Flyers can only cling to hope

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Antero Niittymaki has seen this awful scene in The Philadelphia Story before.

"That's the way it has been the past five or six games," the Flyers netminder said with a sigh after a 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs. "Play great, the other team gets one or two breaks and it's in our net."

When it adds up to a record of 3-10-1 and last place in the National Hockey League, there is greater cause for concern, yet the Flyers consider the two or three good periods they've put together the past week as a sign that things will turn around

"It feels like we're getting better," said captain Peter Forsberg, who is facing much speculation about his future with the team. "It's tough for everyone in the organization, not just (himself). But I'm not going to get down."

In this case, the Norse gods are shining on Leafs' Swedish captain Mats Sundin, who has watched Forsberg win two Stanley Cups in Colorado (originally Sundin's Quebec Nordiques) and get the Calder, Art Ross and Hart Trophies, as well as a new start in Philly with a team that made the playoffs last year.

"It's never easy when a team is struggling and that has to be a tough thing for Peter to be going through," Sundin said. "You can tell their team is not playing with a lot of confidence."

In their past 11 seasons, the Flyers have not finished lower than second in their division, but the way they look, they'll be holding a handful of draft lottery tickets.

"The season is still young," forward Simon Gagne said earlier yesterday. "There might be a point where you wake up and see it might be too late for the playoffs, but not yet.

"I signed on for five years here, it's a young team and I knew it would be a project."

Forsberg, far from being the MVP thus far, is getting public heat about his fitness to be captain and a deluge of trade rumours. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, though he and the Flyers are denying their intention to part company.

"It's just people writing about it," Forsberg said of the talk. "I have no intention to leave. I don't want to leave. "I don't think I've been in this bad of a hole at the beginning of the year. But you learn something from every situation and maybe we can learn from this."


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