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Deflections Do Flyers In Against Rangers

23 Dec

NEW YORK — Before Friday night’s game against the Rangers, Peter Laviolette was reminded that the Flyers hadn’t scored in their last two trips to Madison Square Garden.

“Yeah, I’m guaranteeing we score a goal tonight,” said the coach. It took a while, but he was right. However, that one goal wasn’t enough. In fact, two didn’t do the trick in a 4-2 loss.

It was a better effort than the last time the Flyers were visiting New York, a 2-0 loss on Nov. 26, but this time it was deflections that did them in. The Flyers had the lead in shots, but weren’t able to solve Henrik Lundqvist until the third period.

“Henrik was playing very good,” said Jaromir Jagr. “The chances we had, they had all five guys around the net. To play them, you need to be a little bit lucky on the deflection. There is so many bodies, you’re not gonna have open looks, but you can score five ugly ones next game because there are so many bodies. It’s a matter of luck, I would say.”

Then consider the Rangers unlucky — at least to start the game. It took them more than half a period to get their first shot on net, but once they fired on net, they looked dangerous. Once the Flyers felt the danger, they were done.

“I guess they want it more than we are,” said Ilya Bryzgalov. “That’s why they win.”

Derek Stepan deflected a shot from Stu Bickel past Bryzgalov at 10:18 of the second period. The Flyers’ goalie had no shot at stopping it, a grim fate after being in position to save the first 12 shots of the game. He didn’t get any luckier. Former Flyer Ruslan Fedotenko scored on a deflection five minutes and 11 seconds later, but initially the officials didn’t see it.

He tipped another shot from Bickel up and off the back bar, but play continued. At the next stoppage, the play was reviewed and the goal was correctly awarded.

While the Rangers seemed to get all the bounces, the Flyers couldn’t cash in on opportunities. They had one-time opportunities for guys who were off balance and wraparounds that came up short.

“I don’t think that we didn’t try tonight, or that we didn’t try to come in here and execute,” said Laviolette. “I don’t think it was a lack of effort — it was a couple of tough breaks.”

Late in the third period, persistence paid off. With Artem Anisimov in the box for holding, the Flyers went to work on their fourth power play. After working the puck around, Andrej Meszaros finally found the back of the net. He broke a goalless drought of 171:07 for the Flyers at Madison Square Garden.

The goal was too little, too late, though. The Rangers got it back with 5:56 remaining when Ranger captain Ryan Callahan got a rebound on the doorstep and roofed it over Bryzgalov for the 4-1 lead.

With 2:10 remaining, James van Riemsdyk broke a nine-game goalless drought with a controversial goal. He deflected the puck with a high stick, but was then the next player to touch it and he put it behind Lundqvist. The late push wasn’t enough, though.

Not only will the Flyers have three days to “let it burn” as Laviolette said on the most recent installment of 24/7, they’ll also have a sour taste in their mouths heading into the Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

The loss means that not only have the Flyers lost in both meetings between the two teams this season, but they relinquished first place in the Atlantic Division to the Rangers as well.

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Flyers Notebook: Bryzgalov Not Impressed With 24/7

23 Dec

NEW YORK — Undoubtedly, Ilya Bryzgalov has been the No. 1 star of HBO’s 24/7 thus far. But he doesn’t think so.

“Is it funny?” he asked. “To me is not funny.”

He’s right. It’s not funny. It’s hilarious. And he’s not shy about it either. Even after the morning skate he was talking about his husky Mila, a rare occurrence considering he’s starting Friday night’s game against the Rangers.

“She’s famous, now,” he said. “She’s like a blonde babe.”

Bryzgalov has watched both episodes of 24/7 but some Flyers aren’t caught up. For some that’s because of scheduling, others it’s by design. Defenseman Matt Carle says he won’t watch until the series is over and the Winter Classic has been played because he doesn’t want to see the Rangers.

James van Riemsdyk has watched a little bit, but also wants to wait.

