Still-alive Flyers ready to do their part in season finale

John Tortorella

VOORHEES, N.J. – The mood was upbeat and why not? When an underrated team is still alive going into last game of its schedule, it can’t ask for too much more than that.

If a somewhat carefree-looking practice amounted to anything on Monday at the Flyers Training Center, it at least gave the impression the team isn’t tight.

The players know the picture could change a bit on Monday night with three fellow playoff hopefuls —  Pittsburgh, Washington and the Islanders – all in action.

Regardless, the Flyers will go into Tuesday night’s game against the Capitals with the long-shot possibility of making the postseason.

Defenseman Nick Seeler said it wasn’t too difficult to remain positive because the Flyers, according to a lot of hockey followers, weren’t even supposed to be here in the first place.

“We had a great practice today, it was very upbeat,” Seeler said. “At the beginning of the year our goal was to get in. Game 82 is an important one. That’s great.

“We’ve rebounded these last couple games (wins over the Rangers and Devils) which have been good for us. We’re playing the right way. Tomorrow is a huge game for us.”

Travis Sanheim sounded like he had a good handle on the team’s emotional temperature. Monday’s workout seemed just about perfect.

“We’ve found our game a little bit more,” he said. “We’re playing well defensively. I think we’re back to our structure which we’ve been familiar with for most parts of the season. We got to be confident going into tomorrow’s game. Another challenge and we’re looking forward to it.”

Playing Washington is actually a good thing for the Flyers because they can do their part to possibly knock the Capitals out of contention.

The Flyers really did an inspiring about-face after a 9-3 loss at Montreal last Tuesday.

“We’ve been doubted for most parts of the season,” Sanheim said. “Just using it as motivation. We’ll be ready to go.”

Morgan Frost experienced an up-and-down season but came on strong at the end and has chipped in where he can. He’s been impressed with the Flyers’ resilience.

“We’ve kind of shown it all year,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I think we feel confident going into that last game. It’s nice to know it will be meaningful.”

Frost said some unscheduled days off from practice down the stretch have contributed to this revival. And when the Flyers do practice, there’s a special zest to the workout.

“We’ve been given a lot of rest,” he said. “I think that kind of shows in our energy out there. We still believe in here. I think we’re playing our best when we’re having fun like that. When you have high energy, you’re having fun and you’re still concentrating, we’re better when we’re like that.”

Coach John Tortorella appreciates the way his team has responded in this stretch run. He’s hoping for the same approach in Tuesday’s must-win game vs. Washington.

“They’re ready to play,” he began his session with the media after practice. “We’re just going to get ready to play, just like we do every other game. We know the importance of it.”

>Keeping an eye out

It’s not going to be easy for Flyers players to keep their eyes off television, radio, the internet, etc. or anywhere they can get access to scores of other games. They admitted that on Monday.

“It’s hard not to check the standings,” Seeler said, “but I think I’m more on the side of just worrying about our group and getting the job done.”

Maybe just a peek now and then?

“You’re obviously aware of what’s going on,” Sanheim said. “It’s hard not to be at this time of the year. There’s a lot going on, a lot of teams in the mix. I think it’s pretty unusual for this many teams to be fighting for one spot. It’s been interesting. You want to keep your focus on the task at hand. I thought we did a good job of that the last couple games.”

Frost usually gets his fill of hockey by just being on a pro team. But he will make an exception this time.

“I don’t usually watch too much hockey just because we’re around the rink all day and some days it’s nice to get away from it,” he said. “But I’ll definitely be watching tonight.”

Added Tortorella: “I’m going to have to know before the game in case – there are so many different scenarios. People are going to fill me in on what’s going on. I’m not going to be on my phone; what happens, happens. I know how we’re preparing for our game. So there’s no sense getting too locked into the other stuff. We need to take care of our stuff.”

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About Wayne Fish 2452 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.