VOORHEES – Nothing like throwing a rather inactive goaltender into the deep end of the pool for his first start in weeks.
That’s what Flyers coach Scott Gordon plans to do when he brings back Cam Talbot just in time to face the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon in Raleigh.
Talbot, who has played a grand total of 93 minutes since his trade from Edmonton back in mid-February, sounds like he’s so anxious to play, he doesn’t care where.
Under ex-Flyer great Rod Brind’Amour, now coaching the ‘Canes, Carolina has solidified its hold on the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Getting to the playoffs would end the longest active postseason drought (nine years) in the NHL.
Meanwhile, the Flyers were awaiting the result of Thursday night’s Montreal-Columbus game to see if their very slim playoff hopes might be alive.
A Canadiens win would make the rest of the Flyers’ five games irrelevant.
The Hurricanes have put together a rather wild atmosphere at PNC Arena with a program called the “Storm Surge.’’
Things began to change for the ‘Canes when they were purchased by Dallas-area billionaire Tom Dundon early last year. That ended speculation that the franchise might relocate due to spare attendance, etc.
Now the Hurricanes are not only winning but celebrating in a unique way.
According to an article in Sports Illustrated, following each home victory this season, the team has eschewed the traditional center-ice salute to the crowd in favor of the aforementioned Storm Surge, a coordinated celebration that’s half Icelandic “Skol” chant, half NFL end zone party.
This became an even bigger deal when Hockey Night in Canada stalwart Don Cherry, who spent a minute of his weekly Coach’s Corner intermission rant on the Hurricanes, used a line that has endured: “They’re a bunch of jerks as far as I’m concerned.”
That has since become a rallying cry and now it’s even being printed on T-shirts. Some suspect ex-Flyer Justin Williams might have a hand in this.
Anyway, back to Talbot, who said he’s ready for the challenge of quieting all this hoopla down a bit.
“It’s good for the game down there,’’ Talbot said after Thursday’s optional practice at the Skate Zone. “Obviously they’re having a lot of fun with it.
“Good for them but we’re going to try to not let them have a celebration on Saturday.’’
Talbot admitted it hasn’t been easy sitting this long. He had to wait a week for his work visa to clear U.S. customs, then both Brian Elliott and Carter Hart returned from injuries.
“They (coming back from long layoffs) are never easy,’’ he said. “You can never fully replicate game situations in practice, no matter how hard you try.
“It’s just trying to get a feel for the game right off the bat, try to control the game as much as I can early on.’’
James van Riemsdyk’s younger brother, Trevor, plays for the Hurricanes, so it’s going to be a fun reunion on Saturday. JVR gets regular updates on what’s going on down there.
“I think it was kind of one of those things where early on they were unsure about it (Storm Surge),’’ JVR said. “The fan experience, the difference between last year and this year is night and day.
“The rink’s been pretty packed and the fans have really been into it. That’s ultimately why teams in Europe and now you see them doing it, you get that kind of fan engagement, a relationship with some of the players and I think they really enjoy it.’’
He added that some of the stuff has been pretty clever and he doesn’t really have a problem with it.
The ‘Canes use a laser projector from the rafters to display “. . A bunch of jerks’’ on the ice surface.
Maybe not as crazy as Gritty but getting there.
“I don’t think they’re trying to be showboat-y or anything,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “It’s more about doing something fun for the fans.
Getting back to Talbot, he confirms that if he gets two or three starts in these last five games and does well, it could serve as a possible audition to re-signing with the Flyers (he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1).
“I didn’t get to play as much as I wanted to here but it’s hard when the other guys are playing that well,’’ he said. “Since I’ve been here, the team’s been great, the organization is first-class. If the situation arises where they want me back, I’d love to be back.’’
Gordon hasn’t decided yet on a goalie for Sunday’s home game against the Rangers. . .On Sam Morin’s first game back vs. Toronto on Wednesday night, Gordon said: “I was pleased, there were good reads on some of the plays he made. I liked his positioning. It was good.’’