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Flyers hold skills competition before long break

Less than 24 hours after their worst performance of the season, the Flyers were like giddy school kids ready to go on vacation.

"The last couple weeks have been tough on us," Danny Briere admitted. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)
"The last couple weeks have been tough on us," Danny Briere admitted. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)Read more

Less than 24 hours after their worst performance of the season, the Flyers were like giddy school kids ready to go on vacation.

They were officially on their holiday break.

The Flyers were looking past Monday's 5-0 spanking by lowly Florida and ahead to four days off. They don't practice again until Sunday, and they have seven days between the Florida loss and their next game - Tuesday in Vancouver.

"Just going to relax and spend time with the kids a little bit," center Danny Briere said after an intense one-hour practice, followed by a skills competition at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night. "It's not too often you have six or seven days off at Christmastime, so we're going to try to take advantage of it."

Monday's loss ended the Flyers' five-game winning streak - and was just their second regulation defeat in their last 15 games (10-2-3).

"The last couple weeks have been tough on us; we've played a lot of big games, a lot of emotional games," said Briere, who is tied with Claude Giroux for the team lead with 16 goals. "I think we ran out of juice [Monday]. The tank was empty and it showed in the game, so it's time to refocus and get our energy back."

"There's always going to be a blip in the road," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Nobody's happy about it, but they happen and you deal with it and move on. If you evaluate everything as a whole, there have been a lot of positive things."

The Flyers (22-8-5) are happy with their overall body of work - an NHL-best 49 points during an impressive 2½-month stretch.

"If you look from the beginning of the season to this point, it couldn't be much better than where we're at," Briere said. "It's a good start, but we all know the most important part is in front of us."

"We've put ourselves in a pretty good position, but we don't play for first place now - we play for first place at the end of the year," winger James van Riemsdyk said.

As for the skills competition, which is similar to what will take place at the all-star festivities in Raleigh, N.C, in late January, van Riemsdyk registered the hardest shot (101.5 m.p.h.) and finished second to Andreas Nodl (14.096 seconds) with a 14.118-second clocking in a lap around the ice.

"I never really take slap shots, so I didn't know what to expect," van Riemsdyk said. "I never really had my shot read by a radar gun, and I definitely surprised myself a little bit."

Boston's Zdeno Chara won the 2009 All-Star SuperSkills event with a 105.4 m.p.h. slap shot. Van Riemsdyk would have won 10 of the last 17 of those contests.

Despite his hard slapper, van Riemsdyk said he would probably continue using a wrist shot because "you never get the time to take that kind of windup in a game."

Many of the Flyers are going in different directions to spend the holidays with their families. Van Riemsdyk is headed to his folks' home in Central Jersey. "Maybe play some pond hockey with my brothers," he said. "I know they're all fired up for that, so I'm excited to spend the holidays with them."

Skills competition. Van Riemsdyk, who, in addition to winning the slap-shot competition had two goals in the breakaway relay, helped the Orange team defeat the White, 10-8, in the skills competition.

Shooting at targets, Scott Hartnell was a team-best 4 for 5.

All 19,000-plus tickets were handed out, but a 76ers-like crowd of 11,096 attended the event.

In the breakaway relay, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped six of nine attempts, while Michael Leighton stopped five of nine.

The event will be shown on Comcast at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Breakaways. Injured defenseman Chris Pronger and Bobrovsky are third at their respective positions in the fans' latest all-star voting. . . . Goalie Brian Boucher had his wisdom teeth pulled and did not participate in practice or the skills competition. Neither did captain Mike Richards, who had a maintenance day. . . . Nine of the Flyers' next 10 games are on the road. . . .Van Riemsdyk also had the second-hardest shot (100.8 m.p.h.), while Andrej Meszaros was next at 98.6 m.p.h., followed by Hartnell at 95.8 m.p.h.