The Flyers play three road games this week -- Tuesday in Ottawa, Wednesday in Pittsburgh and Friday in Winnipeg. (USA Today Images)
Tuesday kicks off the Flyers’ longest road trip so far this young season, during which they’ll make stops in Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Winnipeg.
And they can’t wait to get away.
“It’s huge,” Claude Giroux said. “I really think when you go on the road with the team for a week, you get closer with the guys -- go to dinner, lunch, and just spend time with the guys. When you do that, it’ll make you care a little bit more for each other. Off the ice, we’re really close with everybody.
“To us, a week together, I think will be a lot of fun. And to get a couple a wins would be fun, too.”
While the Flyers won on Saturday, ending the longest stretch in franchise history during which they couldn't score on home ice, they're far from out of the woods just yet. They're still dead last in the NHL in goals per game (1.62), are second-to-last in the league on the power play (9.4 percent) and, at 5-10-1, remain in last place in the Metropolitan Division.
But to get away from home for a while might help further their quest to get this season turned around before it's too late.
“The team gets together a lot more when they’re on the road,” coach Craig Berube said. “Just sometimes getting on the road, you get together and play good road games. Sometimes at home there’s a lot of pressure -- there’s not as much on the road. It’s always good to get on a road trip.”
This season, the Flyers have just two wins on the road, in Long Island and New Jersey. But they haven't played more than two games back-to-back away from the Wells Fargo Center yet. That will change this week.
For the newest Flyer, Steve Downie, the road trip represents the best chance he's had yet to get to know his teammates. Downie, a game-time decision for Ottawa, has played in just one game with the Flyers so far, and admits he hardly knows his new teammates yet.
“I just got here, so I’ll be nice to bond with the guys,” Downie said, “to go out to a couple dinners with them and get to know the players. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Giroux finally scored a goal in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers, ending a 21-game scoreless stretch reaching back to last season.
It had to have been a relief for the Flyers’ captain to finally hit the back of the net, right?
“Before, I would say I think it doesn’t really make a difference,” Giroux said. “But now I think just a little bit of pressure off. To be able to help the team win was the main thing for me. When everybody does their job, when everybody does what they have to do, I think that’s when we win games.
“I’m aware that I have to be better offensively, and obviously I want to be responsible defensively. But if I can bring more offense to the team, I’m going to do that.”
Monday’s practice was only about 45 minutes long, as the Flyers had to catch a flight to Ottawa where they’ll kick off their three-game road trip Tuesday. But though the practice was short, it wasn’t lacking energy.
Before the team left the ice, in fact, it worked on sprints.
“It was good. It was fast,” Berube said. “The guys, they looked good out there. Sometimes during a day off, you’re not crisp and the execution’s not there. But I thought it was really good -- that’s good to see.”
Keeping in line
Berube was finally happy enough with the chemistry demonstrated by the Flyers Saturday -- so much so that, with the exception of one minor change, he kept the lines the same at Monday’s practice.
Downie practiced on a line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read in place of Michael Raffl, who did not skate. The rest of the lines remained unchanged for the first time in the Flyers’ last five games.
Berube said Saturday's victory was as close to a complete-game effort as he's seen from the Flyers since taking over as coach.
Never mind that the Oilers are the worst defensive team in hockey -- what Berube saw from his team was encouraging, he said. They were able to work past issues that have plagued them far too much this season.
"We looked like a confident team from the beginning," Berube said. "Maybe the first five minutes we were unsure a little bit, but after that I thought 55 minutes we were a very confident team -- we even got a goal back, there. We went right on the attack again. That’s what I take out of that game more than anything."
Raffl did not skate because he is “under the weather,” according to general manager Paul Homgren. He did, however, make the flight to Ottawa. ... Giroux called Fred Shero’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday “A long time coming.” ... After Saturday’s four-goal effort, the Flyers are still last in the NHL in goals per game, but just barely; they average 1.62 while the Buffalo Sabres are averaging 1.63.