Jeff Carter walked gingerly down the hall at the Flyers practice facility on Thursday morning, holding a slight limp on his sprained right knee.
The high-scoring forward’s walk, along with mechanical knee brace laying under his equipment in the locker room, told the tale of someone not quite ready to play in an intensity-driven post-season game. Throw in the fact that Carter hasn’t practiced with the team since the injury occurred on April 20, and there’s reason to believe that although the optimism is present for his return at some point during the second round against the Boston Bruins, that comeback won’t happen anytime soon.
But should Flyers fans be worried?
VOORHEES, N.J. — It was a moment that defined the core of this Flyers team.
Coming from a 3-0 series and Game 7 deficit to take down the Boston Bruins en route to an eventual trip to the Stanley Cup Finals was not only historic, it is the watershed moment that all future playoff scenarios will be compared to. And what this particular returning group of Flyers will walk beside forever.
And for that, the Bruins seek redemption.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s a good opportunity for us to hopefully exorcise some demons,” Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference told the Boston Herald, after advancing past the Montreal Canadians on Wednesday.
“As much as we learned lessons from last year and we’re not afraid to talk about those lessons, we’ve got a chance to make things a little bit better this time around.”
Since Chris Pronger’s Game 6 return to the line up, the talk has been of his impact on the power play, his veteran presence and the spark he could and did provide. That’s all true and proved so in the team’s Game 7 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.
But in the long-term, as the big defenseman begins to log more minutes and heal that aching right hand, Pronger’s key contribution will come in the form of pure depth for the Flyers.
“I think his presence back there is huge,” said James van Riemsdyk. “When you get a guy like him back in the lineup it’s huge.”
f four Game 7’s in the 2011 playoffs have proven anything, it’s that there is extreme parity in the NHL.
Prior to Tuesday’s Game 7 beat down in Philadelphia, that was no more evident than the seventh seed Buffalo Sabres and second seed Flyers who separated by just one goal. Aside from goaltending, the difference between the two teams was almost non-existent — until the final game.
The game changer? The Flyers came armed with big guns.
“When we need to have a big game, the bigger the game the bigger the players that we have,” Mike Richards said. “Danny [Briere], Kimmo [Timonen], [Chris Pronger], and Claude [Giroux] step up and it’s nice to see that we have confidence when we play in big games.”
WELLS FARGO CENTER — Peter Laviolette put it bluntly.
“It’s a game that’s made for men,” the Flyers coach said after last postseason’s Game 7 win against the Boston Bruins. “And our guys proved to be men today.”
And with the season on the line against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center in a crucial Game 7, the Flyers are looking to tap into that masculine fervor one more time.
“All your eggs are in one basket,” said forward Kris Versteeg. “It’s a game where you better be prepared because if not, it’s all over.”
For anyone that has ever played any sport at a moderately high competitive level understands that trash talk is normalcy. In the heat of battle, emotional verbiage is bound to spill. Those same people also know that despite the anger, hatred and gamesmanship, there is a line that one isn’t supposed to cross.
However, the average person probably doesn’t realize how far along that line really is.
On Sunday night, it surfaced in a Buffalo News column by Jerry Sullivan, that Buffalo Sabres agitator, Patrick Kaleta, was said to have verbally attacked Flyers Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell over the two player’s recent publicized divorces.
Less than a week after Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff chastised the Flyers, mainly captain Mike Richards, for ‘whining’ about the officiating and behind-the-play activity from his team, it was the long-time bench boss who was singing for discipline.
In the third period of the Flyers’ eventual 5-4 overtime win, Richards became tangled with Sabres’ forward Tim Connolly heading into the corner. With Connolly stumbling forward, Richards tried to separate him from the puck with a shove. The push, however, which garnered a two-minute boarding penalty, sent Connolly face first into the glass with the momentum of Richards along with falling.
Connolly, who has a concussion history, never returned to the contest and is ruled out for Game 7 on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.
Gritting their teeth to overcome the crippling effects of poor goaltending, some how, some way, the Flyers are coming home for Game 7. And hidden under the cloud of poor personnel decisions, backstop philosophies and power play inefficiency, the Flyers are winning with pure, unadulterated willpower.
“We’ve shown heart and character from the onset of the season,” Chris Pronger told reporters in Buffalo. “Went through a lot of ups-and-downs and come through in the clutch. It happened again today.
“It’s the drive and desire to win.”
Is anyone surprised by the Flyers’ current scenario?
Falling behind 3-2 in the opening round series against the seventh-seeded Buffalo Sabres, is anyone shocked or befuddled that the Flyers, this core group of players, has taken the difficult road and subsequently have placed their backs against the wall once again?
Claude Giroux isn’t.
“We don’t do things around here according to plan,” he said after Friday’s Game 5 loss. “We just find a way to get it done. This is one situation that we got to find a way to get it done.”
VOORHEES, N.J. — The Buffalo Sabres lit a fire under the Flyers at the tail end of Wednesday’s 1-0 loss, as Paul Gaustad dropped the gloves with James van Riemsdyk and Nathan Gerbe threw a going-away hit on Kimmo Timonen after the final whistle.
On Thursday, it was Sabres’ coach Lindy Ruff’s turn.