“I’ll probably wait to the summer when you can get them all together and you can just bang through them all,” he said. “I’ve heard Bryz is the star of the show. I’ve heard he’s got a career in philosophy when he’s done [playing].”

Still No Word From NHL On Lavy vs. Ott

Peter Laviolette said that he has not heard from the league regarding any discipline stemming from his altercation with Dallas forward Steve Ott after the first period of Wednesday’s game. But, as he did postgame in Dallas, also had no interest in talking about it.

“We should probably keep it to the game,” he said. “It’s a pretty big game. I think it’s a big game.”

Video of the altercation is below:

http://nhl.cdn.neulion.net/u/videocenter/embed.swf

Injury Update

Danny Briere is day-to-day with a bruised hand, according to general manager Paul Holmgren. If he can’t go, Matt Read will take over his line.

Brayden Schenn “skated and did his off-ice conditioning again today,” Holmgren said, “and has made good strides.” He remains day-to-day with a concussion sustained on Dec. 3.

Sean Couturier also skated and did off-ice conditioning. He is day-to-day as well after being hit in the back of the head by a Kimmo Timonen slapshot last Saturday.

Line Change

Briere wasn’t at the morning skate at Madison Square Garden. Here are what the lines were without him in the skate:

Hartnell — Giroux — Jagr
van Riemsdyk — Read — Simmonds
Sestito — Talbot — Voracek
Shelley — Zolnierczyk — Rinaldo

Timonen — Coburn
Carle — Bourdon
Meszaros — Lilja

Bryzgalov will get the start against the Rangers.

Read’s Versatility Helping Injured Flyers

23 Dec

NEW YORK — Danny Briere might not play Friday night in the Winter Classic preview. If he doesn’t, Matt Read will take over his line. Read has played virtually every position for the Flyers this season at forward. From left wing to center to right wing to the point on the power play, the 25-year-old rookie has been a blessing for an injured team in that wherever a guy goes down, he can fill in.

“Wherever coach wants to put me in the lineup, I feel comfortable in any position,” said Read. “If it’s wing, center, on the point on the power play, it’s something that in college I played all positions and I’m comfortable at it and I’m just trying to make the best of my opportunity when I’m put in those positions.”

Despite not having a clearly defined role, Read has flourished. He is fourth among rookies in points and second in goals, behind Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

“It’s like a utility player in baseball when guys are injured or guys need a day’s rest and a guy can play all sorts of positions — infield, outfield,” said Scott Hartnell. “He can play left right and center. He’s good on the power play and the penalty kill.

“You don’t know how a kid’s gonna pan out when you sign him like that out of college. All things are pointing to a good start for him and a good NHL career.”

Read may have only one point in the last five games, but the team has been marred with injury and he’s had to fill in wherever the Flyers have a hole. Lately that’s been at center when Claude Giroux was absent and now possibly Briere. Read has spent time on the second, third and fourth lines this season.

If Briere’s hand is too bruised to go on Friday night, Read’s wingers will be James van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds.

“When it comes time to score a goal or something like that, you never know what position you’re gonna be, if you’re gonna be a winger, centerman or D man,” said Read. “It’s good to know every position. It helps you see the ice better, I guess and it gives me better opportunity to be on the ice.”

What Christmas Means To James van Riemsdyk

23 Dec

The box was tempting. Sitting under his family’s Christmas tree, a young James van Riemsdyk, maybe five or six years old, was overcome by curiosity. Early on Christmas morning, he tiptoed down the stairs and carefully peeled away a corner of the wrapping paper to see what was inside.

The young van Riemsdyk saw just enough to know that inside was a tabletop version of bubble hockey. Careful not to get caught, he tiptoed away, quietly, and ran back upstairs.

“I came back and acted surprised when I opened it that morning,” said van Riemsdyk. In all his 22 years, that is his favorite Christmas present.

