There have not been too many positive vibes popping in the Flyers' locker room lately.
Scott Hartnell, whose name has been swirling in trade rumors, was a guest yesterday on "Daily News Live" on Comcast SportsNet. He decided to take a different approach when talking about his team's failures.
"We're only two points away from being back in the playoffs," Hartnell said. "With a win [last night], we could be right back there . . . We're only 25 or 30 games in."
Of course, the Flyers did not win, falling to Pittsburgh in a shootout, 3-2. Heading into the game, the Flyers (now 15-16-2) were in a four-way tie for 11th in the Eastern Conference. While Hartnell's observation - that the Flyers were a win away from eighth place - was true, they also technically were tied for 14th in the conference.
Just making the playoffs is a far cry from a title in the Atlantic Division - where the Flyers now are 17 points back of the Penguins - or the Stanley Cup that many picked them to win in September.
A roster shakeup could happen as soon as today, with a league-mandated holiday roster freeze going into effect tonight at midnight and lasting until Dec. 27.
Minor hockey in Philly?
Reggie Dunlop would be in his glory. The famed "Slap Shot" movie character, played by Paul Newman, would be happy to know that the fictional Federal League is back in business.
This time, its owners are hoping, without the on-ice antics that made Dunlop's Charlestown Chiefs famous.
The new Single "A" league is set to drop the puck next November in four cities. There will be teams in Rome, N.Y.; Danbury, Conn.; Ottawa, Canada; and Thousand Islands, N.Y., a small border town halfway between Syracuse and Ottawa.
The league commissioner, Ron Kirnin, said yesterday that additional teams may land in Philadelphia and Jamestown, N.Y. A local suburban rink most likely would host a team. The league is supposed to bridge the gap for recent college graduates to the ECHL and AHL.
Tickets are slated to range between $5-$15 in small buildings (1,500 capacity) with a $5,000 weekly salary cap for each team.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said Simon Gagne, who has been out since undergoing abdominal surgery on Nov. 2, could return as early as tomorrow afternoon against the Rangers. He said that Gagne felt tightness in yesterday's morning skate but that everything else appears to be on track.
"He's coming off a surgery," Laviolette said. "With his history and everything else, he wants to feel good about being back in the lineup."
Peter Laviolette broke up the defensive pair of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle prior to last night's game. Carle skated with Kimmo Timonen and Pronger played with Braydon Coburn. As a pair, Carle and Pronger combine for a plus-17 with 38 points . . . Arron Asham's first-period scrap with Mike Rupp was the second time the two players have fought this week . . . The ice has been flooded at Fenway Park, ready for the Winter Classic between the Flyers and Bruins on New Year's Day.