TORONTO (AP)—Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock complained earlier in the series that Philadelphia’s playoff games against Toronto were lacking excitement.
That was before his club lost to the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, and had their lead in the best-of-seven, second-round series cut to 2-1.
Hitchcock isn’t complaining now.
“It was fun,” Hitchcock said Thursday, a day after the Flyers’ chippy 4-1 loss. “People are screaming at us, we’re screaming at them, bodies are flying. There was no hitting in the first two games, but it’s coming on now.”
And now it’s Philadelphia’s turn to respond. Game 4 is in Toronto on Friday night.
Before Game 3, Hitchcock said the series hadn’t really started because the first two games in Philadelphia lacked the intensity of last year’s first-round meeting between the teams, a matchup the Flyers won in six games.
“It’s not near where it was last year, but it is getting a little more reckless,” Hitchcock said. “It’s good for hockey, it’s good for the fans, not so good for some of the players, but it’s exciting right now.”
Adding to Hitchcock’s excitement is the return of injured defenseman Kim Johnsson, who is expected to play Friday after missing three games because of a broken bone his right hand.
Sami Kapanen will go back to being a forward after replacing Johnsson on defense.
“Sami did a great job, but Kim’s arguably our best defenseman,” Hitchcock said. “When you’re adding good players into our lineup, especially in a heated series like this, it’s a good feeling.”
Johnsson will be paired with Marcus Ragnarsson, who didn’t practice on Thursday after being slashed in the leg on Wednesday. Hitchcock expects Ragnarsson to play.
Hitchcock also juggled his lines in practice Thursday, putting Jeremy Roenick with John LeClair on a line that would also feature Mark Recchi, who is expected to play despite missing practice due to the flu.
Hitchcock says he wants to spread the talent out in an effort to match the energy of the Maple Leafs, who roll out four lines. Amonte, Zhamnov and Roenick had formed a line of former Chicago Blackhawks players.
The Leafs proved to be the more physical team, knocking the Flyers off of their game on Wednesday. Leading the way was Alexander Mogilny, the play-making forward who not only opened the scoring but delivered some uncharacteristically hard hits, drawing the Flyers’ ire.
Mogilny isn’t worried that he will become more of a target.
“They’ve been going after me in all three games,” he said. “I’m getting run over on every shift.”
And Mogilny laughed off comments made by Roenick, who inferred that the Leafs had suddenly found their backbone at home.
“Let them say whatever they want,” Mogilny said.
Among Mogilny’s hits was a check from behind that sent Flyers defenseman Danny Markov limping off the ice. No penalty was called, and Markov isn’t interested in complaining.
“I don’t cry like the Toronto Maple Leafs have cried about penalties all series,” Markov said.
The Flyers vowed to be more physical.
“We have to take it to them,” Amonte said. “It’s a pivotal game in the series. We have to show more desperation.”
Even Hitchcock got into the mood, when saying how happy he was to have Kapanen back playing forward.
“He becomes the hunter instead of the hunted,” Hitchcock said. “All those scurrilous Leafs better watch out because he’s coming after them.”