With the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins less than a day away, hockey fans everywhere prepare themselves to hear the consistent over-fluffing of stars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, mixed with the forced discussion of what a fierce, and mostly contrived, rivalry the two teams possess with one another.
But as the Pittsburgh Post Gazette found out, despite what the media and league try to strong-arm into the New Year’s Day game, the Penguins’ players know that their animosity with the Capitals takes a backseat to one a little more personal.
The Flyers officially announced on Wednesday that forward Jody Shelley has received a two-game suspension for his punch to Vancouver Canucks defenseman Andrew Alberts on Tuesday.
With just over seven minutes left to play in the game with Vancouver easily leading 6-1, Shelley and Alberts came together after a whistle. With bodies between them, Shelley dropped his gloves and quickly came over the top with a sucker punch to the face of Alberts, which caused the former Flyer to hit the ground immediately.
The Philly enforcer received a game misconduct and match penalty, which is automatically reviewed by the league.
But what makes this ruling by the NHL’s disciplinary office curious, is that an extremely similar play happened to Boston Bruins’ leading goal scorer Milan Lucic on Dec. 23, when, wrapped up by the referee, slugged the face of Freddie Meyer, earning him the same match penalty as Shelley. However, Lucic was simply fined with no suspension.
After leaving Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks with a concerning lower body injury, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen is expected to practice with the team today in Los Angeles, according to Sam Carchidi. And if all goes well, Timonen will be available when the Flyers take on the Kings, Thursday at the Staples Center.
UPDATE: Timonen is now being held out of practice as a precaution, but is expected to be available on Thursday.
For insurance purposes, the Flyers have recalled 22-year-old Adirondack Phantoms defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who has four goals and 22 assists in 33 games for the struggling Phantoms.
Sitting second overall in the gritty Western Conference with 47 points, the Vancouver Canucks are no slouch of an opponent. But when the Flyers hit the ice tonight at 10 PM at Rogers Arena, they might just have history on their side.
Dating back to 1989, when (now general manager) Paul Holmgren was the head coach of the Flyers and the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, were eight-years-old, Philadelphia hasn’t lost a game in Vancouver. The odd and probably coincidental statistic spans 10 games, the last being in Oct. 2007, which was a memorable 8-2 Flyers victory. The contest was highlighted by a then-Flyer Jesse Boulerice cross-check to the neck of Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, which earned the enforcer a hefty suspension.
“I think it’s meaningful when you see a stat about not having beaten a team in 10 straight, when you play each other a lot, because it’s pretty much the same personnel. But when you stretch it out over 20 years or more, it’s just a bizarre coincidence.”
Photo by Lou Capozzola/Getty Images North America)
While the Flyers (riding a five-game winning streak that includes victories over Pittsburgh, Montreal and the New York Rangers) may view tonight’s contest at the Wells Fargo Center versus the struggling Florida Panthers as a let down or trap game, the Panthers consider facing the red-hot Flyers a test of their fortitude.
“If we’re going to be a good team, we’ve got to beat the top teams,” said Florida forward Marty Reasoner, whose squad also faces the Penguins on their road trip. “So, we have to rise to the challenge of playing in those fun buildings.”
Just an FYI, the Adirondack Phantoms are holding an online Ebay auction for game-worn player jerseys. There is only one day remaining to bid, so act fast. Players include Eric Wellwood, Zac Rinaldo, Kevin Marshall, among others.
The team may have seen better days but the sweaters aren’t bad looking.
Seconds after the New York Ranger forward’s first NHL goal was disallowed due to “a distinct kicking motion,” CSN cameras caught him taking a Gatorade bath, versus the Flyers on Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center. Video here.
Impressive so far, now lets see if the Flyers can handle a little adversity.
After consulting a foot specialist, the Flyers officially announced on Friday that defenseman Chris Pronger has a broken first metatarsal in his right foot and will require surgery. The veteran and keystone of Philadelphia’s blue line will miss 4-6 weeks, or as Sam Carchidi of the Inquirer added up, 11-17 games. Pronger, who has four goals and 11 assists in 31 games, should be available to return by Feb. 1.
Pronger, 36, injured his foot in Philadelphia’s 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
Ryan Bright (Philabright@gmail.com) is a sports writer, born and raised in the Philadelphia area. A graduate of West Chester University, he has been with the Daily Local News in Chester County since early 2007, working as the paper's college and high school ice hockey beat writer. In 2010, began as a contributer for CSNPhilly.com, covering the Flyers and the Philadelphia Union.