The Philadelphia Flyers flew to Toronto yesterday with the mindset they're going to finish off the Maple Leafs.
If they do, it likely will be with Robert Esche in goal.
Esche was suffering from flu-like symptoms, dehydration and dizziness -- but not a concussion -- when he left Game 5 on Sunday after the first period. After loading up on medicine on Sunday, Esche reported to the Flyers' practice rink in New Jersey yesterday feeling refreshed.
Coach Ken Hitchcock expects Esche will be between the pipes tonight in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semi-final at the Air Canada Centre. If the Flyers win, they will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the conference final.
Esche remains in a snit because some unkind things were written about him (in his mind) in the Philadelphia newspapers prior to the first round against the New Jersey Devils, and the thin-skinned netminder kept to his policy of not speaking to reporters on off-days. So, Hitchcock spoke for him.
"I felt good (after taking shots for 30 minutes yesterday)," Esche said through Hitchcock. "I had a lot of jump. I felt much better in the morning when I woke up and my energy level felt back to normal."
The same can't be said of Vladimir Malakhov. Hitchcock did not come right out and say the defenceman suffered a concussion, but noted that Malakhov departed Game 5 after the first period because he "got his bell rung" on a hit by Darcy Tucker and was feeling light-headed yesterday.
Hitchcock said Malakhov is doubtful for tonight, but will likely take the pre-game warmup. If he can't play, Sami Kapanen again will be shifted back to the blue line.
At any rate, the Flyers are in agreement the Leafs won't go down limply.
"We're going up there to try to end it," said Mark Recchi, who is starting to feel better after being hit by a stomach virus. "But they're a veteran team with a lot of warriors."
In best-of-seven series when the Flyers won Game 5 after being tied 2-2, they're a perfect 11-0. But, in Recchi's mind, history is for losers.
"If we go there and say it is going to be 12-0 and just throw our sticks in, we're going to be 11-1 pretty quick," Recchi said. "It's a tough building, but one that is fun to play in. We have to be ready from the get-go.
"If there is any chance of us coming out of this (with a win), we're going to have to be a lot better than we were (last week)."
The Flyers faced the same situation last year, when they lost Game 6 in Toronto when they could have clinched.
Flyers goalie now feeling refr-Esched
TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun
, Last Updated: 2:49 PM ET