Flyers look to build momentum off recent success

Mike Yeo (left) works with Flyers captain Claude Giroux at recent practice (Zack Hill photo)

It’s only two wins, so no one’s breaking out the New Year’s champagne early, but the Flyers can at least take some heart from their recent successful road trip.

In this particular case, timing was everything because the players wanted to show they can follow what new interim head coach Mike Yeo wants.

Yeo has been billed as a detail-oriented bench boss and the Flyers certainly looked better in that department during victories at Las Vegas and Arizona.

Now they return home to play Tuesday vs. New Jersey, a team which has already compiled a 2-0 mark against them this season. A win against this young, speedy club would tend to validate any progress the Flyers have made so far with a new system.

“I don’t want to say we’re a long ways away,’’ Yeo said after Monday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center, “but I think we’ve taken some steps. It’s going to take time. That was my conversation when we were flying out (last Thursday). In all my experiences, three different times, twice in a good way (at Minnesota, later St. Louis) and once in a bad way, they all took time.’’

Yeo mentioned recently that before his team went on a 22-10 run with the Blues to make the 2017 playoffs, there was a five-game losing streak at the start before things began to click.

“I’ve seen a great response from the players as far as their attention, their buy-in, the things we’re saying,’’ Yeo said. “You don’t build houses overnight. It’s too fast to just go out there and pick your way through the game. We’re starting to build those habits, starting to see some of those being applied. The players are starting to see the rewards from those things.’’

Players are hinting Yeo’s style and system are more aggressive than what they saw under former head coach Alain Vigneault.

“We have some ideas the way we want to play,’’ Yeo said. “But a hundred percent we have to be aggressive. We have to be on our toes, we have to kill plays and that has to be priority number one.’’

The coach emphasized the team is trying to focus on controlling the puck as much as possible. He said it’s going to make the Flyers better defensively as well.

“If we’re playing well, when you pause the (video) screen, you should see four or five guys in the picture,’’ Yeo said. “If we’re checking as a five-man unit or attacking as a five-man unit then we’re going to have more options.’’

One player who seems to have benefited from the new look is James van Riemsdyk, who has registered three goals in the past two games after notching only two in all the previous matches.

When Yeo took over, the Flyers were in the midst of five games in seven nights, so there was no time for a dedicated day of practice. Monday afforded the first opportunity. The Flyers will get a few more of these this week as the schedule relaxes a bit.

“Certainly it would be nice to get more reps in on things we’re trying to emphasize,’’ JVR said. “A lot of teams play a similar structure. Just different subtleties as far as positioning, different cues when coming out of our zone. In any sport, you’re better when you’re playing with your instincts rather than thinking about it too much.’’

>Giroux closing in

With 882 career points, Claude Giroux has moved to within one point of tying Hall of Famer Bill Barber for second on the Flyers’ alltime scoring list.

“Definitely someone who loves the game, works really hard on his craft,’’ van Riemsdyk said of Giroux. “You don’t have the success he’s had without all those things. You could see glimpses of that when we came into the league around the game time (2008-09). His longevity is just super impressive.’’

Added Justin Braun: “He doesn’t take nights off. He works hard, to be able to shoot one-timers the way he does, he can do it all. You don’t score a hundred points in this league if you can’t do that. It’s impressive to watch.’’

>Injuries update

It appears the Flyers will be getting some injured players back in their lineup before too long.

Yeo updated the Flyers’ injury list:

**Wade Allison:** Has returned to play with the Phantoms after long recovery from ankle injury.

“His skating looks good,’’ Yeo said. “I’ve heard he’s already made an impact with their group. That’s great news.’’

**Sean Couturier:** Had Monday off for maintenance day. Got banged up Saturday night in Arizona but should be ready for Jersey game.

**Joel Farabee:** Skated on Monday but won’t play at least the next two games.

“He’s ahead of schedule and getting close,’’ Yeo said. “Today was a good first step.’’

**Ryan Ellis:** Still recovering from hip/groin injury. Yeo said he’s undergoing another MRI on Monday and more information should come from that.

“He’s feeling better,’’ the coach said. “My understanding is he’s progressing.’’

**Derick Brassard:** Skated before practice. Doesn’t sound like he will play for at least the next week.

“We’re still being cautious with that,’’ Yeo said. “There’s medical clearance but there’s also a conditioning (aspect). We have to make sure they (players like Brassard) can come in and do what they can do.’’

About Wayne Fish 1564 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.