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Friday, April 30
4:32 p.m. - Boston, MA

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren issued the following medical update on injured forward Simon Gagne this afternoon:

"Simon Gagne had a MRI on his right foot today. While the study showed signs of healing, Simon is still listed as out indefinitely. Simon will continue to do his off ice conditioning and rehab."

Gagne suffered a right foot fracture in Game 4 of the Flyers' first round series with the New Jersey Devils when he blocked a slap shot by Ilya Kovalchuk. Holmgren announced on April 21 that Gagne would miss three weeks. Gagne has two assists in four playoff games.

Thursday, April 29
3:12 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ

Now that they finally have an opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers’ fourth straight day of practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees had a little bit of a different feel today. With their second round series against the Boston Bruins set to begin on Saturday afternoon (12:30 p.m., NBC), the Flyers are now able to focus on one team, the systems it employs, and the players on its roster.

FlyersTV - Timonen/Briere/Coburn

Philadelphia utilized both ice surfaces today and worked on just about every facet of its game during a 70-minute session. The Flyers will skate once again on Friday morning before hopping on their charter flight to Boston, where they will appear for the first time since the Winter Classic on January 1.

“We practiced what they try to do, what’s their system, and how we’re going to approach that system,” said Kimmo Timonen on Thursday. “They have a deep lineup and three really good centermen.”

“They are a tough-playing team, have some good d-men, and obviously they have [Zdeno] Chara back there,” said Timonen’s frequent partner, Braydon Coburn. “And, they have a goalie (Tuukka Rask) who’s playing great.”

Speaking of goaltenders, the series will feature two of the most impressive netminders through the first round. Brian Boucher leads the league with a 1.59 goals against average and .940 save percentage. Rask, the sensational rookie for the Bruins who unseated Tim Thomas for the starting role, is fourth in the NHL with a 2.18 GAA and .927 SP.

“They got good goaltending in the first round, as did we,” said Peter Laviolette.

The Flyers and Bruins, who are incredibly meeting for the first time in the postseason since 1978, were each 2-1-1 against one another this season. The Flyers won on Oct. 22, 4-3 in a shootout, as well as Dec. 14 in Boston, 3-1. The Bruins took the Winter Classic in overtime, 2-1, and thumped Philadelphia in the most recent meeting at the Wachovia Center on March 11, 5-1.

Boston, the sixth seed, defeated the third-seeded Buffalo Sabres in six games.

“The times that we played them, I thought that they were good hockey games,” said Laviolette. “We played a game in Boston when I was here where we won, and I thought we played really well. We played in the Winter Classic and I thought we should have gotten better results than we did. Then they came into our building, I think just after the Olympic Break, and they took it to us pretty good.

“It should be a competitive series. They’ve got good depth up front and they’ve got good goaltending. They rely on four defensemen quite a bit, so it should be a good series.”

Needless to say, the team is chomping at the bit to get back to action after what will be eight days off between playoff games. The Flyers eliminated the Devils on Thursday, April 22.

“It’s been a long [break] here,” said Timonen. “Finally we know it’s Boston, so I think we’re all really looking forward to start playing games.”

Carle on NHL Radio

Flyers defenseman Matt Carle was a call-in guest on NHL Radio with hosts Rob Simpson and Stan Fischler yesterday. To listen to the interview, click the link below.

Matt Carle 4/28/10

Kate Smith stamp

Comcast-Spectacor officials will join representatives from the United States Postal Service to unveil a new Kate Smith stamp on Wednesday, May 19 at 1:00 p.m. at the Kate Smith statue outside of the Spectrum. Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” became a good luck charm for the Philadelphia Flyers who have an 81-21-4 record when her recording is played before games. She appeared at the Spectrum performing “God Bless America” on May 19, 1974, just after 1 p.m. when the Flyers battled the Boston Bruins and eventually won their first Stanley Cup. The stamp will be released on Thursday, May 27, which is the same day the Flyers won their second Stanley Cup (1975).

So far this season, the Flyers are 3-0 when the Smith-Lauren Hart version of "God Bless America" is played at the Wachovia Center, including the shootout win against the Rangers in the last game of the regular season, and both home playoff games in the first round against New Jersey.

Wednesday, April 28
2:33 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA

If you've been following along, you already know that if the Capitals advance tonight with a Game 7 victory vs. the Canadiens, then the Flyers will be their second round opponent. If Montreal wins, the Flyers travel north to Boston. There's no official schedule for the second round just yet, although Paul Holmgren mentioned to the local media this morning that Game 1 will be on Saturday afternoon at 12:30 p.m., regardless of the opponent. Look for the schedule to be revealed here on philadelphiaflyers.com either late tonight or early tomorrow.

Mike Richards gave a brief scouting report on both teams this morning, after the Flyers completed yet another hard-skating practice in Voorhees at the Skate Zone.

"I think Washington, it goes without saying, is a very offensive team," said the captain. "They are great puck movers, and skilled. Boston is a very defensive team, and their goaltender (Tuukka Rask) is playing extremely well. They have a great defense and move the puck extremely, well, too."

Today's skate was about 40 minutes, and came on the heels of a couple practices that lasted over an hour and featured some off-ice training and on-ice sprints.

"I thought it was a really good tempo out there today, and that's all you can do right now," said Peter Laviolette.

Obviously, the topic of losing Ian Laperriere for the rest of the postseason was a hot one today. Just as when the team lost Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter to right foot injuries before Game 5 last week against New Jersey, Laviolette expects the bulk of Laperriere's minutes, including those while the team is shorthanded, to to be eaten up by committee.

"A piece goes out but a piece has to go in," said the head coach of the penalty-kill. "You might see [James van Riemsdyk] out there, or [Andreas] Nodl, or [Scott] Hartnell. But, certainly, [Claude] Giroux and [Darroll] Powe, their roles probably go up a little bit."

In line rushes today, the fourth line consisted of Nodl and Powe as the wingers to Blair Betts.

Laviolette doesn't sense any emotional let down from the players with one of their veteran leaders on the sideline.

"To be honest, I think the guys have been in terrific spirits coming to the rink. They have practiced hard and we're excited to get going again and play some more hockey games.

"Certainly, we wish we had him in the lineup because he's a valuable asset to the team, but that's not the case. We're excited now about playing a hockey game at some point."

Radio interviews

Laviolette, Laperriere and Brian Boucher were all call-in guests on the radio this morning. Laviolette phoned into 610 WIP (Part 1 | Part 2), as did Ian Laperriere (listen), while Boucher called the Preston and Steve show on 93.3 WMMR (Part 1 | Part 2).

Tuesday, April 27
9:33 a.m. - Philadelphia, PA

It will be either the Washington Capitals or the Boston Bruins.

With Boston’s 4-3 series-clinching win last night against Buffalo, the sixth-seeded Bruins have advanced. If Montreal completes an upset on Wednesday night when it faces the Capitals at the Verizon Center in Game 7, the Winter Classic opponents will face each other in the second round.

If Washington wins, the Flyers will take the train to the nation’s capital to play the top-seeded Capitals. Montreal kept that series alive with a 4-1 victory last night at the Bell Centre.

The Flyers were 2-1-1 against the Bruins this season and 1-3 vs. the Capitals.

All dates and times for the second round are still to be determined. For Flyers playoff tickets, click here.

Monday, April 26
3:16 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ

Waiting game continues

Still without a start date or even an opponent for the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, several players likened today’s lengthy skate and subsequent weight lifting and bike ride to a page ripped right out of the Training Camp agenda. It could be a full eight days between games for the Flyers, and, as is the goal during camp, the team wants to be in the best shape possible for the next time the puck drops.

Fortunately, the Flyers are looking and feeling good as they await the news on where they are going and whom they are playing.

“Personally, I feel that I could start tomorrow. I’m well-rested, but there’s nothing we can do,” said Kimmo Timonen of the break. “We have to make sure we work out hard on the ice and in practice and make sure we keep the level of play high.”

“I thought it was another crisp practice,” said head coach Peter Laviolette, who was also pleased with the pace of Saturday’s skate that was sandwiched between a pair of off days on Friday and Sunday.

While some players like the long break (“every minute of it,” mentioned Chris Pronger today) and others would rather be playing games now, one thing that the Flyers seem to be in agreement on is that they would like to know who will be their next opponent.

That could be determined tonight, as the Washington Capitals try again to close out their series with the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 at the Bell Centre. If Washington wins, the Flyers will be able to start mentally preparing for a trip to the nation’s capital.

“It’s going to get easier when we know exactly [whom] we’re going to face next,” said Danny Briere, who is in the corner of guys that want to get going as soon as possible. “You can put in your mind a picture of the guys you’re going to battle against. Now, it’s four or five days we’re going on not knowing our opponent.”

The Versus network will be happy to hear that the Captials-Canadiens game will be on several televisions tonight in the Philadelphia area.

“I’ll certainly be watching a few games tonight and hopefully we’ll get a better idea,” said Briere.

Laviolette was also asked if he’ll be tuning in.

“I’m going to watch the games. If the next question is, do [I] care [who wins], the answer is no.”

One thing that is in the Flyers’ control is themselves – a cliché in hockey, for sure, but never more relevant than it is right now.

“We’re down to eight teams fighting for the Cup. Everybody’s got a smile on their face, and you’re coming to work and it doesn’t seem like work anymore. It seems like fun,” said Laviolette. “We’re working, we see each other, we’re going over things, we’re preparing ourselves for the next round and we’re staying in shape.”

Gagne, Laperriere update

Simon Gagne spoke with the media for the first time today since his surgery on Friday. Gagne is sporting a boot on his right foot, in which he suffered a fracture while blocking an Ilya Kolalchuk shot in Game 4 of the Flyers’ first round series victory over New Jersey.

He will be on crutches for two weeks, but isn’t counting himself out for an appearance in the second round.

“I’m feeling pretty good. I think the worst is behind. I need to be on crutches for two weeks and not put too much weight on it,” he explained. “From there, we’ll get an MRI two weeks from now and see where we’re at from the healing standpoint.

“I hope to be back at the end of the second round, and if not, then it will be the third round. I will be back as soon as I can.”

Laperriere did not skate today, and although he wasn’t available to talk to the media, general manager Paul Holmgren gave the following update:

“We’ll continue to follow his progress and monitor him and we’ll see how he is [Tuesday]. I think because the puck probably made contact with his eye a little bit, he does have some…I don’t want to say blurred vision, but it just doesn’t feel exactly right yet for him.

“We do have some time here so we’ll just take our time with him and make sure we’re doing the right thing. I still feel confident he’ll play.”

Reviewing Broad Street Bullies

The reviews are already starting to come in for the HBO special on the Broad Street Bullies, set to debut on the cable network on May 4. According to Adam Buckman of tvhowl.com:

As this documentary notes, the Flyers players of the mid-’70s became the most beloved athletes in the history of Philadelphia sports — before or since.  In “Broad Street Bullies,” many of them are on hand for present-day interviews, a thrill for a Philadelphian who hasn’t lived there for 30 years and hasn’t thought about this band of Flyers in at least that length of time.  But here they are: Dave Schultz, Bobby Clarke, the Stooges-loving Bernie Parent, Bob Kelly, Bill Barber, Gary Dornhoefer, Ed Van Impe, Orest Kindrachuk (a great hockey name, eh?) and even Ed Snider, the team’s owner who baldly admits that fighting for the purpose of intimidation was a strategy wholly endorsed and encouraged by Flyers management.

For the complete review, click here. Or, to see the trailer for the documentary, click here.

Also, Keep an eye out here on philadelphiaflyers.com for a special video recap of a screening the Flyers held for season ticket holders at the Wachovia Center on April 12, featuring in-arena host Sean Murphy.

Saturday, April 24
12:48 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ

As of this morning, the last team to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs is still the only team to advance to the second round.

The Flyers convened for an up-tempo, hour-long skate today at the Skate Zone as they try to stay sharp while awaiting an opponent and a schedule for the Eastern Conference Semifinals. It’s still a likely bet they will face top-seeded Washington, but the Capitals failed to defeat Montreal last night in the nation’s capital, and the series now returns to the Bell Centre for Game 6 as the Canadiens try to even it up at three games apiece to force a decisive seventh game.

A possible week off between playoff games is just fine, though, several players said today after practice.

“It’s definitely welcome at this point,” said Danny Briere. “Lots of guys have been playing with lots of different injuries that we didn’t have a chance to let heal because games were so important (down the stretch). With the break here, it certainly is going to help us.”

“For us, we’re pretty banged up. It gives guys a chance to catch a breather and get healthy,” added Chris Pronger. “Also, today was a good practice day. We haven’t had a whole lot of practice time over the last month or month-and-a-half. It was a pretty up-tempo, hard skate out there.”

Another reason that the Flyers are so appreciative of the break in the action is because of the regular season schedule after the Olympic break, as the team had one stretch of 16 games in 27 days in March. Add to that the playoff-type atmosphere as the Flyers battled for their playoff lives, and the break could be just as useful mentally as it is physically.

Head coach Peter Laviolette, said: “I think a couple days of rest, with the grind we had down the stretch to get into the playoffs and then go through the first five games…we’ll take advantage of days like yesterday and today where you get a little bit of rest and a little bit of practice.”

“We had a pretty grueling and stressful stretch drive,” added Pronger.

Philadelphia had a complete day off on Friday, and will have Sunday off as well. Briere spent his free time last night watching the Canadiens-Capitals game, and will probably catch some more playoff action tonight.
Daniel Carcillo shoes off his new shoes, courtesy of guitarist Eddie van Halen. (Flyers Photos)

“I enjoyed myself watching the games last night. It’s an exciting time of the year,” he said. “Once you get eliminated it’s a lot tougher to watch, but last night and today again it’s going to be a lot more enjoyable watching other teams beat each other up while we’re waiting for our next opponent.”

Laperriere should play in next round

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that forward Ian Laperriere suffered an injury above his right eye when he was struck by a slap shot in Game 5 against New Jersey on Thursday night.

Paul Holmgren said today that Laperriere, who did not skate today, does not need surgery despite a non-displaced fracture in the area. When asked if Laperriere would play, Holmgren said: “I think hell would freeze over before he didn’t play.”

A key penalty-killer, Laperriere’s teammates and coach are obviously hopeful that he can play.

“I certainly hope that’s he’s available to play. It was a pretty scary thing that happened,” said Laviolette. “I’m certainly happy that the eye itself is okay. I’m hoping for the best.”

“He’s willing to jump in front of any puck, and is obviously a key part of our penalty-kill,” said Pronger. “He’s an energy guy on that fourth line. He brings a lot to the table, so hopefully we’ll get him back.

Norris snub for Pronger

Pronger was asked today what he thought of not being nominated for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. On Friday, it was revealed that Chicago’s Duncan Keith, Los Angeles’s Drew Doughty and Washington’s Mike Green is the trio up for the award.

Predictably, Pronger was indifferent to the news.

“I didn’t start the season to win that award. It is what it is. I’m looking for a different trophy,” said the defenseman, who was voted by the local media as the team’s MVP for the 2009-10 regular season.

Carcillo gets a gift

Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo showed off a pair of EVH (Eddie van Halen) striped sneakers he received from the famous guitarist this morning. The sneakers are designed to match guitarist Eddie’s infamous red, white and black striped guitar.

Carcillo is a fan of Van Halen and has seen them in concert. When Eddie heard he was a fan, he shipped him a pair of sneakers.

“I was contacted by Van Halen’s manager, and he said they were fans and just wanted to send some shoes,” said Carcillo this morning. “It’s pretty cool.”

EVH sneakers are available on line at evhgear.com.

Thursday, April 22
10:52 p.m. - Newark, NJ

For the second time this season, Flyers forward Ian Laperriere suffered a scary injury when he was hit in the face by a slap shot. In the third period of the Flyers’ Game 5 win in New Jersey, the Devils’ Paul Martin wound up and drilled the gritty forward with the puck just above the right eye, and blood immediately started flowing to the ice below.

Laperriere interview:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Watch the play

The moment was even scarier for Laperriere, who wasn’t sure if his eye was even there anymore.

"I grabbed [Flyers trainer] Jimmy McCrossin and asked him 'is my eye there?' And he said it's there, it's just the blood. When you don't see anything, you're kind of panicking a bit.”

Laperriere received between 60 and 70 stitches above the eye, and explained that his vision came back a couple of minutes after he was helped to the locker room.

He decided then and there that he would like to see his children grow up with both of his eyes. He will wear a face shield for the rest of his career.