“I think it was actually called Bobby Hull Hockey,” said his father Frans. “It created a lot of shouting and hooting and hollering over the years, with everyone squaring off on that table. It sure got a lot of use, that’s for sure.”

The gift was a precursor for what Christmases would be like in the van Riemsdyk family for some time to come. Ever since James and his brothers, Trevor and Brendan, were younger, Christmas has revolved around hockey.

There have been tournaments out of town. There have been tournaments out of the country. There has even been the family’s own version of the Winter Classic.

“Usually the day after Christmas we’d be heading off to those [tournaments], which is something we’d always look forward to,” said the Flyer. “Obviously hockey has been a big part of our lives growing up, so we’ve definitely sacrificed some time at the holidays.”

So have his parents. At this point there have been many more Christmases away from Middletown, N.J. than there have been at the van Riemsdyks’ home, but they won’t complain.

“There have been a lot of Christmases over the years where we haven’t been able to be at home because we were just in places or tournaments where it didn’t make sense to head home,” said James’ father, Frans van Riemsdyk. “We’ve never considered it a hardship. It was always an opportunity to go somewhere else and take a walk around.

“A lot of the places were sort of fun and you get to see how other people are living and stuff. It was a fun exercise. A lot of people say ‘Oh you made all these sacrifices and hardships,’ but for all of us it was great to take the kids in the car and go on a little road trip.”

James is now in his third NHL season. His younger brother Trevor is a freshman at University of New Hampshire, James’ alma mater. Brendan, the youngest, will soon turn 16 as a sophomore in high school. The hockey careers of the three boys have taken the family on the road when they’d prefer to be at home with extended family.

“When I got a little bit older, when I went away to Ann Arbor, I wasn’t home for Christmas for the next four years, I think,” James recalled. “We played in this tournament, the U17 Challenge, and that’s where Canada has a few teams there, the U.S. has a team, a few other countries and then I played in three World Juniors after that, so that’s around Christmas time and you’re with the team for the whole process [of the holidays].”

James spent a lot of time on the ice and not with his family, but they didn’t seem to mind following him around, even to western Canada.

“It was Saskatchewan in late December, early January, and I think some of the current Flyers can tell you, it gets a little frosty that time of year,” said Frans. “We played in Regina and Saskatoon and a bunch of other smaller cities and it’s just remarkable how enthusiastic these smaller communities were about visiting teams that were coming in.

“It wasn’t just the U.S. team. It was the Fins and the Germans and the Swedes and the Czechs and so it was a lot of exciting times.”

Things have calmed down in that sense over the past few years. Now that the oldest van Riemsdyk son is an established NHL veteran and the middle son is in college with a third playing locally, the newest tradition has been not traveling.

“The last two years and this year we have this tradition where Christmas Day we get the whole family out and a couple buddies out to Navesink Country Club,” said James. “There’s an outdoor rink there so we play on Christmas Day with a couple friends and my old high school coach.

“I remember the first time thinking it was really early and I’m thinking ‘ahh I don’t wanna be playing hockey. It was nonstop for the last four months, I need a little break here,’ but I ended up going out and it was a great time and now I look forward to doing it every year.”

Even his father takes part and although there isn’t much competition, Frans is just pleased to watch his three sons skate, just like they had for hours when they were younger on a lake that used to freeze over when the boys were younger and winters in Middletown were fiercer.

“Just when you thought, ‘My goodness, will they ever get tired of this?’ they never seemed to,” he recalled. “In those early years in particular, if you didn’t come out there and drag them off the ice, they’d probably be on the bottom of the river with the ice having melted.”

It’s a time that Frans cherishes even more now that he and his wife Allison are quickly becoming empty nesters. Only Brendan is left at home with James in Philadelphia and Trevor in Durham, N.H., both moving up the ranks in their hockey careers.

“This year I think we’ll be fortunate in having everybody home, which will be a nice treat,” said Frans. “We can’t take that for granted anymore with everyone’s schedules the way they are.”

