TORONTO – The longest road trip of this lockout-shortened season officially starts for the Flyers this evening at Air Canada Centre, as Peter Laviolette's club tangles with the much-improved Maple Leafs.
Ilya Bryzgalov will be in goal tonight, but it remains unknown whether call-up Brian Boucher will get the start Tuesday in Winnipeg.
“If we want to stay in the thick of things, we have to start playing well on the road,” Danny Briere said.
The Flyers are a poor 1-5 on the road after winning a franchise-best 25 games last season away from home.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Briere said. “The way we’ve been playing lately, I’m hoping it has nothing to do with being home or away. We’re gonna keep playing the same way and find ways to win.”
Laviolette’s team needs this to build confidence tonight going into Winnipeg on Tuesday. The Peg is not an easy place to collect points.
“We’re trying to solve it,” Laviolette said of the Flyers' road woes. “We’ve had a lot of guys coming back in or were injured or just different things popping up.
“Some games we could have and should win and didn’t. ... The homestand was real important for us and now we need to get on track on the road.”
The Flyers are seeded 11th in the East with 11 points – one point fewer than the eighth-seeded New York Rangers.
“We just have to take it one game at a time and keep climbing the ladder here and go into Toronto and get two points,” said Matt Read, who has goals in his last two games.
“Toronto’s a good team and it doesn’t matter about their history the last couple of years, they’re ahead of us in points so we have to go in and find a way to win.
“It was important to get some momentum [at home], because let’s face it, Toronto is playing very well right now and Winnipeg is a very hard place to win.”
The Flyers will stay over Tuesday night in Winnipeg then return Wednesday morning to Philadelphia. Though they will skate in Voorhees, N.J., on Thursday, they’ll leave right after practice for New Jersey and another back-to-back affair. They’ll be in Montreal on Saturday, have off on Sunday, then play the Islanders on a rare 1 p.m. afternoon game on the Island next Monday before heading to Pittsburgh for their final game of the road trip on Feb. 20.
“It’s going to be a tough road trip and obviously it was good to get a win in the last home game,” Jakub Voracek said.
It figures to be a lot harder on Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn this evening than on Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk in trying to keep the nerves in check.
JVR has been here a while and seems very comfortable as a Maple Leaf. Schenn, who was traded for him, is making his first appearance back in a hostile environment.
“Just playing here today is going to be pretty cool,” Schenn said. “You don’t want to look to do too much, it’s just one game.”
Luke’s brother, Brayden, says the trade has done wonders for Luke.
“He’s more relaxed, you can tell he’s not thinking, he is just playing,” Brayden Schenn said. “A new change of scenery can help a lot and so far, he has helped our team quite a bit.”
Does Brayden talk to his brother to settle him down a little bit for this one?
“Obviously, with Toronto and this big market media this was made out to be a big deal,” he replied. “Once it gets to be 5 p.m. he’ll be settled down and focused on the game and not everything around it.”
Nick Grossmann was sitting next to Luke Schenn today.
“I have not been in this situation myself, but I bet there will be a lot of emotions for him,” Grossmann said.
“Luke played here a while, had a lot of friends, everything around him. All the excitement and his family watching the game, I bet it makes him all the more want to beat Toronto.”
Incidentally, Luke Schenn and Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf are not best buddies. Phaneuf likes to lead the rush, which would afford Schenn a chance to match up.
Schenn might pop him or even drop the gloves -- it’s something to watch for.
Hartnell on trip
Scott Hartnell (left foot) is on the trip and in a walking boot. He sees his doctor on Friday for an update on when he can begin skating.
Hartnell rode the bike today.
Andrej Meszaros (left shoulder) did not skate over the weekend but could skate this weekend.
“He is gaining strength in the area of concern, but I would say he is still a couple of weeks away from playing,” general manager Paul Holmgren said.
Goalie Michael Leighton may have a small fracture in his ring finger.
“I don’t know if it is broken, but there’s something with that ring finger on his stick hand,” Holmgren said.
“He got hit with a shot from behind the net last Friday and can’t grip his stick right now.”
Boucher said he would like to play Tuesday in Winnipeg.