Flyers hoping long layoff doesn't lead to rust

Flyers hoping long layoff doesn't lead to rust
April 26, 2012, 7:40 pm
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Pavel Kubina had to think about it for a minute.

It was 2004, the year he won a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay. It was a grueling run for the Lightning.

Tampa Bay had swept the Montreal Canadiens, then had to wait out the Flyers, who went six punishing games (concussions galore) with Toronto before meeting the Lightning.

The Bolts would go seven games with the Flyers and then seven more with Calgary before claiming the Cup.

Deep playoff runs change the mindset of a team. They put players in a certain gear to keep playing but they also run them down, physically.

The Flyers just went six games with Pittsburgh in the first round, but they will have been off a full week before they meet their second-round opponent this weekend (likely on Sunday).

Whichever team the Flyers face will have played seven games and are in a sense of urgency mindset the Flyers havent had since their Game 6 closeout of the Penguins.

How quickly the Flyers can ramp up their game to match the intensity of a team that just came through a grueling, seven-game series could significantly affect how the next series plays out for Peter Laviolettes club.

Thats why weve been skating every day and working hard to get ready for that first game in second round, Kubina said. You get emotionally ready for the game. You get so excited, but it is definitely tough when you dont play for a week.

Its possible to match them. In Tampa, I played three Game 7s. I dont remember going against a team that had not played in a week. I remember we played Philly to seven games Eastern Conference finals after we had swept Montreal, and then we had the final against Calgary that went seven games.

The Bolts were revved high when they met the Flames. Whoever meets the Flyers will be jacked, as well.

Fact is, there really is nothing the Flyers can or could do this week to replicate what the Rangers, Senators, Panthers and Devils have been through.

All that Laviolette can do is work his players hard in practice to keep them sharp on their skates.

The good that came out of this layoff is that defenseman Nicklas Grossmann figures to be ready for Game 1. He will have had 10 or more days off from his concussion.

Getting healthy is good. Getting rusty, however, is not.

Work out, stay in shape and prepare, Laviolette said. Even though we can't prepare for an opponent, we still can do things on the ice to work on our game, work on our speed. The bodies get to heal a little bit.

Statistically, you can probably go back through time and flip a coin. We won a Game 7 last year? How did we do in Game 1?

The Flyers beat the Sabres in seven games last spring, then got crushed four days later in Game 1 against Boston. Not a long layoff though.

Laviolette says whether you play or have days off, its irrelevant.

Danny Briere would disagree.

We have to find a way to get that desperation back quickly, no doubt about it, Briere said. I agree, to a certain degree, that you want to keep playing when you are in a groove, but that series with Pittsburgh was a battle.

The series, the rivalry was tough, it was emotional and that drains a lot of your energy, all that emotion. We needed a few days off to get the juice back again.

As everyone knows, the Flyers are notoriously slow starters in the first period of games. You saw that in the first two games in Pittsburgh.

With all this time off, the Flyers figure to come out slow, regardless of preparation. Slow starts have plagued them all season.

That really falls on some of the older guys in this locker room not to allow that, Braydon Coburn said.

And how we prepare is a reflection of how we practice. We have to get to that level. When you come to practice you have to be ready and you have to be sharp. Thats a focus and a thing where we have leaders in this room to make sure we are ready, in Game 1.

Andres Lilja, another veteran player with 11 years in the league, has been through these kind of scenarios before with Detroit. Long layoffs, then meetings with an opponent fresh off a seven-game series.

You dont have the game tempo in you, Lilja admitted. It takes a couple of shifts and then youre into it. You have no choice. If you dont get into it...

You lose.

Which is why the Flyers have to be ready from the puck drop this weekend.

Our whole season, I think we were working hard, Claude Giroux said. Our goal has always been to outwork the other team. Thats always given us a chance to win. Weve done a pretty good job of that all year. I dont think our plan is going to change here.

Giroux says the players are antsy and want to get right back into playoff game-mode.

We have a lot of guys, its their first time in the playoffs, he said. Theyre excited. The good thing about the playoffs is that rush for a couple months.

Every day youre just thinking hockey. Its pretty fun, its the best time of the year. Im not too worried about our team.

Nor is Laviolette.

We'll be ready to play, he said. There's nothing we can do right now ... They're training - off ice, on ice. We're getting rest. We're getting healed.

We're doing what we can do right now and we're trying to do it the best that we can. When the puck drops, our guys will be excited to play.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net

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