With one son in the NHL and one son in the collegiate ranks, the van Riemsdyks now do twice the travel. Frans usually makes it to most of the divisional games and some other local road affairs for James. He was at recent games in Montreal and Washington.

This holiday season, the van Riemsdyks will have an outdoor series of their own. Not only will they be in Philadelphia for their second Winter Classic, on Jan. 7 they’ll return to the familiar confines of Fenway Park, where they experienced their first Winter Classic, for Frozen Fenway. Trevor’s University of New Hampshire Wildcats will play the Maine Black Bears.

“My parents get to see two outdoor games this year,” said James, “which they’ll be fired up for.”

He’s now a little too old and too big to be as unassuming running up the stairs early Christmas morning. But about 10 years after the miniature version, James and his brothers got the real deal, a full-size version of bubble hockey.

These days, he and his brothers have outgrown that too. Now they play on ice and, somehow, are even more competitive than they were on that small bubble hockey table. When James first peeled the wrapping paper back, he thought he was only getting a gift, but it turns out that miniature hockey game has blossomed into much, much more.

Winter Classic Rink Set To Be Filled Friday

23 Dec

CITIZENS BANK PARK — The decking is down. The boards are up. There is a small area boxed off around the pitcher’s mound at Citizens Bank Park. The covered up circle is one of few remaining signs that it is a ballpark and not a hockey rink. But don’t tell that to Dan Craig, the NHL’s director of facilities operations. His game has only just begun.

“I’m in the first 10 minutes yet,” said Craig. “I haven’t even figured out what their power play is yet. I’m waiting to figure out the strategy. Do I dump and chase? Do I do a 1-3-1? What am I doing?”

While the strategy metaphors might not fit exactly, it seems like everything else about the preparations for the Winter Classic fit perfectly. Craig last addressed the media on Monday when only a little bit of decking was down. Slowly but surely, the home of the Phillies looks like the home of the Flyers — well, except for that whole ‘having a roof’ thing.

“We have the same tonnage that the Wells Fargo [Center] rink has, but we have the aluminum deck with the piping within the deck,” said Craig. “Aluminum is the best thermo-transfer that you can find. Once we get the temperature, it holds that temperature and it’s almost like a quick freeze.”

On Friday, the rink will be filled with 20,000 gallons of water, and frozen down to the two-inch surface that will be skated on for four games.

“Plain ol’ city water,” said Craig, “just like everyone else in Philadelphia drinks.”

Filling the rink won’t really be the challenge. The ice needs to be 22 degrees on the surface. Keeping it cold is where things get technical. There are six-inch pipes full of glycol, an anti-freeze that will keep the rink cold. This installment of the Winter Classic marks the sixth game that Craig’s crew has worked outdoors for and they really have it down to a science. But there is plenty of room for error.

In fact there’s 450 feet of room. That’s the distance between the “ice truck” parked on Hartranft Street and the rink in the middle of the Citizens Bank Park infield. The pipes have to go through an elevation change of about 30 feet from the field up Ashburn Alley, laid across scaffolding up the right-field seats, across the floor where Phillies fans usually test their pitching speed, through a window and out to the truck.

It sounds like a headache, but it’s the thing that Craig looks forward to most in his job.

“It’s the challenge of the year,” he said smiling. “You’re outdoors. Whatever Mother Nature gives you, that’s why you do. That’s why we get up everyday and we want a challenge. That’s why we do what we do. We want to bring the game back to our roots and we want to take it back outside where it started and we want everyone to enjoy it.”

After the rink is filled on Friday, weather permitting, it will set a whole week before being skated on. During that time, the rest of Citizens Bank Park will get a hockey facelift with signage, banners and logos complementing the giant rink that has found its way to the infield.

At that point, with most of the technical aspects figured out, Craig should be somewhere around the second intermission in his game.

For a photo gallery of what the ballpark looks like four days into the process, click here.