VOORHEES, N.J. – Anytime a long break comes along in the schedule – think Olympics and so forth – there are going to be some good points and some maybe not so good.
That’s the situation facing the Flyers as they head into Monday night’s home game against the New York Islanders after eight days off.
On the plus side, both the players and the coach had a chance to take a deep breath, recharge both physically and mentally, and get ready for the final 31 games of the season.
On the negative side, the Flyers were on a 10-4-2 streak and had a lot of momentum going their way. Obviously it would have been somewhat easier to keep that good feeling going if they had been playing rather than sitting on a beach in Florida.
But as they say, everyone’s being dealt the same hand.
After Sunday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center, many of the Flyers were in agreement the break had more pluses than minuses and were optimistic they can pick up where they left off.
“Yeah, I think you try and take some of the positives that we were doing going into that break,’’ said Scott Laughton, who did spend some time in the Sunshine State over the pause. “We had a great practice today, high intensity for 35 minutes.
“We were doing some good things (before the break) but not always getting the results. But we have to continue that way and see where the chips fall. We were defending better in January because we were defending less. Getting out of our zone a little bit cleaner. Special teams were a little bit better. Still need to get better in overtimes to get that extra point. There is a belief from everyone in this room and we have to keep that going.’’
Typifying that team spirit was Kevin Hayes’ appearance at Sunday’s practice. He hustled back from his first appearance in an NHL All-Star Game (Florida) to hit the ice at 2 p.m.
He sounds anxious to resume action and keep the Flyers, currently six points out of a playoff spot, moving in the right direction.
“Sometimes when you’re hot before the break, you don’t really want the break,’’ Hayes said. “But I think it’s huge for every player in the whole league no matter how good or bad your team is doing. It gives you a chance to kind of reset. It’s kind of long enough where you miss playing hockey.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where every game from here on out is pretty important. As a player, that’s what you want.’’
Defenseman Nick Seeler has watched his team make progress in the identity department. The Flyers are among the league leaders in blocked shots and hits. That should serve them well down the stretch.
“There’s something to be said for both (good break, bad break),’’ Seeler said. “Obviously we were playing really good hockey before the break but I think you need a mental and physical break at the All-Star Game. The guys needed it. We played a lot of hockey. It’s definitely nice to get away and have a reset but we also had that momentum going into the break.’’
Travis Konecny believes the Flyers have made enough improvements in their game to sustain long-term success.
“It just got to the point in the season where the games are piling up,’’ he said. “You’re starting to get tired. Regardless of how many days off, mentally at that point you need a little reset. Now you push and you have legs and energy and mental space to push forward now.”
Coach John Tortorella had no problem with the extended break.
“Sometimes it’s healthy when you’re with one another for so long, you need to get away from one another,’’ the coach said. “I’m sure the players wanted to get away from me, I wanted to get away from the players. It’s healthy. Just to get fresh again.”
Due to injuries (Zack MacEwen, Wade Allison), the Flyers did some line shuffling for their last two games (Minnesota, Winnipeg) before the break.
At Sunday’s practice, Tortorella had some new lines in place. Allison, ready to play again, was centering a fourth line with Nicolas Deslauriers and Kieffer Bellows on wings. Morgan Frost centered a third line with Joel Farabee and Patrick Brown (normally a center) on the wings. Noah Cates worked the pivot with James van Riemsdyk and Konecny on the flanks and Laughton played the middle with Hayes and Owen Tippett on the outside.
“We (the team) have good chemistry,’’ Bellows said. “We’re so close with one another, it doesn’t matter who we play with. We all know the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s game so we can benefit each other.’’
>All in the family
Konecny will get a chance to play against his cousin, Bo Horvat, who signed an eight-year, $68-million contract with the Islanders on Sunday.
Horvat was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in a trade from just a few days ago.
“He’s been doing a great job and now he’s on a team looking to push for the playoffs,’’ Konecny said. “Good for him but we’re not cheering for him, I’ll tell you that.’’