Flyers, Bolts looking for an edge

Originally Published: May 18, 2004
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Eastern Conference finals have evolved into exactly the kind of series the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning anticipated -- long, emotional and extremely physical.

There are even signs of a real rivalry brewing between the teams, which are tied 2-2 heading into Game 5 Tuesday night in Tampa.

"There's definitely some emotions there. ... We have been at our best in two, and they have been their best in two. Now it's coming down to the best-of-three," Philadelphia forward Mark Recchi said Monday. "We'll see what happens."

The Lightning won Games 1 and 3, and the Flyers claimed 2 and 4, with each club winning once on the road.

To gain the upper hand in the series, the Flyers will have to buck the alternating victory trend in Game 5.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, must rebound from Saturday's 3-2 road loss that evened the series.

Lightning forward Tim Taylor shrugged off a question about whether Tampa Bay is looking for one of its stars to take the team on his back, much the way captain Keith Primeau did for the Flyers the past two games.

"We need everyone to step up. This is our season," he said.

Lightning coach John Tortorella feels the same way.

"I always think you need someone to try to lead the charge. But eventually it has to be collectively. I don't think any one guy is going to win a series," Tortorella said.

"Keith has played very well for them, and I think other guys are chipping in for them. That has to be our mind-set."

Game 6 will be Thursday night in Philadelphia. Game 7, if necessary, would be in Tampa on Saturday.

"I think what we're finding out is that there's a real fine line of difference between these two teams, and it has to do with controlling the tempo," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The little bit that we have been able to control, we have won, and the little bit we have been chasing it, we haven't won.

"Both teams have responded with the sense of desperation after a loss, and that's why we're the ones that feel like we have to change a little bit here if we want to win this series. We don't want to let them build back something that we kind of took away a little bit in Game 4."

Both teams practiced Monday after taking Sunday off.

And even though the extra rest figures to give injured players such as Philadelphia's Jeremy Roenick and Joni Pitkanen a better chance to be ready for Game 5, the Flyers were not thrilled about the playoff schedule, which gave the teams two days off after the second and fourth games.

Roenick and Pitkanen both sustained possible concussions in Game 4. Roenick practiced Monday and is expected to play Tuesday; a decision will be made about Pitkanen after the pregame skate.

"Everybody talks about momentum in a playoff series. ... I don't know if you can build on the kind of momentum we created with two days off in between," Primeau said. "We've given this team, after our wins, two days to regather themselves and refocus, so the challenge becomes even greater."

Tortorella said both teams have benefited from the extra time to nurse bumps and bruises. Ultimately, though, he believes the difference in the series will be mental toughness -- not adjustments forced, in part, by injuries.

"As you go, I think to five, six, seven, it's attrition," the Lightning coach said. "It's a little bit of mental toughness and how you get it done."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE