Flyers Out to Ruin New York's Other Big Sunday Game

Flyers Out to Ruin New York's Other Big Sunday Game

OK so, few New York sports fans are terribly worried about what happens in today's 1PM visit from the Flyers to Madison Square Garden, where they'll take on the Rangers. The Super Bowl is finally here, pitting two pillars of the NFL's Axis of Evil against each other in Indianapolis. It's undeniably as big as it gets when one of your teams is still standing in February.

But that doesn't mean the appetizer is any less interesting in its own right, particularly for those of us watching the Super Bowl with only a passing interest (that being, New York teams losing at anything they attempt). On tap this afternoon is one of the top matchups in the NHL, the one that has received the most attention this season.

Can the Flyers shake off yesterday's disappointment and come in with the momentum gained in its latter half? To win today, they'll have to find a way to crack the man currently wearing the crown of the league's best netminder—Henrik Lundqvist.

Hank's behind only Brian Elliott in GAA with a gorgeous 1.82 mark and leads the league in save percentage at .939. He's currently riding back-to-back shutouts, broken up by his appearance in the All-Star Game. Lundqvist has been outstanding, but he's hardly done it alone. Loquacious backup Martin Biron also has a GAA south of 2.00, well below his career 2.59 mark and very indicative of the sound defense played in front of the Rangers crease regardless of who is in it.

The Rags are currently behind only Detroit for points in the league, and they've played four fewer games than the Red Wings (as well as two fewer than the Flyers, who are three points beneath them in the standings). We've seen enough of them to know they are bona fide Cup contenders this season, and along with a few others in the East, stand between the Flyers and the ultimate goal.

However, the Rangers did prove human during a January stretch that saw them lose four of eight as their offense went cold. They've played only once in February, winning a game that was scoreless after both regulation and overtime, decided in the shootout (how awful does that sound?).

Part of the issue for the Rangers is an anemic power play lately. Katie Strang of ESPN points out that the game-winning goal on a man advantage in overtime (meaning it was scored 4 on 3) against the Bruins on January 21st was their first in eight games, and they haven't scored another since.

The Rangers be rested today, having only practiced since Wednesday (including a 40-minute power play session), a stark contrast to the Flyers' schedule that included games on Thursday and Saturday.

But if anything, the visitors should be champing at the bit to get back on the ice and see if they can erase the embarrassment of yesterday's loss and build on its final 30 minutes, during which they actually beat the Devils by a 4-0 count. Hopefully they'll have a bit better luck with the refs and their own discipline, because the Rangers certainly don't need any help.

Ilya Bryzgalov was in net for the second half of yesterday's see-saw match, and he'll draw the start today. Can he continue his trend of positive play and help the Flyers build some crease confidence during the stretch run?


Travis Konecny getting rookie introduction to physicality of NHL game

Travis Konecny getting rookie introduction to physicality of NHL game

VOORHEES, N.J. – There are some things in the NHL that are expected to happen on the ice with rookie players.

They will be challenged. They will be tested. And they will be hit – clean or otherwise.

Four games into Travis Konecny’s career, teams are taking target practice on the Flyers’ smallest player. The London, Ont. forward is listed at 5-foot-10 but 5-9 or less is closer to the truth.

On Thursday night, Josh Manson’s elbow made contact with the back of Konecny’s head during the opening minutes of a 3-2 Flyers loss to Anaheim. Manson served a minor for elbowing.

Konency admitted on Friday afternoon that he placed himself in a bad situation by “ducking” to avoid Mason’s check on the boards.

“That was my fault,” Konecny said. “I tried to duck under the hit and make room for myself. He came through and put a check on me and I got underneath him.”

Konecny doesn’t feel teams are targeting him. At the same time, he doesn’t deny he is taking some hard licks out there. He has four assists, tied for the rookie lead in the NHL.

