Philly still has home-ice advantage

Updated: May 6, 2004, 2:49 PM ET
Associated Press

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers will be fine if they keep winning at home.

After losing two straight in Toronto, the Flyers are back in their building Sunday for Game 5 of their best-of-seven, second-round playoff series. Though the Maple Leafs have momentum, the Flyers still have home-ice advantage.

"It's our job to really take the momentum and turn it around the other way," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "This is a best-of-three series now and we've got two games at home. If we take care of business at home then we're going to win the series."

The Leafs realize they won't advance unless they find a way to win in Philadelphia.

"We've just got to go in and take it like it doesn't matter where we're playing the game," Leafs forward Darcy Tucker said. "It's just a sheet of ice with boards and glass."

Toronto outscored Philadelphia 7-2 in its two victories, and killed five of six power plays. While the Leafs are getting goals from Mats Sundin and Alexander Mogilny, the Flyers' top players have been shut out.

Jeremy Roenick hasn't scored in the series and John LeClair and Michal Handzus don't have any goals in the playoffs.

"Your best players have to be your best players," Hitchcock said.

The rejuvenated Leafs could get even more help if center Joe Nieuwendyk returns Sunday. Nieuwendyk, who has missed three straight games with what is believed to be a back problem, participated in an optional skate Saturday morning.

"I feel pretty good," said Nieuwendyk, who has five playoff goals. "It'll be a game-time decision."

Sundin has turned the series around since returning from a leg injury for Game 2. He scored twice and was the most dominant player on the ice in Friday night's 3-1 victory. In Philadelphia, Hitchcock gets the last line change so he'll be able to match Keith Primeau, one of best defensive centers in the NHL, against Sundin.

"It's a real challenge," Primeau said of going against Sundin. "He's most dangerous when you give him open space. He's a big man, but he skates well. You have to contain him. I'll play him physical. I won't change my approach. I'm not going to start chasing him."

The Flyers not only have home-ice advantage, they have odds in their favor. Philadelphia is 16-0 when winning the first two games in a best-of-seven series.

"We have to play our most complete game," Hitchcock said. "We are not going to get away playing 30 or 40 minutes of really good hockey. We have to play 60."

The Leafs started having success when they began looking to make more plays on offense rather than relying on strong defense. The pivotal goal in the series came when Sundin intercepted a pass in his own zone and sent a crisp pass to a streaking Mogilny for a breakaway goal in Game 3.

"You can't win solely playing defense," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "When you do get the puck, you have to try to do something. That's the difference I think in the past couple of nights here, our guys have made some offensive transition and tried to take the chances that were provided to score goals."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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