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Injured Leg Kept Jagr From Finishing Winter Classic

2 Jan

CITIZENS BANK PARK — The Flyers were hoping that Jaromir Jagr would be able to offer more than 7:09 of work in the Winter Classic, but an injured left leg kept him from finishing the game.

Jagr said that he got speared in the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the cold made it freeze up.

“There was swelling in that muscle, maybe because it was too cold, we couldn’t heat it,” said Jagr. “When there’s swelling around the muscles, you never know what can happen, but I wanted to play.”

He played 6:01 in the first period and walked off the Citizens Bank Park field with less than five minutes to go in the first period. He returned for the second, but only lasted two shifts before he couldn’t go any longer. He remained on the bench, but why?

“First of all, I like my teammates,” said Jagr. “I wanted to be part of that. I knew it wasn’t gonna get any worse if I sit on the bench. I want to be part of the bench. I’m part of the team. I would watch it on TV anyway. This way I was close and I could help guys. You never know, maybe there would be a power play 5-on-3. Maybe coach would put me in then.”

He said that was the only way he was getting back into the game. He can’t even pinpoint exactly what happened on that second shift of the second period, but once he came off, he knew immediately that he couldn’t return.

“I don’t know. It’s tough to say,” he said when asked what aggravated the injury. “I didn’t feel right skating. But it’s not bad. I’ll be back pretty soon.”

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Flyers’ Lead Collapses As Rangers Take Winter Classic

2 Jan

CITIZENS BANK PARK — Everybody showed up. Even Mother Nature. But the Flyers left early and let the Rangers take the lead from them and eventually win the Winter Classic 3-2 at Citizens Bank Park.

When the game began, there was a lot of hesitation and understandably so with the unique surroundings. The Flyers had trouble with the Rangers so far this season, losing both of the first two games of the season. But after the first 20 minutes, the Flyers finally got the better of the Rangers thanks to disciplined play and strong forechecking. After outshooting the Rangers 12-8 in the first period, the nerves appeared to calm in the second stanza and finally the Flyers took the first lead of the year over New York.

With Brayden Schenn already playing a strong game, starting in the faceoff dot, his time finally came. He has dealt with three injuries already this season and finally his hard work paid off. He scored his first NHL goal at 12:26 of the second period.

Schenn won the faceoff back to Matt Carle. Trying to avoid the puck leaving the zone, Carle blindly threw the puck on net. It gave Henrik Lundqvist trouble and he gave up an uncharacteristically big rebound, which Schenn found for an easy tally.

“It’s a positive step, definitely,” said Schenn. “It seemed that every time I’d get a break, it wouldn’t go in. This one landed right on my stick and I was fortunate to get it in. I think I can use it as a positive step.”

It was the second time a Flyer had scored his first NHL goal in a Winter Classic. Danny Syvret accomplished the same feat at Fenway Park in the 2010 Winter Classic.

Two minutes later, the Flyers doubled their lead. Max Talbot found a streaking Claude Giroux. He had two defenders draped on him, but it didn’t matter. He deked around them, and Lundqvist, and went top shelf on the Rangers’ goalie.

At one point, it even started to snow. The stars looked aligned for the Flyers.

“Yeah, it was pretty cool,” said Giroux. “Obviously you want it to snow a little bit in the Winter Classic. It kind of reminds you of when you were a kid and it didn’t snow very much, but it did a little bit.”

“We felt great,” said Braydon Coburn. “We just wanted to keep applying pressure and get another one. We could feel like we had a little bit of momentum there and we just wanted to keep rolling.”

Instead, it backfired. The Flyers lost their lead. Less than a minute after Giroux’s goal, the first wheel came off. Mike Rupp found himself with the puck in the high slot and used Andrej Meszaros as a screen to beat Sergei Bobrovsky low glove side for his second goal of the season.

While the score looked good after two periods, the Flyers were without Jaromir Jagr. A left leg injury kept him from returning after his second shift of the second period. He returned only to take a seat at the end of the forwards’ section of the bench. Although he returned with the team for the third period, he didn’t play another second.

The meltdown continued in the third perod. Rupp scored again 2:41 into the third when he came in along the left wing and beat Bobrovsky on a puck that squeezed between the goalie and the post.