"I maybe realized that I need to wear a shield, by making a stupid mistake again,” he said. “I'll wear one for the rest of my career. I don't care. I'll fight as much and take off my helmet.

"It's a stupid, macho thing in my head and tonight made me realize that I have to smarten up. It's more for my family than anything else."

Even with the injury, Laperriere was able to express how pleased he is of his teammates as the Flyers advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“Playoffs is all about sacrifice. You need to block shots and do whatever it takes,” he said. “I'm proud of everybody in this room. Everybody did it. If you want to advance to the next series we're going to need to sacrifice our bodies even more. It's going to be harder and harder and everybody's looking forward to it."

Wednesday, April 21
2:06 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ

Peter Laviolette would prefer to focus on the good news.

With forwards
Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter both out for weeks with right foot fractures, the Flyers' head coach wants to remain focused on the task at hand rather than mope about the loss of two key offensive contributors. That task is closing out the New Jersey Devils and moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Flyers will have that opportunity at the Prudential Center with a three-games-to-one lead, albeit without a pair of their top six forwards.

“We have a lot to be excited about. I don’t want to dwell on a couple of guys who got dinged up last night,” said Laviolette after a team meeting today in Voorhees. “I want to focus on the fact that we’re playing good hockey.

“We have an opportunity to go into New Jersey and close out a series. That, to me, is a real positive thing. We have to focus on that. We have lots of good players in here to do it, and I still think we can play better. It should be an exciting game tomorrow.”

Carter, the Flyers’ leading goal scorer in the regular season with 33, was on crutches with his foot in a boot today. He is awaiting the results of a CT scan to determine how much time he will miss (it was revealed later in the day that Carter is out for at least six weeks).

The biggest disappointment for the 25-year-old sniper is that he was just starting to feel better after missing eight games late in the regular season with an injury to his left foot. His two goals and assist in Game 4
paced Philadelphia in its 4-1 victory that put the Devils on the brink of elimination.

“It’s tough. It seems like I just got off [the crutches],” he said. “It’s definitely disappointing. I really felt like I was starting to get back into my groove and get some jump in my game. A setback like this is tough. That’s hockey, I guess.”

Gagne was not immediately available for comment.

With Carter and Gagne out, one player who will get a chance to contribute is winger Ville Leino. Acquired in early February, Leino has been used sparingly since joining the team, despite showing some flashes of skill when he was in the lineup.

Leino and Laviolette did not comment on who Leino was going to be playing with in Game 5, as the head coach has chosen not to comment on any line combinations or roster decisions. One thing that is crystal clear is Leino’s excitement at the opportunity to contribute to the team.

“Everybody wants to play in the playoffs. It’s been tough for me to sit and watch,” said the Finland native, who had two goals and two assists in 13 games with the Flyers since the trade. “But, that’s how it goes. When someone gets injured, that’s when you get your chance. That’s not the way you want it to happen, but that’s the way it goes.”

Playoff hockey is nothing new to Leino, currently in his first full season in the NHL. In seven games with the Red Wings last year he tallied two assists, as Detroit advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to Pittsburgh.

“What I remember last year is it was really fun to play in the playoffs,” he said.

No matter who is in or out of the lineup, the Flyers expect the hardest game of the series to come on Thursday night in New Jersey. The fourth win of the series is the hardest one to capture, according to some of the players today.

“[The Devils] are not going to lay down. We’re playing in their building so they’re going to have their crowd going,” said Brian Boucher, who lowered his goals against average in the series to 1.98 last night. “We’re going to have to be good right off the hop, and hopefully get it done there.”

A win tomorrow it could provide some much-needed rest for not just the injured players, but also the healthy ones, said Mike Richards. The second round would likely begin on Thursday or Friday of next week.

“The rest, especially with the schedule we’ve had over the last two months, is obviously something that is needed,” said the captain. “We have to be ready. We know they’re going to come out hard and we can’t dwell on excuses or people in or out of the lineup. It’s a great opportunity for people to step up in the playoffs and have some unlikely heroes.

“You don’t want to look at it as saying you have three attempts to do it. You want to look at it as the same mindset we’ve had the past couple of games.”

Monday, April 19
3:05 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ

Giroux steps it up

He’s only played in nine playoff games in his NHL career, but Flyers forward Claude Giroux is proving to be quite the clutch player in the postseason. After recording five points in a six-game series loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last April, Giroux has two goals and an assist through the first three games against New Jersey.

Last night, Giroux converted a great pass from Kimmo Timonen on the power play to tie the game at 1-1 in the first period (
watch). In Game 2 at the Prudential Center, he fed Arron Asham with a great pass through the slot for an easy tap-in, and deflected in a Matt Carle shot with a man advantage in the 5-3 loss.

Playing in his first full season in the NHL, Giroux has naturally had his hot and cold streaks. You can count fellow French-speaking Canada native Simon Gagne as one of the impressed with Giroux’s postseason consistency, though.

“You could tell a little bit last year in the playoffs what type of player he was going to be,” said Gagne. “It’s a long [regular] season. As a young player sometimes you have some ups-and-downs, but when playoffs come you can tell he’s a playoff guy.

“He likes to have the puck, he likes to keep it, and he’s comfortable with it. That’s what makes him a good player.”

Giroux was modest when asked about his success in the playoffs, instead crediting his production to his linemates and teammates. There’s more to it than that, however, said Peter Laviolette.

“He played a great game last night. He’s really attacking the ice,” said the coach.

“He’s a skilled player that has the ability to make plays, to create, [and] he’s got the speed and the knowledge and the vision to do those things. He played great games when I first got here, but as the intensity picks up and things become more on the line, I think that’s what is impressive right now. He’s stepping up his game in a big situation.”

Kimmo steady as ever

With the addition of Chris Pronger over the summer, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen suddenly had a little relief from being the focal point of the team’s blue line. That’s obviously no knock on Timonen, who, along with Pronger, allows the Flyers two have two All-Stars on two different pairs as they match up with the opposing team’s top lines.

It’s especially helpful now, with the firepower that the Devils spread over their top two lines with the likes of Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias.

Pronger routinely holds court with the local media following games and practices, while Timonen can quietly go about his business. And that’s just fine with the 35-year-old Finland native.

“Obviously, we know Chris is a great player and probably a future Hall-of-Famer. If I’m a media member I would like to talk to him rather than me,” said Timonen. “I just go out there, do my job, and I don’t really care who plays what. I worry about my thing, and make sure I do my job as good as I can.”

The head coach considers Timonen one of the more underappreciated players on the roster, and actually sees similarities between his two best D-men despite the size difference.

“Kimmo has been great for the entire year since I’ve been here. He has been outstanding. He quietly goes about his business in a very effective manner,” said Laviolette.

“Both of those guys (Pronger and Timonen) can play a lot of minutes because they control their pace out there, and the pace that they play the game. When you’ve got two guys that can play 30 minutes, that chews up a lot of ice [time].”

Looking ahead to Game 4

The excitement of last night’s victory likely provided an air of contentment among the team last night and this morning, but that feeling will have to quickly disappear before tomorrow night’s Game 4 when the Devils try and even the series back up at two games apiece (7:30 p.m., CSN,

To their credit, the Flyers were saying all of the right things today after a brief noon skate in which the majority of the team was on the ice.

“We’re in a good spot right now. But that’s the thing with the playoffs; you can’t sit back and relax for a second or it will come back and bite you,” said Danny Briere.

“The thing is, now you feel good about what happened last night and winning the first game at home in overtime, but now that game is over,” added Gagne. “We have to focus on the game tomorrow. Whatever happened last night, it’s over. We can feel good about it today, but from that point on it’s time to leave it behind us.”

Briere has been among the more outspoken players when it comes to the Philadelphia fans and how much they help come playoff time. He drove home that point once again today.

“Obviously, I’m happy about playing in our building. The atmosphere last night was just amazing and got us going. Our fans were tremendous.”

* * *

11:58 a.m. - Philadelphia, PA

Now that the Flyers have home ice in their series with New Jersey, coach Peter Laviolette has been able to get the matchups he wants against Devils forwards Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. The results were almost shocking in Game 3: the two New Jersey snipers combined for just two shots on goal in more than 47 combined minutes, both by Parise.
The Flyers won in overtime, 3-2.

