By a quirky twist of fate, the Flyers will end their season Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh against the same despised team they will face in the opening round of next week’s playoffs.
A meaningless game? A time to rest some key players?
“No, we’re going in there to win a game,” coach Peter Laviolette said after Friday’s practice in Voorhees.
That seemed to suggest that most of his regulars will play.
“It’s not a game that counts in the standings, but we have to make sure we play our best and make sure we’re good going into the playoffs,” said center Claude Giroux, whose team will open the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in Pittsburgh on Wednesday or Thursday. “We’ve got to work on some things….and make sure we get the job done.”
Getting off to better starts and fine-tuning their special teams are at the top of their to-do list.
With a victory, the Flyers would set a franchise record for road wins in a season. They are 25-12-3 on the road.
Laviolette doesn’t usually announce his goalie until the day of the game, but because Saturday’s game is meaningless, he was asked if he would reveal if Ilya Bryzgalov would be his starter.
“Why break company policy at this point?” Laviolette said.
Bryzgalov recently missed three games because of a chip fracture in his right foot. In his first game back, he was rusty in a 5-3 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday, then was sharp in Thursday’s 2-1 win over Buffalo.
Bryzgalov, who on Tuesday said he wanted to play the final three regular-season games, was evasive Friday when asked if he needed another tune-up before the playoffs.
“You ask about me again. I don’t know anything,” he said.
Does he feel playoff-ready or would he like another game under his belt?
“I have no idea,” he said.
His thoughts on the upcoming series against the Penguins?
“Everybody likes this time of year,” said Bryzgalov, owner of a 33-16-7 record this season. “Spring. Trees. Flowers blossoming. Amazing time of the year, especially when you play hockey.”
The Flyers are 4-1 against the Penguins this season. Since the Consol Energy Center opened two years ago, the Flyers are 5-0 in Pittsburgh. Sergei Bobrovsky has all five wins.
“We haven’t lost a game there yet, so it would be good to keep it like that,” said Giroux, adding that the Flyers wanted to take momentum into the playoffs.
Late in the Flyers’ 6-4 comeback win in Pittsburgh on Sunday, there were several scrums that resulted in 15 penalties for a total of 52 minutes. Laviolette and Penguins assistant Tony Granato stood atop their benches and shouted at each other, drawing ejections and, eventually, fines.
No one knows if there will be a carryover on the ice Saturday.
“We want to go in and play with emotion, but you want to do it the right way _ and not outside the lines,” Laviolette said.
The Flyers said they will not play tentatively just because the game will not affect the playoff seedings.
“I don’t think you can play the game that way,” said winger Wayne Simmonds, who has a career-high 28 goals. “If you relax, anything can happen and you can get hurt. You have to be prepared and obviously you have to be ready to play physical. It doesn’t matter that nothing’s at stake; you still have to come with it all.”
JVR update. Winger James van Riemsdyk, recovering from a broken foot, visited a doctor and will be out for at least two to three more weeks, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced. That means he will probably miss the opening round of the playoffs.
The Flyers had been hoping he would be ready for the middle of the first round.
Nick Grossmann (knee) was upgraded to day to day; Andrej Meszaros (back surgery) will miss two to four more weeks, and Danny Briere is still out indefinitely with a back injury, Holmgren said.
Breakaways. Giroux has 93 points, the most by a Flyer since Eric Lindros had 93 in 1998-99…..Opponents have scored first in 23 of the last 31 games against the Flyers…..Max Talbot, a first-year Flyer, on going against his former team in the playoffs: “I’m a guy who likes challenges. It’s weird, as soon as I signed with the Flyers, I had a feeling that we were going to get them in the playoffs, and it’s something that I’m OK with and I’m excited about.”….. Simmonds on facing the Penguins on Saturday and in the playoffs: “I’m sure you’ll see some feistiness with them for the next eight games, if it goes that long. When a team plays a team that many times, you’re bound to have stuff like that.”
Contact Sam Carchidi at email@example.com or on Twitter @BroadStBull.