For the third time this season, Brayden Schenn is set to make a long-awaited return to the Flyers.
On Monday, Schenn, who suffered a concussion on Dec. 3 against the Phoenix Coyotes, practiced with active-roster linemates, Zac Rinaldo and Harry Zolnierczyk. The sign is a positive one, likely spelling his return.
Another return. From another injury.
Schenn’s move on and off injured reserve, whether official or non-official, has been a frustratingly common routine this season for him and the Flyers. The highest hopes for the labeled future star have been replaced with the lowest of disappointment.
Schenn has seen misfortune so great, that he is close to being marked with the most unwanted, despised label in hockey. Something so distasteful, uttering it is a curse. But evidenced by four sidelining injuries in 14 NHL games, Schenn is approaching the vaunted characteristic of being officially injury prone.
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It will go down in Flyers history as the Day of Reckoning.
General manager Paul Holmgren took his organization across the hockey Rubicon and with guts made of iron, changing the course of the Flyers’ future for the next decade.
The afternoon of June 23, one day before the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Holmgren ripped the spine out of the Flyers by trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter less than an hour apart, and replaced it with a younger, more talented but less-proven set of discs and cords.
The Flyers needed salary cap space to sign goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. They just needed a minor shuffle of the deck and to re-load for a run at the Stanley Cup next season. Instead, they wiped the slate clean.
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Mike Richards isn’t the problem and neither is his captaincy with the Flyers.
After being swept out of the postseason in effortless fashion by the Boston Bruins in the second round, fingers were pointed and blame was assigned — most of it landing on the shoulders of the 26-year-old, who was playing with a torn ligament in his wrist.
VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers coach Peter Laviolette spent his Monday afternoon conducting somber exit meetings with many of the players, breaking only to joust passionately with the media for nearly 40 minutes.
Yet, what the second-year Flyers coach did the most during the slowly moving clean-out day was go to bat for captain Mike Richards, who had guns drawn at him over the Flyers’ second-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
“I wish we were practicing today,” Laviolette said, when questioned on his captain’s leadership abilities. “I don’t think you should go on a witch hunt for Mike Richards just because we’re not. That doesn’t make sense to me. This is the same guy who led this team to within two games of the [Stanley] Cup last year.”
The second-round series against the Boston Bruins was a summation of all that came before it.
Trailing 3-1 late in the third period of Game 4 at TD Garden, with his team facing elimination, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette pulled Sergei Bobrovsky for an extra skater. Instead of gaining momentum, pushing their war-torn bodies to the limit and scraping up any amount of remaining pride to go down fighting, the lackluster and empty Flyers failed to gain the zone and were unable to set up the least bit of offense. Holding the man advantage, the Flyers were still outworked.
The Bruins scored on the empty net before Laviolette pulled his goalie once more in a last-ditch effort down 4-1. The Flyers barely even tried to stop the Bruins who added another empty netter to make it 5-1.
They were wiped out of the playoffs in four games by a team that wanted it more.
Facing a crucial Game 2 on Monday against the Boston Bruins, the Flyers need a physical and emotional overhaul if they plan to leave Philadelphia with a split. From the coaches to Brian Boucher in net, the Flyers must be better in almost every facet if they want to climb back into the series.
Here are the keys to Game 2 for the Flyers.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.