to come up and see a game.”