Philly happy to have home ice vs. Toronto

Updated: April 21, 2004, 2:20 PM ET
Associated Press

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers are thrilled to have home-ice advantage for the second round of the NHL playoffs. Now they know their opponent, too.

Philadelphia will face the Toronto Maple Leafs, who beat the Ottawa Senators 4-1 Tuesday night in Game 7 of their first-round series. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals series is Thursday night in Philadelphia.

The Flyers were assured they would open their next series at home when the Montreal Canadiens eliminated the Boston Bruins on Monday night.

"The deeper the series goes, the more benefit it is to have home-ice advantage," Flyers captain Keith Primeau said Tuesday. "I'm excited to have it in the second round. We certainly didn't expect it."

When the Bruins took a 3-1 series lead over Montreal, the third-seeded Flyers figured they would have to go through Boston, which was seeded No. 2. But the Canadiens came back to win three straight games and will meet the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.

The Flyers have been off since Saturday, when they eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils with a 3-1 victory in Game 5.

They should be rested and refreshed for Thursday's series opener.

"We're ready to go," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We don't like either team. They don't like us. If it was Boston, it would've been a new experience. This is nothing new. The rivalry is as heated as it can get."

The Flyers beat the Maple Leafs in a grueling first-round series last year that lasted the equivalent of nine games -- seven games and seven overtime periods. They were 3-1 against Toronto this season, losing 3-2 in their final meeting March 18.

"You can't worry about the opponent. They're all going to be hard games," Hitchcock said.

Kim Johnsson
Johnsson

Philadelphia defenseman Kim Johnsson didn't practice Tuesday because of a broken bone in his right hand, but he could skate with the team Wednesday. His status for the series opener is uncertain, but Hitchcock was optimistic because the swelling in Johnsson's hand went down.

Johnsson, the Flyers' best defenseman, was injured late in Saturday's game against the Devils. He was hit with the puck and has a hairline fracture of the fourth metacarpal -- the bone connecting the ring finger and the wrist.

Already without Eric Desjardins, the Flyers moved forward Sami Kapanen to defense for Tuesday's practice. Kapanen played two games on defense during the regular season.

"He looked excellent -- his quickness, his competitiveness," Hitchcock said. "He looked comfortable. If we have to use him for a game or two, it's not a problem at all."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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