In Game 2, Dainius Zubrus was able to score the game-winning goal late in the third period when his line, along with Parise and Patrik Elias, pressured the puck deep in the Philadelphia zone for a lengthy stretch while Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen were on the bench.

Needless to say, Laviolette wants his two horses on defense, as well as his best defensive forwards out there as much as possible against the top two Devils lines. That’s what happened in Game 3.

“I think both [Parise] and Kovalchuk, we tried to limit and take away their time and space as much as possible,” said Chris Pronger. “Our forwards did a great job of reloading back through the middle and forcing them to dump a lot of pucks maybe they didn’t want to. But really, it’s trying to deny those guys pucks and not allowing them easy access to the front of the net where they score a lot of goals.”

Even more surprising is that Kovalchuk didn’t have a single shot on goal despite eight Devils power plays. Like Pronger, Laviolette also gave credit to the Flyers forwards for containing the Devils offense, which scored twice on the power play but none five-on-five.

“I thought that our defense and our gaps were really good,” said the head coach. “I think our forwards did a good job of chasing pucks from behind, and it all goes back to our aggressive style.

“We were in the offensive zone quite a bit playing five-on-five, so as the game wore on [in the third period] and the overtime we kept pressing, and when you’re doing that you’re not playing on your end. I thought our game was good five-on-five. We’ve got to play more of it.”

Saturday, April 17
2:36 p.m. - Voorhees, NJ

With a win in Game 1 of the its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia managed to seize the home ice advantage. Now, it’s up to them to capitalize on it, beginning on Sunday in Game 3 (6:00 p.m., CSN,

After a noon practice today in Voorhees, several players expressed their excitement to get in front of a raucous home crowd for the first time since one of the most exciting regular season games in franchise history. The Flyers clinched a playoff spot in a shootout win over the New York Rangers last Sunday, 2-1.

“I can’t wait. I’ve only heard good things about Philly in the playoffs,” said Ian Laperriere, who spent the majority of his career in the Western Conference since joining the Flyers over the summer as a free agent. “We had a little taste of it in that last game of the year, but it’s nothing compared to the playoffs. I thrive on that, everybody does, and I’m really looking forward to the ‘orange’ crowd.”

“Playing in Philadelphia is one of the toughest places for a road team in the playoffs - everybody knows that,” added Danny Briere. “Just remembering what the playoffs were like the last couple of years I was here, how the building gets revved up, I’m excited about that. I can’t wait to jump on the ice.”

The Flyers were 24-14-3 at home this season, compared with a 17-21-3 mark on the road. Against New Jersey, the Flyers won all three home games by a combined score of 11-5.

As it did last Sunday, Philadelphia will be counting on its crowd for support as it tries to re-take the series lead.

“I’m looking forward to the energy in the building. The first one at home is going be just as exciting, if not more exciting for us. Playing in front of our home crowd, I’m sure the energy in the crowd will be electric,” said Chris Pronger, who has a goal in each of the first two games.

“The playoffs are tough because you’re playing every other day. It’s physical and it’s a grind, but coming home and playing in front of your hometown fans, especially these fans – they’re so energetic and it just puts a lot of energy into the building and it makes you want to do more,” added Daniel Carcillo.

Krajicek in for Bartulis

There will apparently be one lineup change for the Flyers in tomorrow night's game, as Lukas Krajicek will take the place of Oskars Bartulis on the Flyers' blue line, according to CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio. Krajicek could be paired with either Kimmo Timonen, who he spent most of the regular season with since being signed as a free agent in February, or Ryan Parent.

Krajicek played in the first game of the series, logging just less than nine minutes of ice time.

Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said yesterday morning that he is comfortable with all seven of his healthy defensemen.

Friday, April 16
2:37 p.m. - Newark, NJ

With the New Jersey Devils having snipers Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk on two different scoring lines, it’s little surprise that defenseman Chris Pronger played more than half of the game in
Tuesday’s 2-1 Flyers victory in Game 1 of the quarterfinals. Pronger finished with 30:01 of ice time.

It’s something he’s been doing year after year, said head coach Peter Laviolette today after an optional skate at the Prudential Center. It’s also a big reason the Flyers were able to capture the first game in the playoff series.

“He’s done that his whole career, playing 25 or 30 minutes,” said Laviolette of Pronger. “He’s a playoff player. He’s been deep in the playoffs several times, and it’s certainly an advantage to have him on your team.”

Pronger doesn’t seem too concerned with who he’s matched up against, and certainly doesn’t mind the ice time. At 35 years old, the towering defenseman recently said that he feels better now than he did 10 years ago. And it showed.

“I just play my game. I’m going to be out against probably both [Parise and Kovalchuk], so without having the luxury of the last line change [as the road team], you’re going to be out who you’re out against," he said.

“Really, you’re trying to deny both of them the puck. They are both very skilled players and you try to limit their touches as much as you can.”

Pronger and Laviolette would both like to see Philadelphia come out with a better first period than it did in Game 1. Truth be told, the Flyers were fortunate to be scoreless with the Devils after the opening 20 minutes in which they were outplayed.

Tonight they may have to weather an even greater storm, as the Devils certainly do not want to be down two-games-to-none with Games 3 and 4 back in Philadelphia.

“We’re desperate to play a good hockey game. When you go back and look at the tape, Boosh won that game for us. We gave up a lot of quality scoring chances that we’re looking to not give up today,” said Pronger.

“We turned the puck over a lot in the first period, and I think you do that when you’re on your heels a little bit too much and making plays from standing still, as opposed to moving forward,” added the head coach. “We have to avoid those turnovers. Those turnovers cost us in the first.”

Parent likely

It appears that Laviolette will make one change to his lineup in Game 2. Defenseman Ryan Parent will return, although for whom it is not quite clear. It will be either for Oskars Bartulis or Lukas Krajicek.

With Pronger, Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn getting the majority of the ice time on the back end, the third defense pairing’s main job will be to give the key guys a chance to catch their breath, explained Parent.

“When you’re looking at a seven game series, there’s going to be a lot of minutes played and if two guys are taking most of it, it’s going to wear them out a little bit,” he said. “I think that’s why you have to look past the first two pairings and try to give those guys a little bit of a breather when you can.”

Laviolette has no concerns putting Parent back in the game, and is comfortable with all seven of his healthy blueliners.

“We’ve got seven defensemen. We’re going to move them around," he said.

“Ryan is a good defender. It’s a good spot for him.”

Thursday, April 15
4:23 p.m. - Newark, NJ

There were two main themes emanating from the Flyers’ locker room at the Prudential Center today following the team’s afternoon practice.

Saunders and Coatesy at practice

The first was that although the Flyers are thrilled to be ahead one-game-to-none in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series with the Devils, they are convinced that they can play better than they did in
last night’s 2-1 win. In fact, they will have to.

The second is that after losing home ice last night, New Jersey will come out that much harder when the series resumes for Game 2 tomorrow night (7:30 p.m., CSN).

“It’s a big opportunity to dig a hole for our opposition. Our goal going into the series was to win the first game, and we did that,” said Blair Betts. “We didn’t play as well as we would have liked but we still came away with the win, which should be a big confidence boost for us.”

“We’re happy that we won [Game 1], but we’re not happy about the way we played,” added Danny Briere. “It just seemed like our physical play was a little lower than what we can do. Our puck possession wasn’t as good as it should have been. Our chances to score weren’t as high as what they should be. We found a way to steal, one, basically. We know we can play a lot better.”

One aspect of their game that the Flyers know they will have to clean up is the amount of penalties they took last night. New Jersey didn’t score on any of its five opportunities, including a double-minor for high-sticking to Oskars Bartulis early in the third period with Philadelphia holding on to a precarious 2-0 lead.

It’s a credit to the team’s outstanding penalty killing that the Devils didn’t score, but repeating that pattern in future games is something that Flyers know they can’t get away with – especially with players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Patrik Elias out on the ice looking for shooting lanes.

“I think five [Devils power plays] is too much,” said Briere. “We have to lower that number to no more than three for us to be successful in this series. We have to have a better effort in that department.”

“You just can’t go out and give them power play chances like we did yesterday, because with that much skill and a great offense, we’re going to get burned,” said Ian Laperriere, a key penalty-killer. “We just can’t afford to do that.”

