Flyers have shot to gain ground on rest of trip

Flyers have shot to gain ground on rest of trip
February 15, 2013, 11:00 am
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Wayne Simmonds and the Flyers currently sit 10th in the Eastern Conference standings. (AP)

There are four games left on the Flyers' road trip, even though they returned home briefly to Skate Zone on Thursday for practice.

Three of those games loom as extraordinarily significant because they involve New Jersey, Montreal and Pittsburgh -- three clubs currently ahead of the Flyers in the Eastern Conference standings.

If anyone thought the Devils' run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring was a fluke, coach Peter DeBoer is again proving there’s more to this team than meets the eye.

“It would have been easy for them to dwell on losing [Zach] Parise,” Mike Knuble said. “You miss a 40-goal guy, it’s easy to look around your locker room and feel sorry for yourself.

“That you’re missing that guy and who’s going to replace him. They’ve done it by committee. Seems like no matter who they switch in or out, they play by the same philosophy and Marty [Brodeur] has been in net and they keep turning out good seasons.”

The Devils occupy the No. 1 seed in East simply because they made the most of their head-to-head matches against tough opponents.

They picked up a point in a shootout loss to Boston in January. This month, they have victories over Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and the Rangers, plus a road loss to the Penguins. In other words, they’ve amassed seven of a possible 10 points against clubs right in the thick of the race.

Which is precisely why the Flyers need to get wins against the Devils, Canadiens and Penguins to finish off this road swing with a significant advance in the standings.

“All the games are important -- the two points are important,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We have to continue to climb back into this from the hole we dug early.

“We seem to be going down a road that is putting us back on track, but we continue to work regardless of who comes into our building or which building we go into.

“The most important thing is to keep winning hockey games. Don’t necessarily pick ones which are important or not important.”

Fattening up on Washington or the Islanders doesn’t help enough because they’re below the Flyers in the standings.

DeBoer has had Laviolette’s number since before the playoffs, winning six of the last eight games going back to last season.

“They were great last year. Look how great they have been for how many years now?” Jakub Voracek asked.

“All those years in a row they made the playoffs. Such a solid team from the goalies to the forwards and they are so tough to play against. It’s always tough against them.

“These are tight standings. Every time you win it’s a four-point game. What do we have, 13? We had a tough start, but we’re 4-1-1 right now. We need every point possible.”

The Flyers played the Devils hard in January, dominating early, holding them without a single shot for almost 13 minutes and still trailed 2-0 after one period.

A couple bad bounces, a penalty, plus a converted penalty shot by Ilya Kovalchuk did them in.

“I really liked the first game we played against them,” Laviolette recalled. “The first period-and-a-half we played a game we needed to play to be successful and it got away from us.

“We have to make sure we’re disciplined and stay out of the box and don’t give them opportunities on the power play ... we have to clean up our game a little bit from the last time.”

The Flyers fought hard behind goalie Ilya Bryzgalov for a narrow 3-2 victory in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

“Guys dug in and paid a price, too,” Danny Briere said. “Everybody sacrificed their bodies, even if they were tired. That is what impressed me about that win.”