Flyers-Sabres Game 1: Enter the Playoffs

Flyers-Sabres Game 1: Enter the Playoffs

We've already covered many of our thoughts heading into tonight's series opener between the Flyers and the Sabres at the Wells Fargo Center. The Orange & Black left us with more questions than we'd have wanted to end the regular season, but I think that most of us know they are still good enough to come out hot, and from there, who knows what could happen. I still firmly believe this team has the talent to win it all, although I'm just interested in tonight at the moment. What I know for sure is that last year's playoff run was one of the great times in our lives as Flyers fans, and that's all I'm focusing on now that the 2011 postseason is about to begin.

I don't care about the losses down the stretch or really anything aside from the promise of another great ride with the possibility of something that would top any previous Flyers experience for those of us born after the mid-70s glory days. 

Rather than worry about a rookie goalie, I'm thinking about how the NHL has seen some kids really step up between the pipes and make history for their franchises this time of year. I'm thinking about what Bob's legacy would be if he joined those ranks. I don't mean to get ahead of myself, rather just to head into the postseason with great expectations rather than concerns. If the latter await, there's nothing anyone can do about it now. Time to just jump in. 

There's also been concern over the Flyers' recent record at home. Those of us who will be heading to the games need to help turn that all around by making the atmosphere something they have no choice but to respond to. One of the great thrills of being a fan is going to a Flyers playoff game. The place can just go absolutely insane. I think we can still take it up a notch though, and that starts with this series—tonight if you have tickets. Be the one getting loud early. Everyone else wants to, they might just need someone to start it up

We're all also really looking forward to what we hope is another great postseason ride with all our readers and commenters. One of the things that gets us going is reading your thoughts, good and bad, about these games and players. 

Who's ready?

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

It's only natural to have some reservations about Lane Johnson after he was suspended for 10 games last season for his second violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. One more positive test and the Eagles will lose their starting right tackle for two full years.

Fortunately, Johnson seems determined to avoid any future run-ins with the league. The 27-year-old changed his entire approach this offseason, cutting out negative influences or any other voices at all while preparing for the 2017 season.

"I just trained by myself back in Oklahoma," Johnson said after the Eagles' first full-team practice of OTAs on Tuesday. "Trained by myself and everything went good. I came back, my body weight is about 325, so I'm heavier than I've ever been. I feel in good shape, and I have a lot to prove, so it's a big year for me.

"I did everything by myself. There wasn't going to be any mishaps."

Two suspensions totaling 14 games later, Johnson has gained a healthy fear of being unknowingly steered toward an illegal supplement.

Johnson tested positive for PEDs before the season last year after taking a banned substance known as peptides and was eventually slapped with the full 10-game penalty after a lengthy appeal process. The fifth-year veteran always maintained peptides were not listed on the label of the offending supplement.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the players' association in November after the suspension was upheld. Its status is ongoing.

Johnson also served a four-game suspension in 2014.

When he's not in trouble with the league office, Johnson is a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. They went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season.

"I feel like whenever I'm playing, I try to be the best right tackle in the NFL," Johnson said. "My deal is to just stay on the field, play a complete season, and I think it will be a big year for me."

Johnson isn't concerned about losing a competitive edge, physically or mentally, after dropping supplements altogether.

"I've always been the athlete that I am," Johnson said. "That's what I'll continue to prove. I'm gonna go play and show people what I can do."

Signed in January 2016 to a five-year contract extension worth $56 million, Johnson has plenty to prove. He was working out in place of 35-year-old left tackle Jason Peters, who wasn't at the start of OTAs, on Tuesday and is expected to one day replace the nine-time Pro Bowl selection permanently.

Despite his checkered past, it sounds like Johnson knows exactly what's on the line, which is why he chose to go it alone this offseason. The only person you can trust is yourself.

Then again, Johnson still has his vices, which might raise some eyebrows with the news he's up to 325 pounds — eight more than his listed weight.

"My big deal is cutting out the ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's late at night — the stuff you want to indulge in," Johnson said. "If you get me on an ice cream binge, it's not good."

The Eagles can probably deal with a little extra ice cream, just as long as Johnson remains committed to keeping dodgy supplements out of his body.