Still, the Flyers can gain a huge advantage in the series tomorrow night at the Prudential Center. Philadelphia has already captured the home ice by virtue of the win in Game 1, and will now try to take a commanding 2-0 series lead before it shifts to Philadelphia on Sunday.

The Devils, who had the noticeable territorial advantage early in Game 1, will surely do everything in their power to prevent that from happening.

“We have to expect them to come out hard, if not harder than they did yesterday,” said Mike Richards. “We have to do a better job of responding to it.”

“The desperate team is the more dangerous team. They become a little bit more desperate now,” added head coach Peter Laviolette.

Other notes

Brian Boucher and Chris Pronger did not skate with the team today, opting for maintenance days. … In case you didn’t notice, Johan Backlund acted as the Flyers’ backup goalie last night. Backlund re-injured his groin during his NHL debut on Pittsburgh on March 27, but has recovered. … Of the seven players the Flyers recalled from Adirondack to be part of the “taxi crew,” just two of them are here with the team: goaltender Jeremy Duchesne and defenseman Joonas Lehtivuori. ... The cast of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" sent a brief message to the team. To see it,
click here.

Tuesday, April 13
1:53 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ

Pronger holds court

With one more day of media availability following today’s practice in Voorhees before the team heads up the turnpike, Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger held court with a host of reporters and cameras surrounding his locker.

The veteran defenseman has got to be one of the best quotes in the league, and, well, he didn’t disappoint today. The postseason, of course, is Pronger’s “time to shine,” as head coach Peter Laviolette puts it.

Rather than pick and choose what to put here in this space, here are some of the gems from the only current player on the Flyers' roster who has won a Stanley Cup.

On the playoffs, in general:

“Everybody relishes the playoffs, what it encompasses and what it’s all about. It’s the hardest trophy in pro sports to win, with the physical attrition and mental attrition that happens in the playoffs. You’ve got to be prepared to do whatever it takes for what essentially boils down to two months.”

“The playoffs are more physical, so you need to play more physical. You’re trying to grind and wear down the other team, and play hard on their top players and wear on them. You may not get them in Game 1. You may not get them in Game 2. But, hopefully by Game 5 or 6 the price that they have to pay to get to those tougher areas has taken its toll.”

“I think we all understand that the regular season is a long grind, and when you get to the playoffs it’s even more of a grind and even harder. You start with 16 teams and it whittles down pretty quickly. You have to be prepared to leave it all on the ice each and every shift. Each shift is very important, from momentum, to not allowing your opponent to get an inch out there. You have to have that war mentality. There are little battles all over the ice, but you need to win those to win the war.”

“We just played six months to get to this point and have this opportunity. All 16 teams believe they have a chance, and it’s up to us to impose our will and our desire on the other team.”

On his playoff experience:

“You want to get back there and you want to experience it. You want to go through the experience with the team and fight all the battles and all the wars together, and have that feeling at the end of the year that you’ve accomplished something, and you’ve done it as a team. You’ve had your ups and downs and different adversities that you’ve faced throughout the course of a season, but you’re able to put it together for a two month stretch play the best hockey of your life.”

“As a veteran player on the team, you look around the room and we have a lot of young players that haven’t been through too many playoff series or battles in the NHL. I’ve had my fair share, and hopefully can use that experience to help us.”

Flyers recall seven

Now that Adirondack Phantoms’ season has come to an end, the Flyers recalled seven players for their “Black Aces,” or the players that will stick around in case of injuries to the current Flyers.

They are: goaltender Jeremy Duchense; defensemen Danny Syvret, Kevin Marshall and Joonas Lehtivuori; and forwards Jon Kalinski, Andreas Nodl and David Laliberte.

Playoff events

There’s no shortage of Flyers rallies and special events around the city this week. Here’s a few:

Wednesday, April 14 at 11 a.m.
Flyers Fun Patrol members will distribute Flyers caps to children in the pediatric unit at Virtua in Voorhees. The hats were collected during the team’s “Hat Tricks for Kids Hat Toss,” in which fans tossed their new or gently used hats onto the ice “hat trick style” during the game for kids battling illnesses.

Wednesday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Hundreds of diehard Flyers fans will gather at Kildare’s in Manayunk to watch Game 1. Flyers fans can enjoy the game on 15 of Kildare’s 40” plasma televisions easily viewed throughout the bar. There will also be raffles to win autographed prizes and pick up great giveaways including t-shirts, thunder sticks, cheer cards and more.
Thursday, April 15 at 12 p.m. – Free Orange Water Ice for Flyers Fans
Fans can scoop up a free regular orange ice at Rita’s Water Ice as the nation’s largest Italian Ice chain hosts a pep rally in support of the Flyers. All fans wearing Flyers gear will receive the special offer for a free mango or orange cream water ice, only available at the Bensalem location.
Friday, April 16 at 1 p.m.
Flyers Alumni will serve Stanley CUPcakes from a Cupcake Truck at various locations around the City. Locations will be posted at www.philadelphiaflyers.com.  

Monday, April 12
1:56 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ

On paper, it looks like the perfect first round matchup for the Philadelphia Flyers (

The Flyers and Devils played six times in the regular season, with Philadelphia coming away victorious in five of those games (including the last three). Today after an optional skate in Voorhees, however, the players and their coach didn’t put a whole lot of stock into that record.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a whole different animal.

“I don’t think it matters that much. They’ve come a long way and added some players, and we’ve come a long way and added some players, too,” said Mike Richards. “It’s there as a guideline to how we need to play, but you can throw a lot out the window once the playoff atmosphere comes.”

“Right now, everything starts at zero again,” added Simon Gagne, whose
overtime goal on February 10 in New Jersey gave the Flyers a 3-2 win. “It doesn’t matter what you did in the season, it’s like a new season. In our minds we have the feeling we can beat them, but still, it’s a new season. It doesn’t matter what you did before.”

With every point in the standings so important for the Flyers down the stretch, it may benefit Philadelphia that playoff mode came a bit early this year. Coupled with the excitement of the
2-1 shootout win yesterday to clinch a spot in the postseason, the Flyers should feel pretty confident when the puck drops on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center where they won two of three games.

After all, if the Flyers winning five of six games against New Jersey doesn’t mean a whole lot, than neither does that fact that the Devils finished with 103 points in the standings to Philadelphia’s 88.

“[The stretch run] forced us to play hard and to really make sure we’re trying to dial in our game every time, because every game was so important,” said Peter Laviolette. “Every win was so important. When you didn’t win, it really hurt. Those types of games and that type of an atmosphere I think really are conducive to good playoff hockey.”

“It’s nice how well we’re playing right now; it’s nice to go in kind of rolling,” said Richards. “We’ve got confidence in our team, as does New Jersey, I’m assuming. It should be a good series.”

The two clubs will be facing one another in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, when the Flyers eliminated the Devils in five games on their way to the Eastern Conference Final where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. Four years prior to that, the Devils broke the Flyers’ hearts when they came back from a 3-1 deficit to win in seven games and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals that year (and subsequently capture the Cup).

The one constant for New Jersey has obviously been goaltender Martin Brodeur. For the Flyers, it has been Gagne. The longest-tenured Philadelphia athlete was asked about the future Hall of Fame goaltender this morning, and what he brings to the series.

“He’s the type of player than can win a game by himself. It’s not the first time we’re going to face him. We’ve been playing New Jersey in the playoffs for many years in the past 10, and we know how important it is for New Jersey to have Marty in net,” said Gagne.

On the other end of the ice will be Brian Boucher, who was as good as anyone for Philadelphia as it won three of its last four games. As is always the case in the playoffs, the goaltending will be magnified.

Boucher, who
was the Flyers’ goaltender 10 seasons ago in that tough series loss to New Jersey, has seemingly gained the confidence of his teammates and coach after an up-and-down month of March.

“It was a good day for everybody yesterday, but you’ve got to feel good for a guy like Boosh,” said Laviolette. “You get to a situation yesterday where it’s really a pressure cooker, and he performed extraordinarily. You need that in those types of games and in the playoffs, and he can take a lot of confidence in that.”

“We’re getting a lot of confidence playing in front of him and he’s making the big saves at big times in the games,” added Richards. “He’s been our best penalty-killer, and [held] us in the hockey games a lot of times. That’s what you need your goaltender to do, and he’s been doing it.”

