Pither must prove he deserves spot in Flyers' organization

Posted: September 15, 2010

Luke Pither knows he may only get one crack to get it right.

Pither's test officially began Monday as the Flyers opened their annual rookie camp at the Skate Zone in Vorhees, N.J., just 5 days before their full-fledged training camp starts Friday afternoon. Although Pither, a 21-year-old center, signed a 3-year entry-level deal in March, he faces more pressure than most rookies: He can't be sent back to junior hockey; he's exhausted all of his eligibility. It's either pro hockey or pack your gear.

"I'm definitely feeling the pressure," Pither said. "I need to find a spot. I need to make a spot for myself or I won't be playing at all. I've got to solidify that, work hard at camp and prove that I belong."

That pressure may not be such a bad thing, Adirondack Phantoms coach Greg Gilbert said.

"There's always pressure," Gilbert said. "You want to put pressure on yourself to work hard and get as far as you can and realize your dreams. Pressure's a good thing if you use it the right way. It's a bad thing if you let it get to you and crumble you. You've got to direct it in the right way."

Pither's gaudy numbers - 36 goals, 58 assists in 67 games with Barrie in his fifth season in the Ontario Hockey League - are what earned him a contract. Displaying some grit and toughness, to dispel the knock that he is unwilling to play the physical side of the game, could be what sets him apart.

"Coming to the prospect camp they had early in the summer has just made me realize that the next step is that much greater," Pither said. "I think I benefited from thinking about it all summer. It's been pretty cool to be here and turn your head and see Chris Pronger walking by."

The Flyers' coaching staff will get their first game-action look at Pither tomorrow afternoon when the rookies travel to Arlington, Va., to take on the Capitals rookies. That scrimmage could help determine whether Pither will see preseason NHL time.

"He's got good skills," Gilbert said. "He's got good vision, some finish and a playmaking ability. He has a lot of success in the major junior ranks and he's going to get a good opportunity."

Fridge still skating

Former Flyer Todd Fedoruk skated yesterday with the Flyers' veterans as they continued their informal workouts. Fedoruk, 31, has spent much of his summer at the Skate Zone.

After rising through the Flyers' system with the ECHL's Trenton Titans and AHL Phantoms, Fedoruk has spent each of the past five seasons in the NHL. Now he is looking for work.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he would be "unlikely" to offer Fedoruk a tryout contract to stay in training camp like he did earlier this week with veteran Bill Guerin.

Fedoruk had a breakout year in 2005-06 in Anaheim, when he posted four goals, 19 assists and 174 penalty minutes in 76 games. In the four seasons since, Fedoruk has not had more than 13 points. Fedoruk has played 545 career games, of which 268 have been in a Flyers uniform.

Slap shots

Nikolai Zherdev had still not arrived in Philadelphia as of yesterday. He was signed on July 9. Zherdev has had trouble getting a work visa, though it is not uncommon for Russian players to arrive just prior to camp . . . After their skate, most of the Flyers' vets headed to Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Twp., N.J., for their annual celebrity golf invitational benefiting Flyers Charities.

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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