“It’s part of the game,” he said. “Part of being a young guy, too. Being in the league, I am trying to make space for myself and hit guys.

“Obviously, some guys who have been in the league 10 years, don’t like guys doing that. So I expect it. Doesn’t bother me.”

His linemate, Jakub Voracek, said all of this has to be expected.

“I don’t think he is the only one in the league who is getting this kind of treatment,” Voracek said. “He is a good player. He is small and shifty. They try to get under his skin ... That’s the way it always works.

“You are a new guy, a young guy, especially if you have a good start like he did. You’re gonna get that treatment. He’s a big fellow and he can handle it ... Sometimes you can be small, but if you can handle things, better to handle it when you are 5-11 than 6-4 and being a p---y.”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t feel Konecny is being targeted.

“I haven’t seen anything out of bounds,” he said.

With Radko Gudas serving a six-game suspension for a head shot during pre-season, the Flyers don’t have a big, punishing player that opponents fear on the ice to balance things out on the scoresheet.

Would Gudas’ presence alleviate the questionable hits on Konecny?

“No, I haven’t seen any difference there,” Hakstol replied. “A night like last night, I mentioned after the game, that’s a big, heavy team we’re playing … you certainly miss a big, heavy body like Gudy on the back end that just naturally matches that physicality.”

Gap coverage
The Flyers didn’t show any lineup changes during Friday’s practice in preparation for Saturday’s game against Carolina.

One element they worked on and saw video was gap coverage between their forwards and defense. It burned them against the Ducks and even Chicago.

“That’s a fair assessment,” Hakstol said. “I don’t think we were very good in that area [against Anaheim] and had been extremely good in that area during the first, couple games of the year. It’s an area we have to do a little better job at.”

The challenge there is that Carolina has some speed and the Canes will attempt to exploit holes in the Flyers’ gap coverage, especially, off transition.

Mike McQueary calls his ban from Penn State facilities 'wrong'

USA Today Images

Mike McQueary calls his ban from Penn State facilities 'wrong'

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — The former Penn State assistant football coach suing Penn State told jurors Friday he was angered when told he could not return to team facilities after being put on leave the week Jerry Sandusky was charged with child molestation.

Mike McQueary testified in the fifth day of trial in his lawsuit, where he's seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other claims.

School officials have testified that safety concerns prompted them to put McQueary on paid administrative leave in November 2011, and he never returned to the football program.

"They tell me, the guy who turned in a pedophile," to stay away from team facilities, he testified. "And they let him go around there for years after they knew about it not once but twice. That gets me. That does not make sense to me. It's wrong."

McQueary says he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower in 2001 and reported it to then-head coach Joe Paterno and two administrators. Another complaint was investigated in 1998 but produced no charges until authorities took a new look at the case starting in 2009.

His testimony helped convict Sandusky of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in 2012, but he has not been able to find a job.

McQueary told jurors he got a sense his status with the program was in trouble in the days after Sandusky was charged with molestation and two high-ranking school officials were charged with perjury and failing to properly report suspected child abuse.

The only university official who offered him words of encouragement during that period was Paterno, he said. He recounted an exchange they had on the practice field shortly before the school's trustees fired Paterno.

He said the aging coach told McQueary he had not done anything wrong and warned him not to trust "Old Main" — the administration building.

"He specifically said, 'Make sure you have a lawyer. You're all right. You didn't do anything wrong.' He was very, the word I want to use is, unselfish, about all of it," McQueary said.

He also recounted seeing Sandusky with the boy in the shower in 2001, slamming his locker door shut and seeing that they had separated.

McQueary did not say anything, physically intervene or call police, but he did contact Paterno the next day.

"I think one of the concerns perhaps in the very first minute is, Who's going to believe me? Who is going to believe when I tell them that Jerry Sandusky was doing this?" McQueary testified. "I didn't know if my dad would believe me. I didn't know if anyone would believe me. And to his credit, Coach Paterno did believe me."