Monday, February 21, 2011
Posted: 5:07 p.m.
By Tim PanaccioCSNPhilly.com
Maybe at some point, people will look at the Phoenix Coyotes as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders in the Western Conference.
Maybe it will take a stable ownership group to assure their survival in Glendale. Or maybe it will take a bunch of playoff upsets.
Regardless, the Desert Dogs are once again for real as they swagger into Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, leading the Pacific Division, having won seven straight games in which theyve given up only 11 goals.
I follow them a little more than most people because I played there, said Danny Briere, the forgotten Coyote of long ago. One of my really good friends still plays there the only guy from my time there Shane Doan.
Theyre kind stuck in that time hole there where they are not completely out West. But theyre not East and people kind of forget about them a lot. Im not really surprised. The season they had last year and they continue to play better this year. Im happy to see that. Im happy for Shane. Hes gone through a lot of tough years there.
Its hard to believe, but Keith Yandle, that reigning superstar on skates, leads the team, with 51 points not to mention he leads every defensemen in the NHL in scoring, as well.
Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has been a stud in net with a 2.56 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. Hes stopped 190 of 201 shots over his last seven games during this win streak.
And, of course, ex-Flyer Scottie Upshall, universally loved by his teammates, fans and every single female in Philly, has 16 goals. Upshall needs just three more to break last seasons career-high.
Current Flyer Dan Carcillo came to the Flyers in that 2009 trade deadline deal that sent Upshall out West. This will be Upshalls first game back here.
Much like Upshall was here, Carcillo is a bit of a prankster at the rink.
They gave me my start and I will always be grateful for that, Carcillo said of the Coyotes. Wayne Gretzky was a big part of that and hes not there right now. I will always be grateful to him, the organization and Don Maloney who gave me a chance to play.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette treats all games with equality. Still, the fact remains the Flyers have a losing record against the Pacific Division 2-3-1. No matter how you view it, this is a statement game for the Flyers, who are 7-5-3 overall against the West.
Last year, that was the talk they surprised teams, Laviolette said. Theyve come out and had another really strong start. They dipped there at the beginning, but right now theyre red hot behind the New Jersey Devils, who are probably the hottest team in the league.
You got respect the fact that theyre going to come in here and play a good hockey game. We have to make sure we do our work.
Laviolette said he didnt sell this game to his players as a benchmark game.
Theres no matching up, he said. We have a big hockey game against a very good hockey team.
From the Flyers side of things, fans get their first, up-close and personal look at Kris Versteeg. And hes nervous about his Philly debut, too.
This was a very intimidating place to play, said the former Blackhawk about last Junes Stanley Cup Final. The whole orange thing and the fans, how revved up they get. It was always an exciting place to play in even though you were on the other side. Now its exciting just to be part of the Flyers and playing at home.
Versteeg said he would be lying not admit was nervous coming into Philly last June.
Coming into an intimidating building like this was, it was hard, he said.
Like another new Flyer this season, Sean ODonnell, Versteeg saw a lot of Phoenix in the West.
Theyve been this good for over a year now, Versteeg said. Its no fluke. Theyre doing it again this year. They play a team game. All four lines roll. They come at you wave by wave. It should be a big test for us.
Related: Panaccios Flyers Week in Review: Feb. 14-20 Buy Flyers gear
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