NEWARK, N.J. -- It’s been said so many times in the last 24 hours, players are probably sick of hearing about it, but these two games against the Devils could make or break the Flyers' chances to right themselves for making the playoffs.
Which is why it was very noticeable that the Flyers were either very focused or very subdued at today’s morning skate at the Prudential Center.
Usually, guys get on the ice and start a brisk skate, shoot a few pucks, and engage in lots of chatter.
This time, no chatter. Very, very quiet, no real shooting, but some give-and-go’s at half-speed. Actually, the entire skate was conducted at half-speed.
“I think everybody understands what the stakes are and where we are at right now,” Danny Briere said. “My feeling is that since yesterday guys have been focused on this game.”
“I don’t think so,” he replied.
Kimmo Timonen agreed.
“I hope it's focus, because we need a 60-minute effort from everybody,” he said. “If there's a problem in our season, that's been the problem. We haven't been able to play 60 minutes of hard hockey. The few games we've been able to do that, we usually win the game and we play good hockey. You gotta be patient. You gotta be ready to play 60 minutes. You gotta be ready to play a tight game.”
The Devils occupy the seventh seed with 29 points – four more than the Flyers. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, among others, say if the Flyers don’t win both of these games, they’re likely done for the season.
Essentially, they need to win 16 of the next 21 games. Two losses this week would make that task that much harder.
How did coach Peter Laviolette see it this morning?
“I got a little bit of both, but I would not put too much into that,” he said of the quiet skate. “I’ve seen great morning skates and terrible games and terrible skates and great games. I think our guys are focused. They didn’t seem overly tight to me, but I don’t know what that means in the end.”
Jakub Voracek, who leads the team in goals (12) and scoring (29 points), said the team is more focused.
“We won the last game, so I don’t think we are uptight,” Voracek said. “Every game is important from now on. Especially, here against New Jersey.
“I wouldn’t say we’re up tight, but more focused on the game and details. I thought it was a crisp morning skate out there. Everybody knows what is at stake tonight.”
Zac Rinaldo made a prediction.
“Yeah, it was [quiet] but it was early and guys seemed focused. Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Game time comes around, we’re pumped.
Major milestone for Timonen
Barring injury, Timonen will become the 282nd NHL player to play 1,000 games come Monday in Tampa Bay.
Thirty-eight players who spent time with the Flyers have achieved this mark.
Timonen played 573 games with Nashville from 1998-2007. Wednesday will be his 425th game as a Flyer in six seasons.
“It's been a long journey,” he said. “I'm a couple games away, but if you go back to '98, I got sent down to the minors [AHL Milwaukee Admirals] and I didn't know at that time in 2013 I was going to play my 1,000th game.
“So it's been a long journey. There's all kinds of ups and down in the middle, but that's part of the game. I'm going to be the sixth Finnish guy to do it, so it's a great honor.”
As one of the elder statesmen –- age 37 -- of the Flyers' leadership group, he’s more concerned with the current state of the team.
“I'm more worried about the team and how we're going to get wins, how we're getting into the playoffs,” Timonen said. “It doesn't matter if you score 100 points and you don't make the playoffs. Who cares? It's not the reason why we're here. We're here for winning the Stanley Cup, and I've got a lot of things to worry about what's going on with this team. How are we getting into the playoffs ... how we start winning these tight games.”
Timonen’s 19 points are second among NHL defensemen. Monday's game against Tampa Bay will afford him another celebration: His 38th birthday.
Finnish players with 1,000 games
Teppo Numminen - 1372
Teemu Selanne - 1366
Jari Kurri - 1251
Olli Jokinen - 1068
Saku Koivu - 1037