NEW YORK – At 6 p.m., Christian Folin was enjoying his dinner at home, knowing he wasn’t scheduled to play in Monday night’s game vs. Winnipeg.
At precisely 6:34, the phone rang. A voice said: “You’re playing tonight.’’
At 7:05, the Flyers’ spare defenseman stepped onto the Wells Fargo Center ice to replace injured teammate Shayne Gostisbehere (bruised foot bone).
Hours later, the story had a happy ending. Folin managed to keep his meal “down’’ and the Flyers came away with a hard-earned 3-1 win over the powerhouse Jets.
The whole episode culminated with a bit of good-natured kidding after the Flyers’ fourth straight win.
Folin was still all smiles at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night, this time knowing well in advance he was going to be playing against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
He recalled how the whole thing unfolded, starting with the phone call from head trainer Jim McCrossin.
“I was at home, in the lobby of the place that I live,’’ said the 27-year-old Swede who signed with the Flyers as a free agent last summer. “I was checking my mail and I got a call and I thought, okay, I better head over.’’
When Folin isn’t scheduled to play, he usually shows up at the Wells Fargo Center around game time and heads to the training room for a workout.
“I had dinner at 6 o’clock and (during the game) it was close to coming up there at the start,’’ he recalled. “But as soon as the second period started I was fine.’’
Before the game, after a drive over from his residence in Logan Square, Philadelphia, he was getting ready to enter the WFC when some Flyers fans, who were still hanging around outside, saw him and hoped he would stop to chat.
“There were still a lot of fans outside the rink,’’ he confirmed. “I said, actually I got to go in there, I got to play now.’’
Folin said this is the first time such an emergency has come up.
“It’s brand new to me,’’ he said. “It was a good challenge and I think I tackled that challenge pretty well. It’s something you’re going to look back when you’re older and say, ‘That’s a pretty cool thing,’ when you’ve just been hanging out at home all day.
“I went grocery shopping and stuff, just like a normal day. There were some jokes during the game but I think it helped me relax, too.’’
Coach Scott Gordon appreciated the effort. Folin was actually involved in the first goal of the game, which was scored by Phil Varone.
“We told him we just wanted to mix things up for the writers, so we had him come in late,’’ Gordon kidded. “I thought he played great.
“To be in that circumstance, to come in and literally he just ate dinner at 6 o’clock and was preparing to work out. I thought he played one of his best games since I’ve been here. He made that pass to (Mikhail) Vorobyev on the first goal (setting up Folin). I thought he was really good.’’
Apparently Gostisbehere suffered the injury in the morning skate in Voorhees but tried to give it a go in the pre-game warm-up. However, that little test ended quickly.
The Flyers are hoping Gostisbehere can return either Thursday in Boston or Saturday at home against Edmonton.
>Improving the defense
Since Gordon took over, the Flyers have been putting greater emphasis on defense and the results are starting to show.
“The biggest thing that makes you better defensively is spending less time in your zone,’’ Gordon said. “You can have the best defensive zone system in the world, if you spend a lot of time there, you’re going to give up shots.
“One of the things I’ve felt we’ve gotten progressively better at is paying attention to slot coverage, netfront coverage. . .even if they’re getting shots, they’re not getting second opportunities. Or they are not getting long looks, that’s a huge part of it for me.’’
Cutting down on quality chances has allowed rookie goalie Carter Hart better looks at shots. As a result, he’s won four straight games.
“You have to try to prevent them from getting to your zone and that stems from having good play in the neutral zone,’’ Gordon said. “That’s something that we’ve been just OK at. We’ve tried to make some adjustments in our neutral zone play, create more turnovers and if they get to our zone, have more support.’’
>Back-to-back situation issues
Tuesday night, the Flyers entered the second half of a back-to-back situation for the eighth time this season.
They were 2-5 in the previous second-half games and 2-8 in the last 10 overall games involving back-to-backs, including the front ends.
Anything Gordon can do to improve the situation?
“Shorter shifts are always the biggest thing,’’ Gordon said. “It’s just managing the game. If you don’t have your hands, if you don’t have your legs, you’re tired, just be realistic and understand that you might not have your ‘A’ game, you can play the game in a way which will give your team success even if it isn’t your best game.’’
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