NASHVILLE - With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror and just 14 games separating his team from the April 11 finish line, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren can do little more than sit and wait.
The Daily News caught up with Holmgren yesterday for his thoughts on the state of the Flyers:
Daily News: How do you personally handle this time of year? You are limited in what you can change with the roster and moves. Is it tough for you to sit back and watch?
Paul Holmgren: You're right, there's not a whole lot that we can do with the current team. It is what it is. We just have to hope for the best. There's a lot of college free agents, and looking at some of our junior guys that we might have to make decisions on to sign. There's a lot of moving-forward business that needs to be done.
DN: Peter Laviolette has been vocal about the team's inconsistencies this season. I think maybe that was most evident this weekend. Does the inconsistent play concern you?
PH: Yeah, it does. This is the time of year when nothing's easy. Against Chicago, it was a very exciting game and to come back and win in that fashion . . . you'd think there'd be some carryover. But the Rangers are trying to win, too. They're desperate. If you don't have your best game, you're going to struggle.
DN: Can you put your finger on what's causing that inconsistency?
PH: I can't really put my finger on it. If I could do that, we could probably be able to fix it. I think the coaches feel the same way. Even talking to the players, I think they feel the same way. It's just a matter of being ready to play and doing what it takes to win. [On Sunday], we just didn't seem to have any jump to our game. Who knows why that is? At this point in the season, we can't worry about the games we've already played.
DN: Have you been pleased with the job Peter Laviolette has done?
PH: Yeah, I have. Obviously, it took some time to implement the style of play that Peter wants to see our team play. It's more of an up-tempo style. I think some of our guys weren't in the best physical condition to play his style of play, more of a four-line system to get everyone involved. It's started to pay dividends in terms of wins.
DN: Was it tough to stand pat at the trade deadline and not take the bait on certain offers that came your way?
PH: We made some decisions going into the deadline, we had certain guys that we weren't prepared to move under any circumstances. After that, you're just looking at depth in terms of positions or maybe there is a different swap. In all honesty, nothing really made sense for us. We did try in the end to add another depth player on defense and another player up front. But that didn't work out. I've said all year long that I like our team and I still do.
DN: You have always said that you are confident in Michael Leighton and his abilities, but is it tough to put your trust in someone who has only been here for a limited sample size?
PH: What would've been the difference if it was Ray Emery? Him and Michael have been with the team almost the same amount of time. Or Brian Boucher, for that matter. So, no, I have every confidence in Michael. I think he's played well. The numbers since he's been with us speak for themselves. I don't know how many goalies in the NHL have Stanley Cups - Martin Brodeur, Cam Ward, Chris Osgood, Marc-Andre Fleury - so that means there are 25 other teams that are in the same boat that we're in, wondering whether Michael is good enough. But we think Michael is good enough to lead us into the playoffs.
DN: How do you look at the current playoff picture? Would a first-round matchup against Washington or Pittsburgh be a blow to this team?
PH: I think once you get in, anything can happen. You need to get there first. Part of our journey right now is just to get in. Once we know who we're playing, then we can come up with a game plan. Right now, we're just trying to focus all of our energy on getting there. Then, you never know.
Getting a breather
Coming off sluggish performances in two of their last three games, where the Flyers often looked like they were skating in mud, Peter Laviolette decided to give his squad a complete day off yesterday. They are in the middle of a stretch with eight games in 13 days.
"The schedule is ridiculous right now,'' Laviolette said. "There is just no time for us [to practice]. We played a game [on Sunday against the Rangers] that was missing energy - and with that, we didn't pressure anything. Somehow, we need to get some energy back for this week.''
With just 14 games remaining, winger Danny Briere doesn't think being tired - even with an Olympic-condensed schedule - should be a plausible excuse.
"At this time of the season, games are too crucial [to be tired],'' Briere said Sunday in New York. "You can be tired when the season is over and the playoffs are over. Not at this point.''
To help conserve energy, the Flyers will stay over in Nashville and Dallas this week after their games as opposed to flying through the night to get to their next destination.
If you thought last Sunday's NBC "Game of the Week'' between Chicago and Washington would draw well, you'll be surprised. The highly anticipated game attracted just a 1.0 national overnight rating, the second-lowest turnout of the season for NBC. The Flyers will have a chance to top that when Detroit comes to town on April 4, as NBC chose that Flyers home game yesterday; it was moved from 3 p.m. to a 12:30 start . . . Captain Mike Richards has been nominated for the Mark Messier leadership award on NHL.com this week.
By the numbers
0: Mike Richards' plus/minus ratio this season. Richards was a combined plus-36 over the last 2 years.
3: Number of times the Flyers have failed to crack 20 shots in a game, including Sunday's loss to the Rangers.
14: Consecutive starts in goal for Michael Leighton.
4-3-1: Flyers' record since the Olympic break ended on March 1.
The week ahead
at Nashville Predators
Tonight, 8, CSN
The Predators, who entered last night's action firmly entrenched in the seventh spot in the Western Conference with 81 points, wrapped up a three-game Western trip with two wins. They held a 4-2, third-period lead against top-ranked San Jose before falling, 8-5. Nashville is led by five 40-point scorers, though no player has more than Martin Erat's 43 points.
at Dallas Stars
Thursday, 8:30, CSN
Dallas is on the outside looking in at the West playoff race. Heading into last night, the Stars were seven points back of eighth place. They don't seem to be going anywhere fast, with a negative goals-for/goals-against ratio. Dallas is 3-5-2 in its last 10 games and has lost three in a row. Brad Richards is fifth in the NHL with 55 assists.
at Atlanta Thrashers
Saturday, 7, TCN
Although Atlanta entered last night's action just five points back of Boston for the eighth playoff position, the Thrashers are floundering, having lost six in row. But the Flyers may be the remedy, having dropped both games to Atlanta this season. The Thrashers are also 3-5-2 in their last 10 and are 15-13-5 at Philips Arena.
vs. Atlanta Thrashers
Sunday, 7, CSN
Forward Nik Antropov has enjoyed a quiet resurgence in Atlanta since signing there as a free agent last July. The lanky forward already has eclipsed his career high for points this season, leading Atlanta with 57. Both Antropov and late signee Maxim Afinogenov (52 points) have helped carry the load since Ilya Kovalchuk was jettisoned to New Jersey last month.