Boucher doesn’t shy away from the fact that his performance will be measured against Brodeur’s. It’s still a team game, though, as the Flyers proved yesterday by beating New York’s Henrik Lundqvist despite his extraordinary effort between the pipes for the Rangers, making 46 saves.

“Obviously with a guy like that at the other end, as a goalie, you have to be better than him if you want to win,” said Boucher of Brodeur. “So, I guess there is that type of mindset, but I think we proved here lately that when we play a solid 60-minute game and have that team effort, we’re capable of winning games against everybody.

“That’s what our focus has to be.”

Sunday, April 11
6:23 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA

Suddenly, the Flyers’ 16-27 franchise record in shootouts doesn’t seem so bad.

In what was surely the biggest shootout in an NHL game since becoming a league institution in 2005-06, Danny Briere and Claude Giroux scored on New York’s Henrik Lundqvist while Brian Boucher stopped two of three Rangers attempts
to put the Flyers in the playoffs and send their division rivals home for the summer.

“I’m not a huge fan of it, but seeing that we won today, I guess it’s all right,” said Boucher after the game, with a wide smile on his face.

Giroux credited Flyers goaltender coach Jeff Reese for some advice before he fired in the game-winner on Lundqvist.

“Before the game I was talking to Jeff Reese, just trying to find out what would be the options, and he told me to go slower, and that I should go ahead and go blocker [side],” said Giroux. “Then I saw the five-hole open, so I just shot it there.”

Giroux became one of the Flyers’ go-to guys in the shootout this season, scoring three times on five opportunities. Philadelphia ended up with a 4-3 record when a game goes past overtime – the first time they have had a winning record in a season.

He admitted that he was thinking about what would happen if the game needed to be decided on breakaways, since his number gets called on a regular basis.

"All night I was thinking about what I was going to do, and five-hole didn’t even come to my mind.”

Fraser oversees his last regular season game

Referee Kerry Fraser officiated his final NHL regular season game today. He was presented with a special lithograph as well as team-signed jerseys from both the Flyers and Rangers to commemorate the occasion as his service to the league prior to the game.

A native of Sarnia, Ontario, Fraser officiated 1,902 games, the most by any referee in NHL history. He worked his first game nearly 30 years ago, a matchup between the Colorado Rockies and Minnesota North Stars on October 17, 1980. Fraser’s long list of accomplishments includes refereeing 12 Stanley Cup Final series, two NHL All-Star Games (1990 Pittsburgh, 2000 Toronto), 2004 World Cup of Hockey, 1998 Winter Olympics Games in Nagano, Japan and NHL Premiere series in Europe.

Also hanging up their skates after this season are referee Dan Marouelli and linesmen Mark Paré and Lyle Seitz.

Friday, April 9
12:23 p.m. – New York, NY

The Flyers had an optional skate this morning at Madison Square Garden. A little more than half of the team was on the ice, including Jeff Carter, whose status for
tonight’s game with the Rangers remains uncertain.

“It’s the same as yesterday. We’re not sure at this point,” said Peter Laviolette when asked about his leading goal scorer.

Carter spent approximately 15 minutes on the ice. He has not played since March 21, when he suffered a fracture in his left foot against Atlanta.

Thursday, April 8
2:28 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ

Flyers center Jeff Carter made his much-anticipated return to the ice today at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, but it’s still unclear whether or not the team’s leading goal-scorer will be available to play in Friday’s significant game at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers (7:00 p.m., TCN).

Never one to divulge much information to the media, Carter repeated the phrase, “I don’t know, we’ll see,” several times when questioned by a larger-than-usual media contingent on if he will give it a go.

Carter speaks to media

Whether he’s playing or not, Carter was glad just to be back out on the ice with his teammates. In what can only be viewed as a positive sign, Carter stayed out for the duration of the skate, or approximately 40 minutes.

“It’s tough sitting in the stands watching, especially with what’s going on with the standings and where we’re at,” he said. “Even if I don’t get back in the lineup, just to get back out there skating with the boys and having a little fun makes the days a little easier.”

Peter Laviolette was also encouraged by what he saw from Carter, who is tied with Mike Richards for the team lead in points with 60.

“I thought he looked good. He moved around. It was a good 30 minutes up and down the ice with stops and starts in there,” said the head coach. “He hasn’t been on the ice in close to three weeks so I thought he did a pretty good job.”

General manager Paul Holmgren met with the media after Carter and Laviolette, to explain how they will monitor Jeff’s fractured left foot. Carter had a screw inserted in the foot on March 26.

“The way I understand it is, if he’s in a lot of pain then we have to back him off,” said Holmgren. “With the screw in place, I think that the chances of that happening are slim.

“Obviously, we’re not going to put Jeff at any risk. He’s got to have a hand in the process here and let us know how he’s feeling, and from what I understand he felt okay today. We want to see how he is tomorrow.”

During the skate Carter spent the majority of his time at center between Scott Hartnell and Arron Asham. His teammates would love to get Carter back in the lineup as Philadelphia tries to clinch a playoff berth for the third straight season with a win over New York.

“Obviously, he’s a guy that provides us with a lot of minutes and a lot of energy and plays in every situation,” said Mike Richards. “You can’t really explain how much he changes our team when a guy like him is in the lineup.”

Flyers exited for chance to clinch

The bad news for the Flyers is that with New York’s 5-1 win over Toronto last night, a playoff spot was not automatically sealed. Philadelphia needs two points in its final two games with the Rangers to do that.

The good news? The game on Friday at Madison Square Garden, and possibly back at the Wachovia Center on Sunday afternoon, are the kind of moments that the players in the room live for.

At least, that’s what they were saying after today’s skate.

“This is the best time. You want to be out there. You want to be the guy making a difference,” said Danny Briere. “You have to cherish it and enjoy it when it happens. That’s why you play hockey, for moments like this.”

“Now it’s real crunch time and it’s an exciting time of year. It’s the best time of year when it means something,” added Richards.

It seems like it has been forever since the Flyers played a game that didn’t have an immediate impact on the standings, as the Eastern Conference teams from fifth place on down have been pretty bunched up for awhile now. Philadelphia can still finish anywhere from sixth place to ninth place, which is all the more reason the club should be easily motivated to clinch its postseason invitation right away.

“The goal is, we get it done tomorrow and move on,” said Briere. “I just like the situation we’re in. It’s a fun time of the year, like the playoffs are starting a little early.”

“It’s going to be a hostile environment for sure at MSG, and we’re just going to have to go balls-out,” added Scott Hartnell.

Gilbert hits 300

Adirondack Phantoms head coach Greg Gilbert recorded his 300th career AHL victory with a 3-2 win over Binghamton in Glens Falls, New York on Wednesday. The win came courtesy of a goal from Andreas Nodl in overtime.

Gilbert, who became the 15th head coach to reach the milestone, is in his first season as bench boss of the Phantoms. His previous AHL teams include the Toronto Marlies, where he spent the last three seasons before this one, and Worcester IceCats (1996-97 to 1999-2000).

Gilbert was the Calgary Flames’ head coach from 2000-01 to 2002-03.

Tuesday, April 6
11:24 p.m. – Toronto, Ontario

PK leads the way

With the Flyers a couple steps closer to a playoff berth after
tonight’s 2-0 win in Toronto (coupled with a Rangers loss in Buffalo), one aspect of their game that looks particularly postseason-ready is the penalty-killing unit. Philadelphia killed off all six Maple Leafs power plays tonight, and is 20-for-20 in the last five games overall.

It’s been mentioned time and time again, but the contributions of players like Ian Laperriere and Blair Betts cannot be underestimated. The pair was at it again tonight, selflessly diving in front of shot after shot by some pretty talented Toronto blueliners.

“We just try to not let those ‘D’ put the puck on net,” said Laperriere after the game. “They have pretty good ‘D’ on their team like [Francois] Beauchemin, [Dion] Phaneuf and [Tomas] Kaberle. We just try to face the puck. Some nights you are a little bit off, but tonight we were right on, me and Bettsy.”

Peter Laviolette had to pause for the correct words when asked about the penalty-killing unit, and specifically guys like Laperriere and Betts.

“Those guys sacrifice themselves to keep pucks from getting to the net. What they do is they give up their body in front of a 100-mile-an-hour slap shot knowing that they’re going to take it somewhere, but not knowing where,” said the coach. “And they do it consistently.

