GAGNE HEALTHY, ALSO A BATTLE FOR LAST D SPOT
"For a first game I'm pretty happy," he said. "The first one is a pretty tough one when you haven't played physical hockey in a long time. So, to go out there and play and be able to make some plays, take some hits and play at the NHL speed, I'm pretty happy."
Gagne told me afterward that his plan is to play in each of the remaining three preseason games.
"I can't expect to be able to start the season like that," he said snapping his fingers. "I need to get up to speed. I talked about it with Johnny (Stevens) and he thinks the same way. I'll play in all of them and then be ready to go for the opening game."
My stories in the Wednesday, Sept. 23 paper (and on delcotimes.com) focus on the battle brewing between James van Riemsdyk and MIka Pyorala for what is perceived to be the last roster spot.
But, on a smaller scale, there is a competition for the seventh defenseman, a position that usually will end up as a healthy scratch - barring injury.
This job also seems down to two players - Ole Kristian Tollefsen, who the Flyers signed late in the summer as a free agent after four seasons in Columbus, and Danny Syvret, who had a stellar season for the Phantoms in 2008-09 and even drank a cup of coffee with the big club.
Tollefsen hasn't had much of a chance to play after losing a tooth and requiring two other root canal surgeries after being hit in the mouth by a Mike Richards shot during practice last week ("He's a nice captain to welcome me to town that way, eh," OKT joked Monday) while Syvret has seen action, including in Tuesday's 5-2 win over Detroit.
Yet, I still think Tollefsen has the edge - he has more NHL experience, and he is a physical player, which fits the mold of what the Flyers want to portray this season.
Stevens also said prospect Oskars Bartulis has climbed up the depth chart and is likely the next guy behind those two.
Speaking of Pyorala, he told a few of us after the game that he trained in the summer with three former Flyers - Janni Niinimaa, Joni Pitkanen and Lasse Kukkonen, all of whom were from his same hometown - Oulu, Finland.
He said they all spoke highly of the Flyers organization, which was one of the reasons he chose to sign in Philadelphia.
Prediction time! I'll stick my neck out. Here's your opening night Flyers roster:
(they'll carry one extra forward and one extra defenseman)
Goalies (2) Ray Emery, Brian Boucher
Defense (7) Chris Pronger, Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Randy Jones, Ryan Parent, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.
Forwards (13) Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, Mika Pyorala, Darroll Powe, Ian Laperriere, Daniel Carcillo, Blair Betts, Arron Asham, Riley Cote.