March 18, 2013
With only 19 games let in the lockout shortened 48-game schedule, every game becomes that much more important for the Flyers.
Monday night's road game against the Tampa Bay Lightning is no exception.
Playoff hopes are on the line, and it's clear to everyone in the locker room that this team needs to start stringing wins together.
"We've got to start winning games," Kimmo Timonen told reporters on Sunday. "If you look at the standings, the way we've been going, we win one game and maybe lose one or two after that."
"That is not going to work out," Timonen said. "We got to start putting some wins together and that means three or four games together and then we'll go from there. But the bottom line is, we need wins."
When the Flyers do take the ice in Tampa Bay, Timonen, who will be celebrating his 38th birthday, will also be achieving a milestone that only few players have done before.
Timonen will be playingin his 1,000th NHL game. However the veteran defenseman has neglected to talkabout it out of superstition.
While Timonen's 1,000th game is a momentous occasion in hockey history, what the game itself means for the entire team could be far greater in the long run.
The Flyers (13-15-1) currently sit at 11th in the Eastern Conference, with 27 points in 29 games played. They are fighting for the eighth and final playoff seed in the conference, which is being held by the Carolina Hurricanes (15-11-1), who have 31 points in 27 games as of Monday night.
Meanwhile the Lightning (12-15-1) are also in the hunt for a playoff spot. Tampa Bay is right behind the Flyers with the 12th seed, trailing them by only two points in the standings and trailing the Hurricanes by six, 28 games into their season.
The Lightning, much like the Flyers, have struggled with consistency this year. But Tampa Bay is coming of a 4-1 win off the aforementioned eighth seeded Hurricanes. Plus the Lightning have a good offense that is led by the NHL's current leading goalscorer Steven Stamkos.
"I think they have a lot of skill players," Braydon Coburn told reporters on Sunday. "Their top end guys that can put the puck in the net are the best in the league. They present a lot of difficulties defensively and we're going to have to do a good job tomorrow."
The Flyers have been in a "must-win" situation since last week, when they had a road and home series against the New Jersey Devils.
The Flyers dropped the first game in New Jersey 5-2, which certainly didn't help their place in the standings, but they came home and escaped with a 2-1 shootout win to stay in the playoff hunt. While the win at home was huge, the team knows they have to build off it and keeping pushing forward.
"This is huge," Scott Hartnell said to reporters. "These points we can’t blow away. We can’t say "oh well, we'll get it next game" or whatever. We need every point in every possible game."
"I think we did a great job against the Devils of not getting out of our comfort zone,"Hartnell added. "I thought we played a pretty solid game. We were fine with the 1-0 lead. 1-1 going the last 10 minutes of the game. I thought we were pretty comfortable with that, so we got to keep playing that style.
"It's good to win a game, but I think if you look at our schedule all year, one game in the past doesn’t mean anything," Coburn said. "We got to move forward. It's a new game for us and we got to make sure that, being the quality opponent in Tampa Bay and the offensive guys we just talked about, we have to be ready for that."
"There are lots of reasons why we need to win other than feeling good about it," coach Peter Laviolette told reporters. "We got to continue to work and climb and gain points. I think everybody realizes that."
The Flyers' next game won't be until Sunday when they travel to Pittsburgh to play the rival Penguins, allowing them five days to rest and regroup between games.
"We'll welcome the rest when it comes," Hartnell said. "But we know we got one good day of work ahead of us."
(Image from USAToday.com)
(Quotes are from Flyers.NHL.com)