We all thought it was going to get ugly when we knew Flyers captain Mike Richards was out against Boston last Wednesday. We were were coming to terms with it when the Flyers came out and played right at the level of the Bruins for two periods, giving us false hope before the defense gave up and couldn't catch up.
They lost 3-1.
Saturday was a different story, but had the same circumstance as the first meeting, Mike Richards would be out again with the flu. The Flyers buckled down and fought back to beat the NHL's best Boston Bruins 4-3 in overtime.
The Flyers went through a goalie change in Boston, which saw Antero Niittymaki come in for the benched Marty Biron and save 28 shots without surrendering a goal.
The Richards issue continued on to yesterday, as the captain didn't play for the third straight game. Furthermore, the Flyers beat the Atlanta Thrashers behind another solid performance out of Antero Niittymaki ,who is now 13-0-0 against Atlanta. Jeff Carter stepped up and added two goals to his already career-high season. He now has 34.
The Flyers entered today fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 28-15-9 record. They have crept back up in the Atlantic Division standings. They trail the division-leading Devils by only four points, and the Devils are scheduled to play tonight against the Rangers.
Philadelphia has two very important games this week—both happen to be at home. The Ottawa Senators come in to Philadelphia on Thursday, then the Islanders travel south to the Wachovia center on Saturday. The Flyers are a combined 4-1 against them.
The Flyers have these two games to work on a power play that has been invisible over the past few weeks. Their special teams which, for most of the season, has carried them has been disappointing as of late. Since Jan. 13, the Flyers are 6/42 (14 percent) on the power play.
The flu bug has heckled throughout the entire locker room over the the past month, and it has been the explanation in my opinion for one loss—against the Blues. That game ended up being a 4-0 shut-out loss. Other than that game, the Flyers had a chance to win in all of them.
Notwithstanding, the Flyers must now buckle up and prepare for the stretch run as they have 30 games remaining.
Coach John Stevens gave his team off today to rest. Mike Richards was the only guy who was at the Flyers' Skate Zone this morning. Richards spoke today about the last three games he has missed, and gave an update on his status now and for Thursday.
“I feel pretty good. I’m starting to get my energy back and trying to put some weight back on. The aches are gone," Richards said.
“I probably lost around eight pounds just from being sick. I was sick in Florida and then I got sick again. I just kind of lost my appetite a little bit. Right now I’m just trying to get that weight back on and get my energy level back and I should be good to go.”
"It is disappointing, but just like the injuries that we have had this season, we’ve been able to battle through them and different people have stepped up. Hopefully, it is gone now and we can clean it up and get a healthy team,” Richards added.
Richards also commented on how he thinks his team played without him in the lineup for the past three games.
“Really good. The first game at home against Boston, I thought there were just a couple of bad breaks. We had another gutsy comeback for the win in Boston. The boys played well and got a lucky bounce in overtime to win that game. We kind of deserved that one. We played well again in Atlanta, let it slip away, but when it counted we closed it off.”
Danny Briere was expected to be about ready to return to the team, but no word yet on his status.