IF FORMER NFL coach Jim Mora were at Flyers practice yesterday, he probably would have been incredulous.
Playoffs? Did you say playoffs?
Actually, Claude Giroux did say playoffs and the 25-year-old captain wasn't kidding.
A few minutes after one of the most grueling practices of the season, Giroux said the Flyers can still figure a way to make it to the postseason.
"We're not far off at all. How many points are we out, six?" Giroux asked rhetorically. "To think of the start that we had and we're that close . . . we never thought about not making the playoffs. We've got to go game by game and we will make the playoffs."
After using the weekend to reboot after the brutal 1-7-0 beginning to the season, the Flyers went back to work with a practice that resembled (huff, puff) training camp. The Flyers are at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division, but they can still see the playoffs on a clear day.
So what if they are off to the worst start in franchise history and the team is scoring less than the 40-year-old Virgin. So what if the new coach's up-tempo system needs to be learned on the fly. Giroux, zero goals and three scrawny assists, will focus his mates on what can be done during the remaining 74 games.
"It's good to get your mind off it a little bit and kind of relax," Giroux said. "It was go, go, go and then [after being 1-7], panic button. I think we were playing like that, too. We'll reflect on how we were playing. We'll do more video [work]. I think [the break] is good for us."
The Flyers are in the middle of a 6-day stretch where they play no games. They lost to Pittsburgh last Thursday and host the Rangers in 2 days.
Coach Craig Berube gave the fellas most of the weekend off, so they went to the Eagles game. A good time was had by all, even if the Birds were as dismal as the Flyers have been.
"When you are out in Philadelphia, everyone is so nice," defenseman Braydon Coburn said. "Honestly, everyone knows we've had a tough start, but they had kind words and told us to get it going and that it's a long season."
Either Coburn goes to a different part of Philadelphia than the rest of us, or the people who can be so nasty on Internet message boards and radio call-in shows are reluctant to show their rage to the 6-5, 220-pounder.
"For every guy in this room, we have to want to turn the tables and go in the other direction," said Simmonds, one of only eight Flyers to score a goal so far.
The top three teams in each division qualify for the postseason and the Islanders, with eight points, sit in third in the mediocre Metro. Mathematically, at least, it is far from a lost season for the Orange and Black.
"Obviously, the fans would like it if we won. But more so, I think we have to do it for ourselves," Simmonds said. "We have to prove to ourselves that we're a good team and we have to play for one another."
Craig Berube indicated that forwards Vinny Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell likely would not be available for Thursday's game against the Rangers. There was hope that Lecavalier might be able to sneak back into the lineup after he sustained a lower-body injury against the Coyotes on Oct. 11. Hartnell, who sustained an upper-body injury the same night, had been a longshot to play against the Rangers.
"I'm not sure they'll be ready," the coach said. "That's still up in the air."
Lecavalier and Hartnell were partial participants in practice yesterday. They did not take part in the laborious skating drills held toward the end.
"They haven't really practiced with the team full out," Berube said. "I'm not sure of the benefit [of playing Thursday]. We want to make sure they are ready to go 100 percent and in shape."
Jake Voracek, who is goal-less after notching a career-high 22 in last season's shortened 48-game schedule, refused to blame his slow start on the back injury that nagged him in the preseason.
"I feel like a 10 [physically]," he insisted. "I'm not playing like a 10, but I'm feeling like a 10."
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen was a full participant after missing Friday's practice with a lower-body injury . . . Braydon Coburn said he could feel Matt Barkley's pain Sunday. Coburn played quarterback as a ninth-grader at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Saskatchewan, seeing his only varsity action in mop-up duty.