OTTAWA-- When Flyers coach Dave Hakstol approached reporters after his team's morning skate Tuesday, he was greeted with "Welcome back to Ottawa," from the local reporters.
Hakstol chuckled and joked that it'd been a while. Of course, it hasn't.
The Flyers came to Canadian Tire Centre outside Ottawa just 10 days ago and were thumped, 4-0, after controlling the first period.
It was the end of a week the Flyers had played well in. But they came away with just one point after playing well against Los Angeles and San Jose and in the first 20 minutes against the Senators.
A lot has changed since then, you could say. The Flyers are 3-1 since that game on November 21 and are coming off of two huge back-to-back wins against Nashville and in New York Saturday against the Rangers, who the Flyers beat 3-0.
The Flyers (9-10-5) are just four points out of the second wild card spot, though still a long shot to make the playoffs. But it looks a lot better than it could have, coming up here again against one of the East's best teams. A bad stretch to close the month of November would have brought the Flyers to Canada limping.
"We need to find our game again in the first period and keep it for the whole 60 minutes," said captain Claude Giroux, who went to high school in the area.
That's probably the motto for every night.
Hakstol said in the past that he likes to live in reality, to know where his team is in the standings. Surely, then, he knows that despite being four points out of the second wild card, there's a ton of hockey to be played and the math is still against his team's success.
The Flyers open their December slate tonight at 7:30 and then play three straight games against Metropolitan Division opponents.
"Our whole thing, all the way along, is compete for points, battle for points, but try to keep building on the small positives every day," Hakstol said. "And we've done that. There's some small positives out of the win in New York, but you take that and move on, keep building. I like the feel of our group and the mentality. We just have to keep working, scrapping for points and building.
"You gotta know where you're at in order to have that foundation. For us, we just have to keep pushing. And we gotta do that every day."