Flyers keep it fresh

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Nearly 35 years ago, the Broad Street Bullies brawled their way to two Stanley Cups.

The enduring image of that club was Philadelphia Flyers captain Bob Clarke and his gap-toothed grin.

The Spectrum, where those Bullies played, is scheduled for demotion this season. But their spirit -- sandpaper mixed with skill -- lives on in the current edition of the Flyers.

New captain Mike Richards, the former Kitchener Ranger who duked it out with London Knights star Corey Perry at centre ice in the 2005 OHL playoffs, is now the face of the franchise.

"The weirdest thing is they're cheering me here now -- but I heard booing at the start," grinned Richards, who had a goal and assist in a fiesty 4-0 shutout win over the New York Islanders before an announced 7,706 in NHL preseason play at the John Labatt Centre.

"It was a little strange to be in here (the Knights dressing room). It takes some getting used to."

Londoner Jeff Carter, Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul also scored for the Flyers. Martin Biron and Jean-Sebastien Aubin shared the shutout.

Before the game, Richards' game stick was leaning against a wall outside Knights dressing room, which had been redecorated for one day in Philadelphia black-and-orange.

Beside it was a hot pink hockey stick. Clarke, now a Flyers senior vice president, walked by and saw it.

You don't think pink when you think of Philly.

"Whose is that?" Clarke said with a grin, knowing all along it was earmarked to be autographed for charity.

Richards, for one, is happy Clarke's still around. As the highly paid 23-year-old captain of a younger team with tons of potential, there's a veteran voice to turn to in time of need.

"I haven't had a big talk with him yet because I haven't had to," Richards said. "There hasn't been any situations that have come up where I had to ask any questions.

"But it's nice to know he's there in case I ever need him. He is (the face of the franchise)."

The NHL is becoming a game where smaller guys can play but, based on last night, there's still some policemen out there.

There were three fights (the longest was former Peterborough pest Steve Downie's bout with Islander Michael Haley) and one near-heavyweight tilt between Flyers tough guy Riley Cote and former London Knights enforcer Brandon Sugden, trying to crack the Islanders lineup this year in honour of his father Travis, who is battling cancer.

NHL preseason games are no longer fresh events in London because the Flyers keep coming back almost year. This contest, which priced the top tickets above $70, was outdrawn by a Knights exhibition game earlier this month.

Philly, which lost 3-1 in Ottawa on Wednesday, didn't bring along former Knights Danny Syvret, Josh Beaulieu or last year's team MVP Pat Maroon for the two-game trip.

Daniel Briere was in the building but didn't dress. Star winger Simon Gagne made the trip wasn't quite ready for his NHL return.

He hasn't played since Feb. 10, when he suffered a concussion against Pittsburgh -- the third time he was sidelined by such an injury last year.

"He's been off so long, we figure we'll give him some time to practice and get his timing back and get his skating legs back, so hopefully we'll get him in by the weekend," Flyers head coach John Stevens said.

GAME GLANCE

Flyers 4, Islanders 0

Philadelphia goals: Mike Richards, Mike Knuble, Jeff Carter, Joffrey Lupul

Shutout: Martin Biron (two periods) and Jean-Sebastien Aubin (one period)


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