“The execution has been excellent: the routes that they run in trying to eliminate the passing opportunities and shot lanes…they’ve done a tremendous job.”

It was probably the biggest key in the biggest victory of the season. The Flyers jumped into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, and would clinch a spot in the postseason with a Rangers loss to the Leafs tomorrow night.

“It was a huge game for us. We knew that coming in with everybody playing tonight," said Chris Pronger. "It was important for us to get the two points, and confidence-wise to come in and play a good game, which we did.”

Boucher notches his first shutout

Brian Boucher’s first shutout of the season could not have come at a better time, with the Flyers chasing down a playoff berth. The goaltender stopped all 23 Toronto shots, several of which were difficult. It was also the 100th win of his NHL career.

Obviously, Boucher was pretty pleased after the game.

“This was thus far the biggest win for us, and me personally. It feels good,” said the Rhode Island native.

Laviolette said: “Tonight there were a lot of opportunities. Toronto moves the puck well, they had too many power play opportunities, and he answered. He was very sharp and very good.”

Watch Boucher's game-saving stop

With the 1-0 loss to Montreal last Friday and 4-3 win over Detroit on Sunday, Boucher has now put together three consecutive solid efforts. The Flyers won back-to-back games for the first time since March 7 and 9, and got their first road win since Boucher helped them to a 3-2 victory in Dallas on March 18, snapping a four-game losing streak.

Backlund near return?

Flyers goaltender Johan Backlund accompanied the team to Toronto and was on the ice this morning taking shots at the Air Canada Centre. He did not dress for the game, but could be nearing a return to the lineup, according to a report on CSNPhilly.com.

“We got some very good news today on Backlund,” general manager Paul Holmgren told CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio. “He took a lot of shots where he had to go down on the ice and open up. He was fine. No pain. We’re really encouraged by that.”

For the complete article,
click here.

Newcomer Sebastien Caron, signed last week for the rest of the regular season, was Boucher’s backup for tonight’s game.

Gustafsson impresses with Phantoms

Defenseman Eric Gustafsson, signed by the Flyers to a contract that begins next season, joined the Adirondack Phantoms on an amateur tryout for the remainder of the year. The Kvissleby, Sweden native made his professional and AHL debut with Adirondack on Friday night against the Syracuse Crunch, assisting on both of the Phantoms’ goals for his first career pro points.

He followed it up on Saturday night in Albany with his first career pro goal and added an assist, finishing the two-game weekend with four points while factoring in all of Adirondack’s goals during the two games.

The Phantoms failed to qualify for the AHL playoffs and wrap up their season with three home games this week, ending the year with Albany on Sunday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

* * *

1:05 p.m. – Toronto, Ontario

The rink and the city were different this morning, but the sentiments from the Flyers’ locker room were the same as yesterday in Voorhees:
tonight’s matchup against the Maple Leafs is just the latest that can be filed in the “big game” category (7:00 p.m., TCN).

Philadelphia will be looking to jump into seventh place in the conference with a victory, or sixth place with a win and Montreal loss, as well as stay ahead of the New York Rangers who are just two points behind the Flyers for the eighth and final postseason position. The Flyers end their regular season with a home-and-home against New York beginning on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

“We’ve been playing well the last couple, so hopefully we can carry it through. We’re doing a lot of good things lately, so hopefully the results will keep coming,” said Mike Richards. “Everyone understands the scenario we’re in and the situation that we’ve put ourselves in. It’s just about execution on the ice.”

Danny Briere would like to see the Flyers build upon their last two games, in particular. Philadelphia played extremely well in a 1-0 loss to Montreal last Friday, badly out-chancing the Canadiens but running into a hot goaltender in Jaroslav Halak. The Flyers rebounded with a
4-3 win over what was the hottest team in hockey in the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

“We didn’t get the result that we wanted against Montreal but we created a lot of chances and didn’t give up much. Same thing against Detroit, we played a very solid game, which is encouraging,” said Briere.

“There’s three games left and there’s no looking back any more. We have to get the job done. There’s no other way around it. It’s exciting. It’s maybe not the best position to be in, but it’s exciting and motivation will be easy to come by tonight.”

One theory goes that should the Flyers qualify for the playoffs, these games in which they have no choice but to go all-out will help them once the postseason tournament for the Stanley Cup begins next week. The playoffs have, essentially, already started for Philadelphia.

Peter Laviolette was asked about that this morning at the Air Canada Centre.

“We’re fighting for our lives and we need to win hockey games down the stretch just to qualify to get the right to play for the Cup,” said the coach. “There’s a lot of work that has to be done. Would I rather be in first? Yeah. Would I rather be in fifth? Yeah. But, I’d also want to make sure that we’re playing properly as we go into the playoffs.

“We have to win the game tonight. That’s the most important thing, that we get the two points. No matter how it gets done, the points have to come with us.”

Monday, April 5
3:25 p.m. – Voorhees, NJ

A quick look at the Eastern Conference standings right now shows the Toronto Maple Leafs in last place, with 72 points in 79 games.

Take a closer look at the Leafs recent record, though, and you'll see that Toronto should prove to be a formidable opponent tomorrow night when the Flyers visit the Air Canada Centre (7:00 p.m., TCN). They are 9-3-2 since March 9, and on top of that, handed Philadelphia a 4-0 defeat there on January 14.

Of course, the Flyers could be playing the Charlestown Chiefs and it would not diminish the importance of these two points to further improve their playoff chances. Philadelphia sits in eighth place as of Monday afternoon, tied with the Boston Bruins and two points ahead of the New York Rangers for the final spot.

“If we don’t take games seriously right now, we have mental problems,” said Ian Laperriere, bluntly. “It doesn’t matter who we play right now. Toronto [is] not where they want to be, but they are playing like the best team in the league right now if you look at their record lately.

“We just need to worry about how we prepare ourselves and how we approach our own game and not worry so much about the other team, like we did yesterday. I think we did a hell of a job yesterday, and we need to do a hell of a job tomorrow.”

Peter Laviolette is encouraged by his team’s play lately, despite losing two of the last three overall. The Flyers were victims of some bad bounces and bad goals on Long Island on Thursday night in a 6-4 loss, and played a complete 60 minutes the next night but ran into a hot goaltender in Montreal’s Jaroslav Halak in a 1-0 loss.

Philadelphia’s effort against the Detroit Red Wings, a
4-3 win on Sunday afternoon, was a positive sign. The Flyers handed the Wings their first regulation defeat in nearly a month.

“The Montreal game is about as clean a game as we can play. The Islander game I think is a little bit misleading, and the New Jersey game (a 5-1 win on Sunday, March 28) was pretty good,” said Laviolette. “I like the direction that we’re going in and how we’re playing, and it needs to be followed up tomorrow.”

“In our last three games we’ve played really well. I don’t think there should be any reason why we’d get too high at this point; we’re still in a really tight battle,” added Blair Betts. “I think if we come out and play the way we have the last few games, we should be fine.”

The Flyers will be trying to win on the road for the first time since March 18 in Dallas, and collect back-to-back victories for the first time since March 7 and 9.

Laviolette responds to New York newspaper column

Peter Laviolette was asked today by some of the Philadelphia writers to respond to an article in the New York Post yesterday that cited two anonymous NHL general managers as saying Chris Pronger's presence is an issue in the Flyers locker room.

Laviolette said: “Commenting on the two general managers that want to look at our team…I don’t know where they sit in the standings or if they’re playoff teams or not. If they are, then they should probably focus on the playoffs, and if they’re not, they should probably look at their own team.

“Sometimes you just throw darts. You just take a dart, go by what somebody else says, throw it down the hall and see if it hits a balloon on the board. Do you really want me to respond to something that someone is throwing a dart at?

“Since I’ve been here, the players seem to be dialed in as a team and on the ice. I think when you put new players together it’s something you constantly work at. You don’t get team chemistry overnight. I don’t necessarily agree with what was written. That’s my comment. I don’t agree with it.”

Ian Laperriere echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“I’ve heard that all year, that we have tension in the room,” he said. “I haven’t seen any, and I think I’m pretty involved with everybody. It’s a good mix of young guys and older guys. When you don’t produce on the ice, people look for something. When you look at our roster people jump to conclusions that it must be in the locker room, which it’s not. I don’t know where people get that from.”

