By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After taking an extended break for the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Flyers, along with the rest of the NHL, are getting back to work.
Philadelphia plays its first game after the break on Thursday night as they host the San Jose Sharks.
The Flyers had five players play in Sochi (defenseman Kimmo Timonen earned a bronze with Team Finalnd). The rest, like forward Scott Hartnell, got some time off.
“This is my, oh gosh, it’s got to be my fourth Olympic Break, I think,” Hartnell tells KYW Newsradio. “It’s great the first few days of it until you realize, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get back and I’ve got 23 games to play,’ and you’re in a playoff race. So it’s kind of hard mentally. It’s nice to get away, but when you come back and start practicing again, especially the first couple of days, it’s hard to get dialed-in, to get focused. But now we’ve had a few practices so we’re feeling great about where we’re at and where we need to go.”
When last we left the Orange and Black, they were on a four-game winning streak after defeating Calgary 2-1 on February 8th at the Center. They are third in the Metropolitan Division with 67 points, thanks to a 30-23-6 record.
“To be on a high and just shut things down for two weeks, it’s a little bit of a downer,” Hartnell says. “But I think we’ve got to realize, especially how we played in those games, what works and what doesn’t work. I think we’ve had a couple of real lows, like the beginning of the year, where we weren’t playing together, weren’t playing the system, to now where we’re together and everyone’s doing the right things, what’s winning hockey and what’s losing hockey and I think we know now the right way to play. So we’ve got to continue that down the stretch. It’s going to be a big month for us.”
One of the wins during the Flyers current streak came against the Sharks out in San Jose, a 5-2 win on February 3rd.
“They’re kind of fresh in our minds,” Hartnell says. “We went into San Jose, we were down going into the third period and played a great, great third period. We can’t take them lightly, obviously. They are right at the top of the Western Conference (4th in the conference with 80 points). They’ve got some great players, some fast players, a few Olympians on that team. We’re going to have our work cut out for us. It’s going to be a fast game, so we’ve got to make sure we’re more mentally focused than anything, just to make sure we’re playing the right way. But it’s nice to start off against a great opponent, just to kind of give you a little wake-up call.”
The Flyers and the Sharks will face-off at 7:00pm at the Center.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.