Flyers practice before enthusiastic fans at Wells Fargo Center

Matt Read tosses a puck to fans during practice at the Well Fargo Center.
Matt Read tosses a puck to fans during practice at the Well Fargo Center. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 19, 2013

The Flyers fans are ready for the beginning of the NHL season. They can only hope their team is as well. On Thursday evening, a crowd of 15,202 turned out at the Wells Fargo Center to watch the Flyers in an open practice that was free of charge.

The Flyers will play for keeps beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.

Big crowds have been attending at the practice rink in Voorhees this week, so the large turnout Thursday was no surprise. If the fans have any lingering bitterness over the 113-day NHL lockout, they certainly didn't show it toward the players.

The Flyers went through a series of drills and were routinely cheered throughout the 70-minute practice.

"The support they showed tonight, our fans were incredible," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.

Newly named captain Claude Giroux led the team onto the ice and actually skated solo. His teammates stayed behind as the crowd gave Giroux a huge ovation.

"I knew they were going to do that," Giroux said about his teammates' ploy.

Giroux said he and his teammates appreciated the support.

"It was good to see the fans come out and they are pretty jacked up for the season," he said. "I wouldn't think anything less from the Flyers fans, they are great fans."

Laughton update. First-round pick Scott Laughton insists that he is not sweating out Friday's 3 p.m. deadline when NHL teams have to submit their rosters.

All indications point to the 18-year-old center's starting the season with the Flyers, especially with Danny Briere expected to miss at least the first two games with a hairline fracture of his left wrist.

The Flyers are considering putting Briere on the injured/nonroster list to start the year. If they were to do that, another forward, Tom Sestito, would likely be on roster along with Laughton.

"I try to control what I can do," Laughton said. "I can't control what they decide and will continue to play my game and hopefully it will take care of itself."

Laviolette said he would talk with general manager Paul Holmgren about the situation. He wasn't ready to say whether Laughton will start the season with the Flyers.

As far as evaluating Laughton, Laviolette said it has been difficult simply because the Flyers haven't had any exhibition games. Still, the coach has seen a lot to be encouraged about.

"He has had a good camp, doesn't look out of place by any stretch, and there are a lot of things he does well," Laviolette said.

When asked if this brief training camp, which began Sunday, has made him feel as if he belongs, Laughton didn't hesitate.

"I think so," he said. "I've been trying to step up my game in juniors and getting ready for the next level. So I just wanted to do everything I can to make this team."

Gauging their progress. With such a short time to work, and just one more practice until the opener, many of the Flyers were asked a simple question: Can they gauge where they are at this point?

If they're being honest, nobody knows for sure.

"I think our practices have been great," forward Scott Hartnell said. "Laviolette has done a great job at working in the system, working in battle drills."

Still, nobody is sure how that will translate into the game.

"I don't know what to expect," Giroux said. "The whole season will be different than any other season. We need to adapt as much as possible."

Contact Marc Narducci at Follow on Twitter @sjnard.

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