Flyers-Kings: Philadelphia Wraps Up West Coast to Take First Place

Jason GlogauContributor IJanuary 4, 2009

The Flyers took sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division last night, stealing a point from the Los Angeles Kings.

It was the most well-deserved point the Flyers have earned this year, with nothing against the team’s come-from-behind victory against the Hurricanes earlier this season.

The Flyers faced a feisty, young Kings team, led by their wrecking-ball captain, 24-year-old Dustin Brown.  Brown welcomed the banged-up Flyers with hit after bone-crushing hit, tallying a game-high seven hits on the night.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, they were already playing with a much-abbreviated lineup.  Already missing centerman Danny Briere before the team began their trip, the Flyers visited the City of Angels, having lost forwards Simon Gagne, Claude Giroux, and Joffrey Lupul due to injury.

Forwards Darroll Powe and Josh Gratton, as well as defenseman Randy Jones, were forced to play through injuries, much to the dismay of Jones, who was greeted by Brown with a destructive center-ice hit.

Gratton didn’t play a shift all game, and defensemen Luca Sbisa and Lasse Kukkonen were turned into forwards for the night, the second straight night for Sbisa.  Sbisa spent most of the night playing on the first forward line with Mike Knuble and Mike Richards, while Kukkonen rotated on a checking line, mostly playing with Riley Cote and Powe.

Some fans may wonder why the team didn’t bring in another forward from the Phantoms.  That’s because the team was in Los Angeles, while the Phantoms were on the road as well, taking on the Toronto Marlies.  There was simply not enough time to fly a player out to Los Angeles. 

It is likely the team will call up Andreas Nodl or another forward to meet the team in Washington D.C. to take on the Capitals on Tuesday, before the team returns to Philadelphia.

All those injured bodies required the healthy ones to step up and contribute extra.  Richards, Knuble, Jeff Carter, Kimmo Timonen, and Braydon Coburn all logged over 25 minutes. And Scott Hartnell, Ossi Vaananen, and Matt Carle also played over 20 minutes.

Despite playing last night in a physical game against the Ducks, the Flyers, who were still able to raise their arms high enough to pull on an orange-and-black jersey, left it all on the ice.  Carter was credited with nine scoring chances, and Richards, Scottie Upshall, and Andrew Alberts were almost constantly banging the opposition into the boards.

The last line of defense, though, was the best.

Throughout the night, the Kings showed they were the fresher team, peppering Antero Nittymaki with 31 shots, some that normally wouldn’t have been allowed to take. 

It certainly wasn’t Nitty’s best performance—it’s hard to top his performance against Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals earlier this season—but without the goalie’s excellent game last night, the Flyers would have left the West Coast merely tied for first place in the Atlantic.

Instead, they’re all alone on top of the division. 

It wasn’t pretty.  It wasn’t flashy.

But if it was, it wouldn’t have been Flyers hockey.