Morning Roundup: Bullies and Cheesesteaks
Tonight's game in Philadelphia kicks off what should be the toughest part of the Caps' regular-season schedule.
"It's going to be a huge test for us," Boudreau said. "But if we think we're good, we better back it up."
The grueling 12-day span couldn't begin in a more unfriendly environment than Wachovia Center, or against a more formidable opponent than the retooled Flyers. Already one of the league's meanest teams, Philadelphia General Manager Paul Holmgren made his club even more menacing this summer, adding 6-6, 213-pound, rugged defenseman Chris Pronger to a lineup that had five players rack up more than 140 minutes in penalties last season.
The game is at 7 p.m. on -- sigh -- Versus.
Edit: Forgot to add that Tarik and I are chatting at 2:30 p.m. today. Tarik will take important, game-related questions, and I'll answer any complaints/questions/praises concerning our NHL coverage. Submit questions here.
Other items of note this morning:
*Chris Clark is looking good in his return to the ice:
"I think he's got a little bit of his jump back, a little bit of his step," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I'm real happy for him, and if he continues that he's going to be a big help to this team."
* Mike Knuble isn't sure what to expect from the fans when he returns to Philly:
Knuble has left teams before. But he was a bit player in Detroit, only with the Rangers in New York for a season-and-a-half and -- thanks to the NHL lockout in 2004 -- had a year off to adjust to leaving Boston after spending four-and-a-half years with the Bruins.
"I hope [the reaction in Philadelphia] is positive," Knuble said. "I hope I was a good teammate there and represented the team well. I hope people respected what I did. But I guess we'll find out."
* NHL.com's breakdown of the Caps-Flyers matchup:
Capitals -- The Capitals have exploded out of the gate offensively, but their defense was an issue Saturday. After taking a 6-1 lead on Toronto, they had to hold on for a 6-4 victory. "I was once told that anytime you win, you shouldn't complain because there's so many times you lose," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I told the guys that it was a great win and a great start, but that we have to learn how to win 6-1 when we are in this position and not think we are going to win 9-1. I can preach about, which we do, but you've got to be committed to do that. But I think we have the group of leaders in the room to make that happen."
Flyers -- While Emery has been good in net, he hasn't had to work all that hard. Among teams to play more than once, Philadelphia has allowed just 54 shots, fifth-fewest in the League. Much of that can be attributed to a puck-control offense and a defense led by Chris Pronger, who has played more than 25 minutes in each game. Also, five different players have goals, and 13 have at least one point.
* How do you stop Alex Ovechkin?
CHRIS PRONGER knows a thing or two about playing against some of the NHL's most lethal weapons.
In his 15-year career, Pronger has earned a living shutting down players like Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. The wild Western Conference, where Pronger spent every season but his first two, was a haven for goal-scoring snipers.
But now, more than ever, the East is the home of hockey's scoring threats.
Pronger will get his first of many regular tests tonight against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in the Flyers' home opener, and he hopes to put his experiences into practice against the one active player with a shot to best Gretzky's goal-scoring marks.
"He's going to try to be creative and make plays," Pronger said of Ovechkin. "You need to understand that and know where he is on the ice. You've got to make sure you're positioned well at all times.
* The Flyers' first real challenge of the season should come against the Caps:
Washington and reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin provide Challenge No. 1 in the Flyers' home opener tonight. Ovechkin already has three goals and three assists for the 2-0 Caps.
An early measuring stick?
"The winner of this game is going to win the Cup," deadpanned Flyers' defenseman Chris Pronger, tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Still, this week will provide a barometer for the Flyers.
"We did our job on the road, and here in front of our fans, we need to set a precedent early and not start off on the wrong foot, especially against Washington," left winger Scott Hartnell said.
"They're a high-powered team. Obviously, Ovechkin is a great player, but they've got other players, too. So we're going to have to roll four lines and stay out of the box [because] they have a power play that is going to be right up there among the tops in the league."
* Bruce Boudreau's Behind the Bench:
We are taking a bus to Philadelphia today, and this is the second time that we will have ridden the bus to play the Flyers since I have been here. I was walking on air the last time we took the bus because I did not know what to expect and it was my first game. It was really exciting and felt so natural because I had been on the bus pretty much my entire life. It is crazy how NHL teams and NHL players get spoiled and coaches are no different. When I heard we were taking the bus this week, my first thought was, "Oh man, we are riding the bus? It is almost three hours." Then I had to turn around and slap myself for getting spoiled.
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