Flyers waste no time getting busy in the preseason

Posted: September 16, 2009

Three days after their initial on-ice drills at training camp, the Flyers headed to Detroit yesterday for tonight's exhibition opener against the Red Wings.

Nobody will ever accuse the NHL of easing into its preseason schedule.

Tonight's game is the first of three exhibitions in four nights for the Flyers. They play Toronto tomorrow in London, Ontario, then face the Maple Leafs on Saturday in Toronto. Tomorrow's game, the only one to be televised, will be shown on the NHL Network.

"I love it," a new forward, Ian Laperriere, 35, said of the club's flurry of early games. "It's not like when I first broke into the league . . . and guys would come to camp to get in shape.

"Now everyone's in shape. If you're not in shape, it shows out there and shows in the testing. If you didn't do anything in the summer, you won't be here long, and I love that."

The Flyers are bringing 35 players on the trip, including roster hopefuls such as James van Riemsdyk, Andreas Nodl, Mika Pyorala, Mark Bell, David Laliberte, and Matt Clackson, all of whom are wingers.

"You can do all you want in practice, but I think the next couple of preseason games are going to show a lot about different people and how they play and where they would fit in," captain Mike Richards said after yesterday's workout in Voorhees.

Blair Betts, who played the last four years with the New York Rangers, and Jon Kalinski and Jared Ross are among the centers vying for spots.

Van Riemsdyk, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2007, has been playing on a line with Claude Giroux and Danny Briere in camp.

"They make the game so easy," said van Riemsdyk, who scored against Ray Emery with a slick move on a shoot-out at the end of yesterday's intra-squad scrimmage. "You just have to find open ice and they'll get you the puck no matter where you are."

Added van Riemsdyk: "The last couple of days, I'm getting my feet wet. It's my first time playing with NHL players in a competitive setting, so obviously you have to expect some adjustment period. I think each day I've gotten better."

While rookies such as van Riemsdyk and Pyorala are eager to show what they can do, Briere is looking forward to putting last season behind him. The veteran played in just 29 games because of abdominal and groin injuries.

"I can't wait to start playing a few games," said Briere, who looks much quicker than he did last season. "I'm not too worried about the results. I don't care if I'm going to score or not, but I certainly want to be peaking when the season starts.

"To be honest, it feels like I didn't play last year. It feels like I missed almost a full season, and now I'm starting new, so that's probably why I'm so excited about this season."

Breakaways. Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell, and Pyorala combined to form the most productive line at yesterday's scrimmage. . . . Richards said that his surgically repaired shoulders felt fine and that there was no extra significance in testing them tonight. . . . Coach John Stevens plans to play one goaltender (probably Emery) for 40 minutes tonight and another (probably Brian Boucher) for 20 minutes. Johan Backlund, who allowed six goals at yesterday's scrimmage (two by Carter), is also making the trip. . . . Emery has been with his teammates for only a few days, but senses a feeling of urgency. "This is a team that is not going to be satisfied to just make the playoffs," he said.

Stevens said the 24 players who don't make the trip would still have a chance for a roster spot. They will continue practicing at the Skate Zone. Left winger Tomas Sinisalo, 23, who is not on the trip, is trying to make the team on a tryout contract. Sinisalo was born in Philadelphia because his father, Ilkka, played for the Flyers from 1981 to 1990. "I lived here when I was younger, and this sort of feels like home," said Sinisalo, who played in Finland last season.

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com.

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