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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Flyers notebook

VOORHEES, N.J. --- The Flyers have won six of their last seven and their last 10 at home, and they have bobbed into second place in the NHL Metro.

Any chance that will mean anything to the Tampa Bay Lightning, which will visit the Wells Fargo Center at 1 p.m. Saturday --- or to the Rangers, who will be waiting for the Flyers to show up in the Garden Sunday night?


“I just think every game we play is just another opportunity to prove ourselves,” Steve Mason said Friday, after practice at the Skate Zone. “We have had some success recently. But at the same time, we have to keep backing that up in order to achieve what our ultimate goal is. And they are some pretty solid tests coming up this weekend, playing back-to-back, including that second game in New York, a tough building to play in. It's going to be a great test for us.”

Though the Flyers defeated the Rangers, 2-1, Oct. 24 at the Wells Fargo Center, they have been beaten by them in nine of their last 12. They lost, 4-2, in Tampa in November, and have won two of their last eight against Tampa Bay.

“It is going to be a tough game,” said Wayne Simmonds of the Tampa Bay visit. “But playing in our barn, you want to make it a tough place to play. You want to make teams fear coming into our building. And I think we've been doing a good job of that as of late. We've got to keep that up. We are fighting to the same spot. It is going to be a huge game. When it comes down to the last couple of points at the end of the year, we're going to want them. So we are going to have to play our best these next two games and get as many points as we can out of the four.”

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One reason --- the biggest? --- for the Flyers' recent success is that they have successfully killed off their last 19 penalties.

“I think there are a couple of different factors,” Braydon Coburn said. “We have been very well prepared. Lappy (assistant coach Ian Laperriere) has been very good in that role for us this year. And our best penalty killers, when things break down, have been our goaltenders. They have been superb.”

Among the keys to the penalty-killing success has been Zac Rinaldo. But after suffering a high-ankle sprain in a 3-1 victory Wednesday over visiting Montreal, Rinaldo was placed on injured reserve Friday. He is expected to take up to six weeks to recover.

“We have guys,” Laperriere said. “(Chris) VandeVelde came in and he is good at killing penalties. We do have a lot of depth in that regard. (Michael) Raffl has been killing penalties all year. And we can use 'G' (Claude Giroux) a little bit more. We took 'G' off after the faceoffs, but now he will be back full-time, probably, on the P.K. But we do have a lot of guys. And what I like is that those guys go out there and don't want to get scored on. And they take a lot of pride in that.”

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To replace Rinaldo on the active roster, Tye McGinn was recalled from the Phantoms. McGinn has had multiple mini-opportunities with the Flyers, this season and last. This time, though, he anticipates a full, six-week look.

“It's not always easy, but it is part of being a hockey player,” said McGinn, 23. “And you've got to accept it. It's part of getting older, stronger and mentally tougher as a professional athlete.”

In six Flyers games this season, McGinn has produced three goals.

“I was happy to get the call-up,” he said. “I just want to go to practice every day and compete and give it the best I can. If I am lucky enough to get in the games, I will try to play the best hockey I can.”

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NOTES: Of course, the Flyers' goaltending rotation for the weekend remains a secret. Asked Friday about his schedule, Mason smiled and said, “Can't tell you.” … If it matters, he kind of enjoys day games. “It's nice to get a win at 1 o'clock,” the goaltender said, “and then have the rest of the day to sit on that.” … Erik Gustafsson, who has not played since Dec. 12 due to a knee injury, has been practicing. He said he would be available to play Saturday. “Yeah, I think so,” he said. “But that's up to the coaches and the training staff.” … Matt Read, recovering from a concussion, was involved in the early-morning practice Friday, but was among the first Flyers to leave the ice. “He looked OK,” Craig Berube said. “He stayed out longer than he was supposed to. He had a good, little skate and he seemed fine. He felt better.” Read has not played since Dec. 31


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