Temple and Houston kick off the first game in American Athletic Conference history at Noon.
As you can see above, the Lincoln Financial Field end zones have been painted cherry and white for the occasion. "Temple" on the one side, and "Owls" on the other.
In jersey-related news, Temple is going to be wearing a different uniform combination each week this year. A Temple spokesperson said earlier this week the team would be donning a throwback look as they honor head coach Wayne Hardin. They've gone cherry on cherry on cherry for the home opener, with "Temple" spelled out on the helmet, rather than the "][".
Also included are shots of head coach Matt Rhule running around the field before the game. One of them is him yelling at me to take a good one.
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VOORHEES, N.J. — As bad as things have been for the Flyers – just three wins in their last 14 games – there was no massive shakeup during their mandatory, five-day “bye” week.
General manager Ron Hextall didn’t make a trade, nor did he make any roster moves involving a call-up from the Phantoms.
Coach Dave Hakstol took one day off, then got back to watching video and live games, almost in a scout mode.
When the players hit the ice Friday afternoon at Skate Zone, Hakstol’s lineup was pretty much the same.
The only change saw Matt Read re-enter the lineup on the top line with Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl after missing two games with a skate cut.
The lines and defensive pairs remained the same. Goalie Michael Neuvirth will start Saturday against New Jersey at Wells Fargo Center.
“For me, the biggest thing is our overall performance,” Hakstol said. “Coming out of a break, that may be a tough thing to do -- to put it all together. But I think the energy will be there both mentally and physically. That’s important. The overall performance.
“The results are important on a different level when you start looking at the playoff picture and the race. At the end of the day, two points are going to be important, as well.”
The Flyers begin anew with back-to-back games against New Jersey here on Saturday and then the Islanders on Sunday in Brooklyn.
They will play four Eastern Conference opponents between Saturday and next Thursday before they begin the three-day All-Stark break.
Three of these games are against Metro Division opponents while the fourth is against Toronto. The Maple Leafs happen to hold the second wild card that the Flyers previously had going into the bye week.
“Guys realize the situation we are in,” Brayden Schenn said. “We know the circumstances. The break came at a good time, mentally ... Guys know what we’re coming into there with the back-to-backs.
“You were kinda scoreboard watching. We know where we’re at. We’re in a dogfight battle with teams for those wild card spots. There’s a lot of hockey left. It’s no secret. Everyone pays attention where we’re at.”
Hakstol said after his one-day off, he went right back to work in evaluating where this team is. That the team remains intact without any kind of moves seems to send a message to the players.
That message is: it’s on you at this point. Don’t count on getting help from the outside. It has to come from within the current roster.
“Anything we’ve talked about is us as a group doing things we do well,” Hakstol said. “We’ve had a rough couple weeks where we haven’t been able to do the things we need to and want to consistently.
“I’m very confident in this group and this team. For us, what the players said is true. It was a real good time to have a mental and physical break. Now it’s time to get back to work.”
What has to improve right from the get-go is the Flyers' 5-on-5 play. Forget for a moment they have scored 75 goals and are 13th in the NHL averaging 2.76 goals a game.
The critical factor is 5-on-5 goals against. The Flyers have allowed 98 goals in that situation – only Colorado [100 GA] has allowed more. Their 3.13 goals against is 28th worst in the league.
Unless those number improve significantly, they won’t be in the playoffs.
“We have to stay within our system,” said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. “We give up too many odd-man rushes. Especially in those final games before the break. That’s a big thing.
“When we’re giving up that many, it’s not going to be in our favor. It’s not fair to judge our goalies in those games because we didn’t give them too much help out there.”
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who plays on a checking line, said the 5-on-5 goals against is a telling stat.
“You have it right there,” he said. “You don’t have to say much more than that. You cannot be a consistently, good team in the league if you are that low in goals against. It’s something we have to all work together at, as players.”
Hakstol said the Flyers enjoyed success 5-on-5 when they were winning because their team play was “consistent” game-to-game.
That hasn’t been the case during this 3-8-3 stretch.
“Our 5-on-5 game hasn’t necessarily regressed, but the consistency of it has,” Hakstol said. “That’s when you see the holes defensively. That’s when you see some of the problems you run into.
“We’ve got to get back to it. Back to a full 60-minutes of good 5-on-5 play. That’s up to each and every one of us, taking that responsibility and making the push to do that.”