The Flyers’ roster became a little more settled on Tuesday, when coach John Stevens announced Claude Giroux will begin the season at center and Danny Briere at right wing.
In a Q&A piece from The Courier Post, Stevens made it clear where he thinks Giroux fits on the Flyers this season.
After a listless 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, the Flyers’ management gave the team absolute hell. General Manager Paul Holmgren called out individual players and coach John Stevens searched for ways to get his team motivated with just a handful of games remaining and playoff seeding in jeopardy.
But thanks to the schedule makers, the Flyers will have a chance for redemption tonight, as they host the Leafs at 7 p.m., in what can’t be called anything less than a must-win game.
With just eight games left in the regular season, the Flyers are starting to heat up. And at the same time, the seemingly invincible New Jersey Devils are falling apart.
After dwindling in the distance, 11 points behind the Devils for the Atlantic Division lead, the Flyers have closed the gap to just six points with a game in hand. The Flyers have won four of their last five games, including a big win over Jersey. The Devils are headed in a different direction, losing four in a row and making it possible, that if they can’t turn their situation around quickly, they might just get caught.
“We’ve lost four in a row now and we’ve won one of our last six, so I’d say it’s a big game,” said Devils coach Brent Sutter about his team’s upcoming game against the rival Rangers. “The reality of it all is that at this time of year every game is a big game. Every game is a desperate game because you know your opposition is going to be fighting for something. We’re still fighting for something. Philly wins tonight and they’re six points behind us with a game in hand.”
With Jersey looking for answers and off tonight, the Flyers have a golden opportunity to gain further ground when they host Eastern Conference leader Boston tonight at 7 p.m.
“I think the most important thing is taking each game individually and try and improve our point total,” said Flyers coach John Stevens, when asked about catching the Devils. “We want to get our team game together and if we’re playing well and winning a good share of games we’ll get where we need to go.”
For one of the few times this season, the Flyers have selected goaltender Marty Biron to start back-to-back games. After playing a big part of the Flyers’ 3-1 win over the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins, Sunday afternoon, and 6-4 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, Biron will be back in net, as he tries to lead his team against the Atlantic Division leading New Jersey Devils.
“Marty is going to play,” said Flyers coach John Stevens. “He has played very well and he looked really solid yesterday. Because it was an afternoon game it gives him a day and a half to recover. Marty is playing his best hockey of the year and it’s good to keep him going.”
Biron, who has elevated his game down the stretch and solidified his hold over the Flyers’ number one spot, is 7-12 lifetime versus the Devils and 15-8 at home this season, but typically has not fared well in double header games.
However, the Devils are also on the tail end of a back-to-back series. They lost an Eastern Conference showdown against the the top-seeded Boston Bruins, 4-1, on Sunday. New Jersey has also struggled on the road of late, going just 3-5 in their last eight games away from the Prudential Center.
The Flyers are nine points behind the Devils for the division and conference, with one game in hand. The Devils are currently first in the division and second in the conference with 97 points. The Flyers stand in fourth place in the conference with 88 points.
Tonight’s game will be at 7 p.m. on Versus.
Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Flyers have proven to be notoriously inconsistent, typically following up a Stanley Cup caliber performance with one or two energy-lacking clunkers. And with only three points separating them (fourth-seed) from the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, the serious lack of energy shown this crucial time of year, has not evaded coach John Stevens, who pointed it out after the Flyers dropped the first two games of a very important four-game road trip.
“We need to skate,” Stevens said. “We’ve got a good group of skating forwards. We need to pursue the puck and be a lot more aggressive, with and without the puck. I didn’t think we did that the last two games.”
Faith by George Michael topped the Billboard top 100, Rain Man was about to take the American box office by storm and Flyers’ captain Mike Richards was three years old, the last time the Flyers won at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Nov. 15th, 1988.
“I was just a young player in the Flyers’ organization the last time the Flyers came in here and won,” said Flyers’ coach John Stevens. “It’s been 21 years, which is amazing. We don’t come here very often, but hopefully it gives us some motivation to get the job done.”
With five seconds remaining in the second period of Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers, Flyers’ defenseman Braydon Coburn took a punch at the head Rangers’ forward Nik Antropov, sending him sprawling on the ice clutching his face in his hands. What appeared to be just a punch to the head behind the play, turned into a five minute major and matching game misconduct because Coburn was still clutching his stick at the time, making the play look like an intent to injure.
“I just watched it and I’m not sure it was even a penalty,” said Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren. “I’m not sure if the G.M. meetings influenced the call. But any time we come out of meetings like that, there’s usually some kind of effect.”