Flyers don’t appear nervous heading into crucial stretch

Nick Seeler

      VOORHEES, N.J. – It was near the end of Thursday’s practice when all the Flyers gathered around one net and proceeded to play a game of “two-puck” in which each shooter gets a pair of tries at the net.

      The first attempt is from about 20 feet, the second requires the shooter to try to deke his way past either goaltender Sam Ersson or Ivan Fedotov.

      And so the game continues until everyone has scored except one player, which in this case was Travis Sanheim, who took it all in good spirit.

      There was the usual cheering, laughter and shoving. This wasn’t quite the light atmosphere one would expect of a team in a true dogfight for a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

      When Sanheim’s shot was turned aside, a roar went up at the Flyers Training Center and players mobbed Owen Tippett, because he was the second-to-last to score, setting up the final showdown.

      With six games left in the season – starting Friday night in Buffalo – the Flyers looked like a loose bunch, perhaps because no one expected them to be in this situation.

      Coach John Tortorella acknowledged this is the kind of emotional togetherness for which he was hoping.

      “I don’t want them tight,” the coach said after practice had ended. “It’s a real special group as far as that’s concerned, how they get along, the camaraderie of it. That’s been so good this year.

      “It hasn’t changed. It’s my job to find the level we need to get to. I think they’re willing to make the next step and we’re going to do it together.”

      Nick Seeler noted the energy level appears higher, particularly after a three-day break in the schedule and the Flyers looking to end a five-game (0-3-2) winless streak.

      The final moments of the “two-puck” drill would suggest the Flyers are ready for this challenge.

      “That game always brings out the best in guys,” Seeler said with a smile. “It’s a lot of fun. We give some heat to the guy who loses. The guys had a ton of energy today, I thought we had a good practice. We just need to transfer it over to tomorrow’s start.”

      On a more serious note, veteran players such as Scott Laughton say they’ve worked too hard all season to let an opportunity for postseason play slip away now.

      In a roundabout way, maybe a spirited practice was just what the Flyers needed.

      “I think anytime you can’t get a win or you haven’t won in a little bit, it kind of wears on you,” Laughton said. “The mood’s probably not the same. You kind of have to get that up.”

      Which is what the Flyers did in Thursday’s last exercise.

      “We’ve talked among ourselves about how we want to go about the last six games,” Laughton said. “I know guys in here definitely care. They want to win and they want to be a part of this.

      “For the young guys it’s such a special opportunity. And guys like myself and guys who haven’t been there very often, it gives you a special hope and an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often. I’m very grateful for this chance. We have six games and we’re going to see who rises to the challenge here.”

      Owen Tippett has been here for the final quarter of the 2021-22 season, all of last season and now this season. He wants a shot at playoff action.

      “We all know what’s at stake,” he said. “We want to put ourselves in a good situation. This break gaves us a chance to mentally reset and refocus on the task at hand. We all know in this room where we’ve slipped and what we have to get back to.”

      Overall, Tortorella was satisfied with how the three days went since the Islanders game on Monday. The players had Tuesday off; eight veterans got a second day off on Wednesday and Thursday’s workout was upbeat.

      “I thought we were full of energy today,” he commented.

      >Short shots

      Center Sean Couturier has an upper-body injury which he suffered in Monday’s game vs. the Islanders and is listed as day-to-day. He is unavailable for games at Buffalo (Friday) and Columbus (Saturday) and will not travel with the team. . .Tortorella was scheduled to have a meeting with the players before practice but that was called off.

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About Wayne Fish 2446 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.