The Philadelphia Flyers, who had the best home-ice record in the National Hockey League, begin play here Sunday night in the one Stanley Cup playoff series where they do not have the extra home game.
Everything else would appear to be in the Flyers' favor.
The Quebec Nordiques earned the home-ice advantage for the best-of-seven Prince of Wales Conference championship because the Adams Division had a 154-139-37 margin over the Patrick during the regular season. So, although the Flyers' 113 points were the NHL's top figure, 22 more than Quebec, the series will begin in Le Colisee.
At least it offers the Nordiques a chance to get off on the right skate. As the New York Islanders discovered, opening at the Spectrum a couple of days after finishing an emotional series is a sure promise of disaster.
Including five playoff games, the Flyers are 37-4-4 on home ice. They have won 20 in a row at the Spectrum since losing to Buffalo on Feb. 2.
Actually, the Flyers haven't been dropping very many games anywhere recently. They have won 23 of their last 25, and it would seem that unless they wake up some day, realize what they are doing and succumb to a state of shock, they are destined to win the Stanley Cup.
The Flyers come into this series after nine days of rest. That might make them rusty for a period, but it is certain to be a better circumstance than that in which the weary, battered Nordiques find themselves.
The Flyers had five days off, following their sweep of the New York Rangers, when they took on the New York Islanders, who were reeling from that five-game struggle with the Capitals. Philadelphia breezed to three straight victories before the Islanders unclogged their arteries.
The Nordiques, who have gone the limit -- 12 games -- in both playoff series, are caught in psychological turmoil, between celebrating their seven-game ouster of Montreal and nursing some injured stars back to health.
Quebec's situation was best described by goaltender Mario Gosselin, who finished Thursday's overtime game in Montreal despite taking a painful slap shot on the breastbone. "It hurt a lot, but there was no way I was coming out," Gosselin said. "(Michel) Goulet couldn't walk and he was playing. And I had lunch with (Dale) Hunter and he couldn't even cut his spaghetti, his hand hurt so much, but he still wanted to play."
Gosselin, who has been in goal in 11 of the Nordiques' 12 postseason games, still was sore today, but he was confident that he would be ready for the Flyers.
Goulet, Quebec's top goal scorer with 55 in the regular season and 11 in the playoffs, also is a probable starter, despite constant pain in the lower back from a vicious check administered a week ago by Montreal's Ric Nattress.
Hunter, the spark of the team, is less likely to see action Sunday. His hand became infected after he punched the Canadiens' Mario Tremblay and he still has trouble grasping his stick. He played briefly Thursday, but Coach Michel Bergeron admitted that he dressed Hunter primarily for cheerleader purposes on the bench.
Even more vital than the injury factor would seem to be the emotional difficulty of following up the all-out successes over Buffalo and Montreal without some breathing space. So, while the Nordiques were talking readiness, such a state was improbable. "We prescouted Philly against the New York Islanders and we're going to be ready," Bergeron said. "We respect the Flyers. They're a young team, they skate really well and they're a good checking team. They also have excellent goaltending with (Pelle) Lindbergh, who's been great all season.
"It should be a different series. Games against Montreal are always very emotional, but in this series shooting and skating will be more important."
Defenseman Normand Rochefort, still thanking fate and Gosselin for getting him off the hook following dangerous giveaways against Montreal, felt that the escape from the pressure cooker of the intraprovincial battle would settle down the team. "I was so overcome, I cried like a baby," Rochefort said. "You can't possibly know how much we suffered during that series. But we've had our deliverance and now we'll be confident against the Flyers."
In their only previous appearance in the conference championship, the Nordiques lost four straight to the Islanders in 1982. The Flyers met Quebec in the playoffs once before, in 1981, taking a five-game preliminary round series by 3-2. During the past season, the teams finished 1-1-1.