Compete, compete, compete.
That was Craig Berube’s mantra Sunday as the Flyers began to resume their normal practice routine now that the Olympics have ended.
This week will resemble today’s taste of up-tempo skating, lots of one-on-one battles, and contact scrimmages all aimed at getting the Flyers “into it” right away when the schedule resumes Thursday against San Jose with three games in four days.
“Get them into that mindset of the game and [Monday] we’ll do some full-ice scrimmages to get back into it,” Berube said. “It’s important. Practice is practice, but you’ve got to get some game stuff in there.
“Obviously, the intensity won’t be as high as a game, but get it high enough so that it’s effective.”
The Flyers went into the Olympic break on a four-game winning streak holding down third place and a playoff berth in the Metropolitan Division with a three-point lead over Columbus.
Berube wants to assure they come out of the break amped for the final 23 games, 14 of which are on home ice at Wells Fargo Center.
First up are the Sharks, who the Flyers routed on the West Coast earlier this month. Then the Rangers visit on Saturday afternoon before the Flyers travel to Washington to face the Capitals in a Sunday NBC matinee.
“From 13th to sixth in our conference, it’s five or six points,” Scott Hartnell said. “Everyone has a fresh start. Whoever does the best job running the table and winning their games and not scoreboard-watching, hoping other teams lose so you can stay ahead on points. You got to do your business and worry about yourselves.
“These practices have been short, hard and on-point to getting us back into system play. The team that plays systems the best with the least amount of mistakes has a chance to win. We have to be sharp and focused and ready to work.”
Flyers captain Claude Giroux said he likes the idea of three games in four nights, tiring though it may be, rather than wading back into the schedule with a game here and there and days off.
“Just go right back into it, get a couple of games in there and back into the rhythm, and then you can focus on each game at a time,” Giroux said. “Everyone is pretty anxious to go back onto the ice and start playing again.”
The Flyers had just five players at the Olympics. All but Kimmo Timonen have returned. Team Finland won the bronze medal on Saturday. Timonen may not be back until Tuesday.
“We’ve got 23 games left and have to jump back into it,” said Jakub Voracek, who returned back from Sochi last Thursday and skated for the first time with the Flyers today.
“The playoff [race], it’s very tight and every point is going to count in the end. We got a lot of home games. We got to make sure everything counts.”
Voracek said the lengthy break – 15 days for most teams – means every club is rusty. Which is why hard practices are the order of the day.
“When you have a break like that, you have to have practices like this,” Voracek said. “If you remember, we were struggling a bit [in late January] and had a week off and we had four or five hard practices. Since then, we were better on the ice and played better.”
Another Flyer Olympian, Mark Streit, agreed that the hard workouts are just what the Flyers need to prep them for the stretch run.
“I felt a little tired this morning, but now I feel energized and it was great to see the guys again,” Streit said. “The chemistry on this team is high. We go out and battle hard but we laugh, too, a lot which is important.
“You want to get back into it. The intensity level is going to go from zero to real high. Some guys didn’t play for two weeks. You need the one-on-ones, the system, the battles to get ready for Thursday.”
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Compete, compete, compete.