For Mike Testwuide and several Phantoms the end of the AHL regular season on April 10 did not mean they were finished with their hockey for the year. Several players were invited to participate on the Flyers' playoff practice squad at the team's training facility in Voorhees, NJ. They are called the Black Aces. And their continued workouts and practices keep the players fresh and in shape in case injuries should force the Flyers to dip deeper into their roster. And it gives the young prospects like Testwuide an opportunity to be around some of the best players in the world during a Stanley Cup Playoff run.
Mike Testwuide found some free time to answer some of the fans' questions about his experience with the Black Aces.
Q: First of all Mike, how's it going with you there?
Mike: Oh it's great. You know, it's just great to be back down here in Philly and back with the guys with all the coaches and skating back down at the Skate Zone. You know it's a great bunch down here in Philly and it's just really great to be a part of it.
Q: I know you had spent a lot of time there this last summer when you were getting ready to join the Flyers organization. We have a lot of questions sent in from our fans so lets get to some of them. First question is; Do the Black Aces go on the road with the Flyers?
Mike: Yeah, they took Ben Holmstrom and Erik Gustafsson on the road to Buffalo. Those are the only two Black Aces that went. So I think it's just kind of a case of immediate guys there for a quick call-up and they only took a couple of us there.
Q: Michael from facebook asks if there is any kind of a ritual or what do you guys do when you're watching the Flyers games when Philly is at home?
Mike: We actually do have kind of a ritual. We eat a pregame meal at a place called Laceno. We all eat together and then we drive down to the game and we sit in the press-box and watch the game there. When the team is on the road we pretty much eat on our own.
Q: So I guess since you eat a pre-game meal before you leave you aren't eating the food at the arena during the games as much.
Mike: No, not really. But they have really stepped it up in the press-box with the food compared with last year. Lots of media here and they drink lots of coffee to keep going.
Q: Shawn from facebook has a question, and I think you're going to like this one. He wants to know what it's like NOT playing in front of the Section N hecklers?!
Mike: Haha. That's great. Yeah, I think those fans are maybe the greatest in the league. They're always getting under the other team's skin. I think maybe they could come down here and do pretty well. They have some pretty good fans here in Philly too but I think our fans could do great. I think they should come down.
Q: How much interaction do you get with the Flyers players?
Mike: Umm, not much really. We are pretty much on our own. On a different day some of the injured guys might come down and skate with us and also some of the guys who just wanted to get a little bit of extra work in. We have pretty limited contact with the Flyers directly. But we see them around and we're with them, you know, a little bit, but it's great to just be around them.
Q: Justin on facebook wants to ask how you are meshing with the squad but it doesn't sound like there's that much meshing that goes on.
Mike: No, there's not much meshing. You know, they do want to keep their team chemistry as close as they can to what they've had all season and then they want to tend to keep us on the outside until we're called upon and then we'll be right there and trying to fill whatever role they want us to fill.
Q: Dante wants to know if your number is called is there a particular player you would most want to play with?
Mike: Ummm, (long pause), I haven't really thought about that. I can't say that there is. I think just getting a chance to play would be a great opportunity and with whoever I'm playing with would be fine with me.
Q: Josh asks if you have a certain player that you like to watch the most on game-night.
Mike: Yeah, you know I've been watching a lot of JVR, James van Rymsdyk. He's been playing really well lately and I just love how he plays and it's a pretty similar style. He drives to the net really hard and he just works really hard down low. I like how he plays. You know I've actually been watching a guy on Buffalo a lot... (Paul) Gaustad and he plays a really similar role and he's hard to play against so I've actually been watching a lot of him.
Q: That's interesting that you would bring up a Buffalo guy. I wasn't expecting that. Chris from facebook is asking how different an approach would you make to your game if you were called upon to compete at the next level.
Mike: You know I think I just gotta continue where I left off. I think I was playing good hockey at the end of the year controlling the puck down low and being a big, physical presence and I think that's just kind of what I need to bring here. Just tend to keep doing what I was doing up in Glens Falls at the end of the year.
Q: Michael is asking how you go about things during practices and if it's strictly business. It sounds like you guys, the Black Aces, are all on your own side. You're not even on the same ice-sheet with the Flyers.
Mike: Nope. We're on our own separate ice-sheet. And they've been gone because they're on the road. Their schedule is totally different on game-days. They have practice down at the Wells Fargo Center so their schedule is completely different than ours. We're at the Skate Zone everyday. On the ice at 11 and Riley Cote is out there with us, Kjell Samuelsson, Ian Laperriere, Jeff Rees the goalie coach. We just do a lot of skill-work and we're just trying to do everything to get better and improve our games.
Q: Is it strictly business for you during practices or are they trying to find ways to make it fun because obviously all practices and no games is not as fun.
Mike: They actually do a really good job making it fun. But at the same time we have a really good group of guys who love to work and love to get better so it's a good atmosphere to work hard and improve the skills. A lot of shooting drills and we try to get at Backlund as much as we can.
Q: Haha, I'm sure you guys are doing that. A couple more questions. Are you staying at that hotel that is near the Skate Zone. You guys don't get your own apartments for just a quick stretch there do you?
Mike: Nope. We're staying at the Hampton Inn right now. You know, hotel living is, uh, okay for a little bit but it could get a little interesting come June if they're still in the playoffs. Living in a hotel for that long is pretty interesting.
Q: I'm sure you'll make it! Last summer you stayed all summer long down at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. Do you have plans on doing that again this summer or have you not really thought about that yet?
Mike: I'm kind of playing it by ear depending on how this season ends up and how far they go in the playoffs. I definitely want to get back to Colorado and do some hiking, biking and some outdoor stuff and do some camping and fishing and stuff. I want to be back in Colorado for a little bit but I'm definitely planning on coming here a little while before training camp and working with Jimmy and the strength guys and the guys on the ice so we'll get ready for next year.
Q: Chris Porreca in the Phantoms office wants to know about your rituals. Are they all out while you're a Black Ace or do you continue to follow those?
Mike: They're kind of out. It's different when you're not in a game routine. The rituals kind of go out the door. You can't really be stuck in a routine when you're not playing in a game so they kind of have to change up when you're in a different atmosphere. We'll see what happens if I get into a game maybe I'll change that up and I'll have a new routine.
Q: Sounds good. Thanks a lot Mike for taking time to do this.
Mike: Sure. No problem.
Tune in as the Flyers try to take two of three from the Sabres to wrap up round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Game 5 is tonight from Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m. on Versus. Game 6 from Buffalo is Sunday, April 24 at 3 p.m. on NBC, and Game 7 (if necessary) will be played on Tuesday night (4/26) in Philly.