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Flyers’ Win Streak Comes Crashing Down Against Boston

17 Dec

WELLS FARGO CENTER — It had to end sometime, but the Flyers’ seven-game win streak didn’t just flame out. It crashed and burned. And burned. Then it burned some more. In a penalty-laden affair, the Flyers were embarrassed by the Boston Bruins 6-0 and relinquished first place in the conference to the Northeast Division rival. It was their worst loss of the season.

It was never pretty for the Flyers. Boston scored on the first shot of the game, a deflection for Benoit Pouliot that really handcuffed Ilya Bryzgalov. His day didn’t get any better. He allowed four first-period goals and another in the second period. He allowed five goals on 20 shots before Sergei Bobrovsky came in to relieve him.

As much as Bryzgalov struggled, his defense didn’t help him much. They allowed the Bruins to get in position for screens and weren’t much help clearing the puck out of the crease, let alone the bodies in white jerseys. When Bryzgalov is off his game, he gives up big rebounds. On Saturday afternoon, the Bruins got to those rebounds first.

The five goals came on two deflections, one screen letting a Zdeno Chara slapshot from the point through, and another two deflections. But Bryzgalov didn’t get any help offensively either.

The Flyers shot 31 pucks at Tim Thomas and couldn’t solve him. The workload was actually less than the 37-year-old faced in his last game when he made 47 saves against Ottawa.

But wait, there’s more bad news. In the first period, Sean Couturier got hit in the back of the head by a Kimmo Timonen slapshot and didn’t return to the game.

Without him and down four goals, the Flyers struggled to get anything going. Jody Shelley tried to get them going, fighting Zdeno Chara after the first goal was scored. It was Shelley’s first fight of the season, and a valiant effort, but before many punches could be thrown, Chara’s massive reach took both players to the ice.

Scott Hartnell fought Johnny Boychuk to no avail. Zac Rinaldo was boarded by Milan Lucic in the second period and took out his frustrations on Nathan Horton. The 5-foot-11, 196-pound Rinaldo got the better of the much bigger, 6-foot-2, 229-pound Bruin.

No fight, no shot, no power play could spark the Flyers. They were 0-for-6 on the man advantage. Conversely, the Bruins were 3-for-8. There were 26 total penalties in the game, as referee Stephane Auger’s arm was constantly in the air.

Often times, a big streak will end with an ugly loss and Saturday’s certainly qualifies as such. The key for the Flyers will be to jump right back on the winning track. So far, they have survived despite a rash of injuries, but if Couturier is out for an extended period of time, that feat becomes even more difficult.

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Couturier Taken To Hospital After Puck To Head

17 Dec

WELLS FARGO CENTER — It just doesn’t end for the Flyers. Another injury came for a team that can ill afford any more. With 48.7 seconds left in the first period, Sean Couturier went down and needed the help of trainer Jim McCrossin to get up. Then he was taken to Pennsylvania Hospital.

Kimmo Timonen took a slapshot from the point and it continued to rise. Couturier turned his head and the puck struck him in the back of his helmet, on the left side. After laying on the ice for a few moments, Couturier was helped up and skated off under his own power, drawing the loudest cheer of the day from Flyers fans who saw their team go down 4-0 after one period of play.

“Well, we still don’t know [his condition],” said general manager Paul Holmgren. “He’s at the hospital being evaluated. He got hit. Fortunately, it hit him in the helmet. But we thought it was best to send him to the hospital and get him checked.

“The little testing they do, he did really well … whatever they do. I think that’s more checking for any damage to his skull and taking a look to see if there’s any internal damage.”

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Through Saturday’s game the Flyers have lost 83 man games to injury, not including Blair Betts and Ian Laperriere, both of whom are on the roster but have not suited up this season. Now, the Flyers may need to make another call-up.

“I don’t know,” said Holmgren. “We gotta count up the guys we’ve got here and see. We do have some flexibility. Matt Read can play center. Obviously, [Brayden] Schenn and [Claude] Giroux are probably not options here for the near future. So I’m not sure. We’ll have to talk about that.”

The Flyers have already had four concussions this season among Chris Pronger, Schenn, Read and Giroux. While it would be speculative to assume that’s the prognosis for Couturier as well, the way things have gone in the NHL these days produces that fear.

“You see something like that happen to anybody and your heart stops for a second and feel that feeling in the pit of your stomach, but especially such a young player like that who has really done all the right things for us this year,” said Peter Laviolette. “We hope that he is okay and it’s nothing too serious.”

Despite Rash Of Injuries Flyers Still Ready For Bruins

17 Dec

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers don’t take any pity on themselves, so they don’t expect the Boston Bruins to have a soft spot for them either. Winners of seven straight, the Flyers are without Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Erik Gustafsson and Andreas Lilja.

Very close in their rear-view mirror are the Boston Bruins, winners of three straight and only two points behind the Flyers in the Eastern Conference. They haven’t been without injuries either. Zdeno Chara has missed two games with a left knee injury, but he could be back just in time for the Flyers. Not that they needed help.

“They’ve won a lot of games,” said Peter Laviolette. “Since their start when they were off just a bit, they’ve turned it around. I think they’ve won 18 of 22 or 19 of 23. Good goaltending, good defense, four lines. They play fast, play physical. We’ve got to come out and play our game as well.

“We feel like we’ve been doing the right things to win hockey games. It should be a great game.”

After an Opening Night 2-1 victory for the Flyers over the Bruins, it became clear to Ilya Bryzgalov that just because they aren’t in the same division, doesn’t stop the two teams from breeding a rivalry.

“It’s a big challenge for us,” said the expected starting goalie, who has a seven-game win streak of his own. “Also, I think it’s going to be a big challenge for Boston. It’s a big game. The last couple of seasons, the teams played [each other] in the playoffs and I think you can count it as a rivalry, too.”

Boston is coming off a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in which Tim Thomas made a season-high 47 saves.

The Bruins are second in the league (only to the Flyers) in offense, so there will be some extra onus on the defensemen, but Laviolette said that he isn’t concerned about managing ice time. As long as guys like Kimmo Timonen don’t go too far over 25 minutes, things will be fine.

Of course, the reason why his minutes would be so high in the first place is because of the injuries, namely to Pronger. But the Flyers have won seven straight and aren’t thinking about much change.

“I don’t think anybody’s panicked,” said Laviolette. “Certainly, the news of Chris [Thursday], it’s tough but it’s not something we haven’t been dealing with for the last three weeks or however long it’s been. We talked to Claude [Friday] and he sounded good. We’re hopeful he continues to progress and we’ll go from there.

“I don’t think there is any panic. We’ve got a real good hockey team in here. We’ve been able to go out and work hard every night and win some games and put some wins together that has pushed us up to the top and we want to continue to stay there. We have to keep working at it.”