Flyers there for taking

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

In one of the lowest points in Philadelphia Flyers history, former bench boss Ken Hitchcock is trying to take the high road.

It can't be easy.

Relieved of his coaching duties on the same day last month that long-time general manager Bob Clarke resigned, Hitchcock has swallowed his pride and is throwing all his efforts into serving as both a Flyers scout and an advisor to interim GM Paul Holmgren.

"The tough times are over," Hitchcock said yesterday in a phone interview.

Maybe that's the case for Hitchcock.

But it hardly seems that way for his team.

Chaos reigns supreme both on and off the ice throughout this once-proud franchise, which has come out of the gates just 3-9-1 -- the worst start through 13 games in Flyers history.

On the surface, those dismal numbers might make the Maple Leafs overconfident heading into their meeting with the struggling "Broad St. Bullies" tonight at the Air Canada Centre.

Even without the services of healing defenceman Pavel Kubina, who is expected to make his return to the lineup later this week, the Leafs still have to like their chances against a Flyers squad sorely lacking a sense of self-worth.

Coming off their best performance of the season, an impressive 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night, seeing the Leafs oozing with swagger tonight would come as no surprise.

But there will be no such chest beating here. Not after the way they were thumped 4-2 by the Florida Panthers last week.

Showing just how serious they are taking the Flyers, 15 players took to the ice for an optional practice yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena. A handful of those who didn't skate, including captain Mats Sundin, were in the building receiving treatment or engaging in an off-ice workout.

"This is no disrespect to our hockey club, but we're not looking down our noses at anyone in this league," coach Paul Maurice said. "If the Flyers beat us, they will beat us.

"When we get beat by Florida, it's not like, "Oh my, how could you lose to them?" They're a good team. They work hard.

"There's not a big enough gap any more to look at it that way. If they outwork you and their goaltender is good, you are going to lose that way."

From chairman Ed Snider's unsuccessful attempt to land NHL vice-president Colin Campbell as GM, to the trade rumours surrounding star forward Peter Forsberg, the Flyers are a team in turmoil.

Despite the fact a Calgary scout has been tracking the Flyers recently, COMCAST president Peter Luukko yesterday told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Forsberg is not being shopped, adding that "no one" is asking.

COMCAST is the parent corporation overseeing the operation of the Flyers.

DOWNCAST might be a better name, given the team's recent woes.


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