Saturday, February 6, 2016

Flyers eye quick start; Hall, Gervais go to Phantoms

The Flyers open the season Wednesday against visiting Toronto, and last year’s disappointing start is still fresh on their collective minds.

Flyers eye quick start; Hall, Gervais go to Phantoms

Flyers captain Claude Giroux. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Flyers captain Claude Giroux. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

The Flyers open the season Wednesday against visiting Toronto, and last year’s disappointing start is still fresh on their collective minds.

The Flyers began last year 0-3 and 2-6 and never recovered, missing the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 seasons.

“Starting the way we did was frustrating, and you try to climb back right away,” captain Claude Giroux said after a 2½-hour practice Monday in Voorhees.  “I think the first few games, Toronto and Montreal, are going to be pretty big games for us.”

The Flyers play eight of their first 12 games at the Wells Fargo Center.

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“We need to get a different start from last year, starting Wednesday,” defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. “The team game is going to be the issue _ (and showing) consistency. Last year we didn’t win two games in a row too many times. That’s going to be the key for us moving forward. We’ve got to be able to win games in a row.”

The Flyers didn’t win more than two straight games last season until they took the final four games.

Hall, Gervais demoted. The Flyers loaned forward Adam Hall and defenseman Bruno Gervais to the AHL Phantoms. Hall could return when the Flyers place Chris Pronger on the long-term injured list and open cap space.

According to GM Paul Holmgren, the Flyers are about $25,000 under the $64.3 million cap.

If Pronger is put on LTIR, the Flyers would also have enough room to offer defenseman Hal Gill a contract. Gill is a free agent.

Power-play focus. The Flyers, taking advantage of having a healthy team for one of the few times in camp, did lots of work on their power play Monday.

A year ago, they were strong on the power play (21.6 percent success rate, third in the NHL) and penalty kill (85.9 percent, fifth), but struggled in even-strength situations.

The top power-play unit Monday: Scott Hartnell, Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek and Timonen.

The No. 2 unit: Brayden Schenn, Vinny Lecavalier, Matt Read, Andrej Meszaros and Mark Streit.

Quotable. Giroux, who had finger surgery after a bizarre golf injury last month: “I haven’t given up golf, but hopefully this summer I won’t have much time to play” because the team is deep in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Breakaways.Two seasons ago, coach Peter Laviolette called Giroux the “best player in the world” during the playoffs. “I stand by my words,” he said after Monday’s practice….No announcement yet, but goalie Ray Emery is expected to start Wednesday against Toronto, which opens its season Tuesday in Montreal….Laviolette said he didn’t want to use last season’s poor start and the lockout as an excuse for not making the playoffs. “We made our own bed,” he said.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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