Laviolette juggles lines; players take blame for firing

New head coach Peter Laviolette presided over his first Flyers practice today. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)

    Peter Laviolette, the new Flyers coach, got familiar with the players and held his first practice this morning at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. The Flyers will host Washington tonight.

    "We're starting to put little pieces together here and there and trying to create an identity that you're looking for as coach," Laviolette said. "You can't climb that mountain in one day, but you can start that. We just tried to make a couple little tweaks today."

    Three of the lines differed from John Stevens' units the previous day. The top three lines looked like this:

     Mike Richards centering Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere; Jeff Carter centering James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux; and Mika Pyorala centering Dan Carcillo and Arron Asham.

     The fourth line had Jon Kalinski centering Andreas Nodl and Ian Laperriere.

    The defensive pairings remained intact.

   Laviolette, who is not a proponent of fighting (sorry, Broad Street Bully fans), said he would gradually implement his system.

   "I think the last thing you want to do is unload everything on them and have them freeze," he said. "There's a lot of things that will remain the same tonight. We tried to change a little bit today, and we'll try to change a little bit tomorrow and try to create the identity I'm trying to create."

    He wants a team that is aggressive and always on the attack.

    Laviolette admitted that today "was awkward for everybody. The best thing to do is go out and sweat and do some work and put  a smile on your face and go out and play hockey."

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   Several Flyers, including Carter and Briere, said they deserve the blame for getting Stevens fired.

  "It's tough. I was with Johnny a long time, from the Phantoms through the Flyers," Carter said. "I had a great relationship with Johnny and I owe him a lot for the player I am today. I learned a lot from him.

     "It's tough when the team doesn't play well. A lot of the blame should be on us. Johnny is kind of the fall guy," Carter said. "We loved playing for Johnny. Johnny was great to us."

    Carter called the firing a wakup call.

  .  "Homer's trying to get the team going," he said, referring to GM Paul Holmgren.

     "I was surprised," Briere said of Stevens' dismissal. "You're never really prepared for it. We heard all the rumblings the last few days, but when it really happens and is right there in your face, it's a little different. It's a little easier to deal with when it's just rumors, but it's reality and now we have to move on...but it doesn't change anything regarding John. That's the sad part. It's too late now.... I think the last few days, all the players would agree we're the ones repsonsible for it."

  "We have to find a turn this thing around."

   Richards said he was "shocked" by the firing.

   "We spent a lot of years together and had ups and downs, but I believe in Paul Holmgren....He's doing what's best for the team," said Richards, who spoke with Stevens Friday night.

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   Ray Emery (11-7-1, 2.65 GAA, .907 save percentage) will start in goal tonight against the Caps' Jose Theodore (6-3-4, 3.15, .899). Emery has a 4.71 GAA in his last four starts.