The Flyers, today at their practice facility in Voorhees, knew what questions we were going to ask, which is why the answers were long and easy to understand why this Penguins team is the true rivals to Philadelphia.
The Flyers realize who they have to stop. They already know their game plan to stop Crosby, Malkin, and the rest of their star-studded lineup. The Flyers also know in the back of their minds that if they beat up on the Pens tomorrow night at the Wachovia center, it could very well be Michael Therrian's last game as the Pittsburgh head coach.
The Penguins have been struggling this season, so much so that their head coach is on the hot seat if all the rumors are true. The Flyers are a prime example though of a team that was considered out of the race to all of sudden break out of a slump and ride it to the end.
"They have the power to turn it around just like that," said Mike Richards. "Every time we play them it seems like it's always a heated battle. I'm sure the intensity is going to be there."
"It could turn around any moment. We know that. We went through it last last year. We lost 10 in a row and we made the playoffs," added Timonen. "Everybody goes through tough times, and it's their tough time right now. It doesn't matter to us. It's a big game for us and we have to be ready to go."
When Sidney Crosby was brought up in our line of questioning, players weren't hesitant to praise the guy, praise his competitive nature and his will to win and lead his team. Crosby is the most hated player in Philadelphia sports at the moment and he has definitely handled the heckling well according to Marty Biron and Mike Richards.
"To tell you the truth, he does a great job kind of blocking it out," said Richards. "If I had so many people yelling at me and saying some of the things he probably hears it would be a little distracting."
"The thing is, you play against Sidney a little bit, the first thing you think is he's whining around and complaining a little bit, then you realize he's always involved in the physical part of the game," said Biron. "His nose is always in the crease trying to dig at the puck. He's always going to get involved in the pushing matches and the cross-checks and all of that because he doesn't shy away from that.
"Because of that, and because you have a guy that is one of the faces of the NHL and always a competitor, fans are going to have a tendency to try and get him off his game more," added Biron, who is slated to be the starting goaltender tomorrow night.
The rest of January looks promising for the Flyers. None of the seven games left in the month are against an opponent currently in playoff position. The team will face Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay twice, Florida twice, as well as Atlanta and St. Louis.
Daniel Briere, who has been out for over a month with a groin injury, said today that he will most likely play Thursday vs. Tampa Bay.
"You know, its up to me really at this point. The only way to know if I'm ready is out on the ice," said Briere. "Tomorrow is a no-go, but Thursday is probably what I'm looking at.