Fly­ers have a tough road ahead

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - SPORTS - By ROB PAR­ENT

VOORHEES, N.J. — Asked to ex­plain the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Fly­ers team that beat Detroit Tues­day night 5-0, and the Fly­ers who lost to Bos­ton Satur­day 6-1, coach Craig Berube stuck to what he knows, which is ex­actly what he’s preached all sea­son.

“More ur­gency, more com­po­sure; ex­e­cu­tion and skat­ing, just the usual stuff,” Berube said af­ter a get­away prac­tice Wed­nes­day at the Skate Zone. “That’s what it ba­si­cally boils down to — com­pet­i­tive­ness. How badly you want to com­pete and do­ing things right.”

Harp­ing on such sim­ple prin­ci­ples was Berube’s ve­hi­cle to a mid­sea­son res­ur­rec­tion for his team, which re­cov­ered from a 1-7 start to reach as high as sec­ond place in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Di­vi­sion. The four-game los­ing streak that cul­mi­nated in an un­sightly home hu­mi­la­tion at the ex­pe­ri­enced hands of the Bru­ins took care of that, but Berube and the Fly­ers are hop­ing that the vic­tory over Detroit gets them back on the right path again.

Just one prob­lem: That path cuts through Ana­heim Thurs­day night, then con­tin­ues on to Los An­ge­les and San Jose. Not ex­actly a happy whistlestop tour when it comes to trav­el­ing NHL teams.

Es­pe­cially those that so re­cently lost their way.

“We’re not out of it,” Berube said, re­fer­ring to his club’s slump. “It takes a lot of work to dig out of it. It’s one game, and we have a tough road trip here, play­ing three of the top teams in the league out west.

“It’s go­ing to be tough hockey, and I’ll tell you right now we bet­ter be ready.”

They’ll start with the tough­est. The Ducks have far and away the best record in the NHL at 39-10-5 (83 points). They es­pe­cially ex­cel at home, go­ing 21-2-2 there, with one of those two reg­u­la­tion losses com­ing Tues­day night to the Min­nesota Wild.

Hey, maybe that’s a pos­i­tive in­di­ca­tor. Of course, to Berube, it’s more about how his team’s play­ing than what the Ducks are do­ing.

“For me, play­ing Ana­heim tomorrow, it’s about the start of the game,” Berube said. “It’s come out skat­ing and be com­pet­i­tive. ... You can con­trol how hard you work and how com­pet­i­tive you are. There are other things you can’t con­trol. ... But for the most part, if you work and you’re com­pet­i­tive you’ll have suc­cess.”

His play­ers say they buy into that the­ory, even if they don’t al­ways show it. Berube said of re­cent reg­u­la­tion losses to Carolina, Colum­bus and the Bru­ins, “We didn’t play very good at all. Like, at all. We were out­skated, out­worked in my opin­ion, in all three of those games.”

Now, af­ter pulling to­gether in time to whip the Wings, comes a very tall chal­lenge for the Fly­ers: The Ducks, Kings and Sharks are a com­bined 56-12-8 at home. As for the Fly­ers (26-22-6, 58 points), they have a play­off-wor­thy toe­hold in the Metro’s third spot with 58 points, but six East­ern Con­fer­ence teams are jammed be­hind them at be­tween 55-57 points.

What more need be said about this road trip?

“First of all, we need the points,” Mark Streit said. “Sec­ond, we won the game (Tues­day) night and we want to keep that go­ing. It wasn’t ev­ery­thing per­fect but we im­proved in dif­fer­ent ar­eas and we want to keep im­prov­ing and get some wins. If you look at the standings it’s re­ally tight and now we’re go­ing to face three re­ally great hockey teams.”

Af­ter the road trip, the Fly­ers have games against Colorado and Cal­gary be­fore sev­eral of their mem­bers de­part for the Olympics and oth­ers de­part for beach points else­where. What they’re all hop­ing is that they’re still at least a step ahead of the con­fer­ence crowd when that break in the sched­ule com­mences.

“You’re play­ing against three big teams that skate well,” Berube said of the up­com­ing trip. “It’ll be hard hockey. You re­ally have to grind it out against th­ese teams and you have to give it your best be­cause like I said, they are big and ta­lented and they’ll be tough games.

“It’s a big road trip. It re­ally is. I think we’re go­ing to see what we’re all about here.”

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