“We didn’t want to get behind and we did,” said Rupp. “I think it was another example of [why] I like our room. We don’t give up, we don’t hang our heads and we just kept working at it and chipping away.

“I think you could see at the end there, it became pretty difficult. The ice started to wear a little bit and we were just trying to flip pucks in and make it hard on them.”

The Rangers took the lead three minutes later when Giroux left his man, Brad Richards, and the Ranger forward put a rebound past an already beaten Bobrovsky to give the Rangers the lead. It was a familiar spot for the Flyers to be down to the Rangers and their comeback attempt wasn’t successful one.

Even though Ryan McDonagh gave the Flyers a chance by covering up the puck inside the crease for a penalty shot, the Flyers couldn’t convert with 19.6 seconds left. Rangers coach John Tortorella said the penalty shot call was “disgusting,” but it didn’t matter since Danny Briere couldn’t convert. He tried to go five-hole on Lundqvist and missed.

“He’s pretty good at breakaways and shootouts,” said Giroux. “He’s been doing it his whole career and at the same time, Lundqvist is pretty good too. He’s pretty big in his net. We can’t put ourselves in that situation, being down 3-2 with 20 seconds left. We’ve just gotta put it behind us now and learn from it.”

Zolnierczyk Eager For Outdoor Excitement

2 Jan

CITIZENS BANK PARK — Forgive Harry Zolnierczyk if he hasn’t stopped to smell the roses. He’s been a little busy surpassing expectations. He was part of the marketing campaign for the outdoor series in Philadelphia. His face has been plastered on SEPTA buses — promoting the Phantoms game on Jan. 6.

He hasn’t played for the Phantoms since Oct. 29. Instead he’s been quickly moving up the ranks, being a versatile piece for the Flyers. He’s been a fixture on a few lines for the NHL club this year and he’s anxious to keep going.

After all, 2011 was a good year for him. He signed his entry-level contract with the Flyers in March and by Oct. 18, in his first NHL game, he had a goal. Now he has the opportunity to play outdoors in 2012 and he’d like to spend it with his family, even if they weren’t able to make it in time for the family skate following Friday’s practice.

“My mom’s driving in right now and a couple of her good family friends, some neighbors are driving with her,” said Zolnierczyk.

Sounds like a good opportunity to take a quick breather and reflect on how far he’s come.

“I guess so. You’re finally here,” he said. “There’s still a lot more to accomplish for this team and definitely for myself, but it’s something you gotta take in today and that way you’re ready when it comes tomorrow.”

Preparation has been a big part of Zolnierczyk’s plan. It’s what’s got him from Brown University to the Philadelphia Flyers in less than a year.

“At the beginning of this year, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I set my expectations high and it started a little up and down. As we started getting close, it started looking like it was going to be realistic and I mean, it’s just another game, but I’m definitely excited.”

Skating outside, in a baseball stadium, has that effect. Like most kids from Canada, Zolnierczyk remembers spending all day outside playing with friends, and even some long nights.

“Being from Toronto, outdoor rinks, outdoor ponds, things like that — I haven’t been on those in years except maybe a couple Christmases ago just for fun, a late-night shinny,” he recalled. “That was pretty special to have a full practice, gearing up for a full game in the NHL outdoors. That’s pretty cool.”

Only 10 Flyers on the current roster have Winter Classic experience, so Zolnierczyk was eager to get some knowledge of what to expect when the puck drops on Monday at 3 p.m. Brown’s Meehan Auditorium holds only 3,100, so the jump to the NHL was big enough. On Monday, he’ll see more than double a sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd.

“Max Talbot just said ‘try to picture this place kinda full because it will kinda throw you off at the beginning,’” said Zolnierczyk. “Just the perception of people further back and that many people surrounding you in that big of an environment, it’s something that you have to be prepared for because it’s gonna happen fast [on Monday].”

Hopefully at some point in Monday’s activity, there will be a spare moment for the 24-year-old to step back and take it all in. With how fast he skates and how fast he’s moving up the ranks, he needs to force himself to stop, if only for a second, and take it all in.