Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Byfuglien gets no love in Philly

Blue-liner expecting abuse from Flyers faithful at early morning tilt

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PHILADELPHIA -- The competitive angles don't change -- you know, teams need points, recent losers are growly and recent winners are brimming with confidence -- but a morning start time for today's NHL game between the Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers has its own angles, too.

The Flyers have chosen to squeeze the game into the same holiday weekend day the NBA's Sixers will have an evening home game against New Orleans, requiring ice action to start earlier.

Fortitude

Philadelphia hasn't had a lot of puck luck in its last two, losing both, including a 4-2 decision in Tampa on Wednesday, making it more likely today's 10:30 a.m. start will require a strong dose of intestinal fortitude.

And of course, this is Philadelphia, said Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien after his team's short practice on U.S. Thanksgiving Day.

"I think everyone knows the history of Philly, that it doesn't matter if it's a hockey game, football game, baseball game, that their fans are crazy, they're diehards, they're, well, Philly fans," Byfuglien said.

"All you can do is come to work, do what you've got to do. Yeah, they're going to get after you but at the end of the day, you just keep playing."

The physical element, Byfuglien said, should not be beyond his team's capabilities.

"I think we did a good job of matching up against them last time (a 3-2 shootout win Nov. 15 in Winnipeg)," he said. "You've just got to be ready to work. Every night, it has to be to work hard, do what we need to do to win as a team."

The Jets, with wins over the Devils and Islanders in the first two games of their six-game trip, have moved to 12-11-4.

"The morning game will pose some different things," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "The building itself, it can, I suppose. But we had that (9-8) game in here so I'm not sure how it'll go.

"It's another opponent, they've been going good and we've gone fairly well so everybody needs points right now. It's another one of those games. This city and franchise has a reputation for wanting to go so it's good, it raises the intensity of the game."

Getting ready will be no issue for some, different for others.

"Can't remember when I played an 11:30 (ET) game," Jets defenceman Keaton Ellerby said. "I think it was in the minors, against the Toronto Marlies in Toronto.

"I dislike the two o'clock games. It's right in the middle of my nap time and I feel like I should be asleep. As for 11:30, I guess we'll find out tomorrow."

Jets right-winger Blake Wheeler can't wait to play it.

"I love it," he said. "I always enjoyed when I was younger playing those early games, especially around the holidays. Something to look forward to. It's always been fun for me just getting up and going and getting after it. It's always great after you win, too, because you have the rest of the day to enjoy it. It almost feels like you have extra free time that you don't have during the season.

"Once you get to the rink, it really doesn't matter what time it is."

Novelty

For Jets captain Andrew Ladd, the novelty has value.

"It's a little bit of a throwback game, I guess," Ladd said. "When you're younger, you get up, eat breakfast and go.

"I kind of like the games. You play, get it over with and it's not a long day."

After today's contest is complete, the Jets go right back to New York to practise and prepare to meet the Rangers, but not until Monday night.

 

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2013 C3

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