For an honest take on what Pronger brings to the team, you may be better off listening to the writers who are around the team nearly every day. For example, the
Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi writes in his blog:

"If being accountable is a 'problem,' well, then it's true. Pronger is blunt, honest and accessible. He is also the team's MVP. The Flyers would be fortunate to have 23 such "problems" in their locker room."

CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio, writes:

"Pronger has won a Stanley Cup, and you need to recall what general manager Paul Holmgren said about his coming here last summer: that he expected Pronger wouldn’t tolerate mediocrity, and that the defenseman would be quick to rattle his saber when things went awry and wouldn’t be afraid to do it vocally behind closed doors.

"You don’t win a Cup without hard-asses in the dressing room.

Sunday, April 4
4:20 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA

It didn’t take Dan Carcillo very long to make his presence felt in returning from a
questionable two-game suspension by the NHL.

In what was the fastest opening goal to start the season this year for Philadelphia, Carcillo fired a wrist shot past the glove hand of Chris Osgood just 17 seconds after the opening faceoff to give the Flyers the early lead. Kimmo Timonen’s goal made it 2-0 shortly after, and even though the Red Wings would tie the score before the end of the first, Carcillo’s goal was a big boost after Philadelphia was frustrated by a 1-0 shutout loss to Montreal on Thursday night.

biggest win of the season, a 4-3 victory over Detroit, kept the Flyers in the postseason picture at eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

“Obviously, we all know what’s at stake right now and [we] need to win out to get in, so we knew it was a huge game,” said Carcillo. “It’s a really good team over there. I thought everyone battled really hard, and took the body, and maybe frustrated them a little bit and just got a lot of shots on Osgood.”

Carcillo was also not surprisingly involved in the physical play, including several altercations with Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom. The two were given coincidental minors midway through the third period.

“[We] wanted to get on those guys and hit them, and then I had to take a few punches to the face, but it’s all worth it in the end, I guess. They played hard, and I think we just played a little harder than them and got some bounces.”

Peter Laviolette was glad to have Carcillo back in the lineup.

“Danny’s a good, smart, aggressive two-way hockey player,” said the coach. “He can play with skill, he can be physical, he can agitate, he can fight… he does a lot of things very well for our team. It was nice to get him back in there with his energy, and get that bang right off the first shift from him.”

Some other notes from the win:

- The Flyers handed the Red Wings their first regulation loss since Mar. 9, in which they went 10-0-2.

- The Flyers finished the season going unbeaten in regulation against the Central Division (4-0-1).

- With a goal and an assist in today’s game, Timonen recorded his fifth multi-point game on the season.

- Ian Laperriere had two assists in today’s game marking his fourth multi-point game of the season.

- The Flyers extended their home win streak to six games against Detroit, a streak dating back to the 1996-97 season… Since that time, the Flyers have outscored the Red Wings 25-11. The Flyers own an all-time record of 36-13-11-0 on home ice against the Wings.

Friday, April 2
8:48 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren addressed the local media prior to
tonight’s Flyers-Canadiens game at the Wachovia Center. He talked about the acquisition of goaltender Sebastien Caron for the rest of the regular season, as well as gave an injury update on the numerous wounded Flyers.

First, Caron. Holmgren
signed the former NHL goalie today in order to provide some much needed experience to pair with Brian Boucher as the regular season winds down. Caron dressed as Boucher’s backup in the game against Montreal.

“He’s clearly more experienced than anybody else we have in our system right now,” said Holmgren, who was forced to recall rookies Jeremy Duchesne and Carter Hutton in the last week.

Johan Backlund, the Phantoms’ primary starter who was the third on the Flyers depth chart for most of the season, will return to the team once his groin injury heals. Backlund had to leave his NHL debut in Pittsburgh last Saturday after two periods after he re-aggravated an injury that originally occurred with the Phantoms.

“We’re still hopeful Johan is going to be ready here within the next couple games, but we’re obviously not going to put him in jeopardy, or put him at risk,” said Holmgren. “He’s not going to go back until [he is] 100 percent ready.”

Backlund took some shots today for the first time in Voorhees, but is still not an option.

* * *

Jeff Carter has
missed the six games with a broken bone in his left foot, and will have an MRI on April 7 to determine if he can return before the end of the regular season.

“If he’s pain-free at that time, and the MRI shows that’s there some callus around the break, then he’ll be able to skate and we’ll see at that point in time if he can play right away,” said Holmgren. “I’m sure Jeff will want to play if he can. He’s a tough kid.”

Michael Leighton,
nursing a high ankle sprain since he was hurt during a game in Nashville on March 16, is still at least three weeks away, said the general manager.

Finally, Ray Emery, who is
out for the year with a hip condition, underwent successful surgery today.

“The doctor’s comment to me was it went better than he expected it would go,” said Holmgren. “But his rehabilitation time is obviously going to be long. We won’t know, literally, for six months how it’s going to play out.”

* * *

2:40 p.m. - Philadelphia, PA

The newest Flyers goaltender, Sebastien Caron, met with the media on Friday morning following a team meeting at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. Caron,
who signed as a free agent today, will dress for tonight’s Flyers-Canadiens game at the Wachovia Center and will likely back up Brian Boucher.

After spending the last three seasons in Switzerland, Caron was asked for his reaction to getting an offer from general manager Paul Holmgren. He just finished the year with the Fribourg Gotteron of the Swiss National League, posting a 19-27 record in 46 games with a 2.94 goals-against average and .916 save percentage

“It’s kind of a shocker for me,” said the 29-year-old Quebec native. “I was expecting to be done for the year and got the phone call, so I’m ready to be a part of the team and finish the season with them.”

Caron last played in the NHL in 2007, playing one game apiece for the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks. In fact, he was the third goaltender for the Ducks when they won the Stanley Cup that season with current Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger.

Caron explained that it has been a bit difficult to get back to the NHL since his time away.

“Last year I talked [to teams] over the summer, but it’s difficult when you’re overseas and trying to come back. They call you, but I think it’s pretty hard for them to figure out if you can still play or not.”

All but two of his 92 games of NHL experience came during a three-season stint in Pittsburgh from 2002-06, just before the Penguins became one of the powerhouses of the league and a time when they were stockpiling top draft picks due to their inept play.

The experience in Switzerland, though, has been positive.

“With Pittsburgh, it was a tough situation,” said Caron. “We were in last place for three years, I was battling hard, but I think it made me a better goalie when I went to Switzerland.”

Caron was asked what he can do to help the Flyers’ situation in goal, as Philadelphia has seen two of its goaltenders
go on the long-term injury list in Ray Emery (hip) and Michael Leighton (high ankle sprain).

“As far as I know, it’s not been easy here for them but I’m here to help and I don’t want to talk about the past. I just want to look forward and do my best and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”

A couple other notes for tonight's game:

Fans attending Friday’s game can be a part of a special taping of the television show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Fans are asked to fill lower level seats at 6:35 p.m. The taping will not include any of the shows actors or actresses, but will include special appearances by WMMR’s Preston and Steve.

The Bud Light Block Party at the Wachovia Center starts tonight, two hours before all Flyers remaining home games. The large-scale festivities will take place inside and outside the AT&T Pavilion on the 11th street side of the Wachovia Center and feature food, interactive games, live music, radio station remotes and more.

Thursday, April 1
12:35 p.m. – Uniondale, NY

There isn’t a whole lot to report this morning from Long Island that wasn’t covered yesterday. The Flyers took to the ice at Nassau Coliseum this morning for a full-team pregame skate. Everyone was out there, including Scott Hartnell, who missed yesterday’s practice in Voorhees.

It will be Brian Boucher, of course, in the net for Philadelphia with Jeremy Duchesne as the backup.

Peter Laviolette would like to see Boucher build on his strong game in
Sunday's win against the Devils.

"Down the stretch and in the playoffs, you need great goaltending," said the head coach. "[Boucher] has gotten hot in the past. He played well the other night against New Jersey. He played really well."

Martin Biron will make his fourth start of the season for the Islanders against his old club. During the Flyers’ 15-game winning streak against New York, Biron is 9-3 (9-0 with Philadelphia and 0-3 with New York). He has a 3.35 goals against average and .895 save percentage in the three games this season, but in two of those games Biron allowed just two goals apiece.

The Flyers lineup remains the same, other than James van Riemsdyk going back in for a
suspended Dan Carcillo.