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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 3:16 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils and Flyers lineups for Game 1

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- It appears as though New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer and Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will do a little line shuffling for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center.
 
On Saturday, DeBoer moved Alexei Ponikarovsky from third-line duty to the top line alongside center Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk; Zach Parise from the first line to the second with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus; and Petr Sykora from the second to third line with center Adam Henrique and David Clarkson.
 
During Flyers practice on Saturday, Laviolette broke up the productive trio of Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, giving Briere a new pair of wingers -- James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek. Schenn moved from left wing to center, where he was flanked by Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds.
 
The Flyers will also have Nicklas Grossmann returning to the lineup for the first time in three games after he sat out Games 5 and 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for both teams on Sunday:
 
FLYERS

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
James van Riemsdyk - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood
 
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson
 
Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky
 
DEVILS
 
Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Alexei Ponikarovsky
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
David Clarkson - Adam Henrique - Petr Sykora
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 1:19 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Flyers hope week off did them some good

PHILADELPHIA -- After a week away from the intensity of a Stanley Cup Playoff game, the Philadelphia Flyers will return to the ice Sunday against the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

During their seven-day layoff, the Flyers practiced all but one day, as coach Peter Laviolette did his best to keep his team active.

"We tried to work on things we needed to work on," Laviolette told NHL.com. "Spend a lot of time on the power play, systems, skating. We didn't take any days off; we just kept pushing forward. We got a little bit healthier. We're hoping that we can take the rest and the time that we had off and put it to good use and be ready at the start of the hockey game."

Whether that health extends to defenseman Nicklas Grossmann remains to be seen. Grossmann sat out Games 5 and 6 of the first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with an upper-body injury that one teammate called a concussion. However, Grossmann skated with the full group at practice Friday and Saturday, and went through drills with Braydon Coburn, his regular defense partner.

Laviolette, as is his rule, refused to address injury or lineup questions. If Grossmann does play, it's believed Pavel Kubina would be a healthy scratch, with rookie Erik Gustafsson, who had a goal and a team-high seven blocked shots in Game 6 against the Pens, staying in.

With the early start time here at Wells Fargo Center, the team did not have a morning skate. Here is the way the Flyers' lines looked at practice Saturday; whether those lines and pairings carry into the game, however, won't be known until the puck drops

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
James van Riemsdyk - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Forwards Zac Rinaldo and Jody Shelley will be healthy scratches. If Grossmann can't play, Pavel Kubina would return to the lineup. Kubina was a healthy scratch in Game 1 against the Penguins. He returned to the lineup for the final five games after Marc-Andre Bourdon was injured, but averaged just 10:35 of ice time per game, the fewest of any Philadelphia blueliner.

In four games against the Devils in the regular season, Bryzgalov was 3-0-0 with a 0.29 goals-against average and .987 save percentage -- he allowed one goal on 76 shots.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 1:16 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

DeBoer not revealing lineup combinations

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer refused to show his hand two hours before faceoff in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
 
DeBoer switched his top three lines around during the team's Saturday practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion in Newark, N.J., in preparation for the Flyers but would not reveal to the media during his post-game availability whether or not those combinations would stick.

The coach promoted Alexei Ponikarovsky from third-line duty to the top line alongside center Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk; Zach Parise from the first line to the second with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus; and Petr Sykora from the second to third line with center Adam Henrique and David Clarkson.
 
"We're going to get through warm-ups and see how everyone feels and then make some decisions," DeBoer said. "I feel comfortable and think our group feels comfortable with where we're at, and we're excited to start."
 
When asked if his team is dealing with health issues, DeBoer smiled.
 
"You're always dealing with health issues this time of year," he said. "This will be a totally different series [than against Florida]. I know that we're familiar with each other and each knows the strengths and weaknesses. For me, that team with the most composure and smarts will win."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 10:37 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Bryzgalov looms as a challenge for Devils

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has owned the New Jersey Devils in three regular-season meetings this season.
 
In fact, he's allowed just one goal on 76 shots.
 
Is that a concern for Devils coach Pete DeBoer?
 
"This is a whole different [time] of year, so regular season stats don't mean a heck of a lot," DeBoer said. "There's a different type of pressure, so I don't put a whole lot of stock in what happened in the regular season."
 
The hockey world will find out if Bryzgalov really does have the Devils number Sunday afternoon when the teams face off in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series here at Wells Fargo Center (3 p.m., NBC, CBC, RDS).
 
Bryzgalov finished 3-0-0 against the Devils in the regular season with a ridiculous 0.29 goals-against average, two shutuouts, and .987 save percentage. The Flyers consider that reassuring.
 
The Devils' players consider it a challenge they'll have to overcome.
 
"He's a big goalie and covers a lot of net with his butterfly style, so we have to create traffic and score that way," Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "He's great but we must find a way to score. It'll be interesting because we have the best goalie of all time … we'll see."
 
The only Devil to score on Bryzgalov this season was Alexei Ponikarovsky in a 4-1 loss on Jan. 21 in Newark, N.J. For his career, Bryzgalov is 4-1-0 with a 1.28 GAA and .950 save percentage; his only loss coming as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.
 
"I haven't seen him play too much over his career since he was out West," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "I know he's been up and down, but we also know he can put some good games together and when [they] counted, he played well. We'll have to be conscious of him to make his life hard in net."
 
Despite leading the Flyers to a six-game series victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round, Bryzgalov sported a hefty 3.89 GAA and unimpressive .871 save percentage.
 
Kovalchuk feels those statistics may be deceiving since the Penguins did lead the League with 3.33 goals-per game during the regular season.
 
"He's in his first season in Philly … it's different than Phoenix where there wasn't as much pressure and focus," Kovalchuk said. "I don't think he played that bad against Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has a great offense and people there know how score goals; we have to do the same thing."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 5:00 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils' Salvador ready for Game 1 vs. Flyers

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador on Saturday showed no lingering effects of a nasty slash he took from Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg in the early stages of the first overtime on Thursday in Game 7 of their opening-round series.

Salvador took a hard slash on his arm from Versteeg 3:21 into the first OT and missed a few shifts after losing the feeling in his hand. He did return and finished the game with 27:29 of ice time while a plus-1 rating in a 3-2 triumph.

"I've blocked out [the slash]," Salvador told NHL.com. "That's the least of my concerns right now."

His primary concern is helping the Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC).

What does Salvador, who has three assists and a plus-4 rating in seven playoff games, expect?

"I don't think I'm looking at this series being any more physical than it normally is against the Flyers," he said. "When we play against the Flyers, it's hard-hitting. I don't expect anything less. Both teams will be ready."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 4:55 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils ready for Flyers' skill and strength

NEWARK, N.J. -- So which team holds the advantage?

The Philadelphia Flyers have been idle since beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs on April 22. The Devils won 3-2 in double overtime triumph at Florida in Game 7 in a game that extended into early Friday morning.

Would you rather be on the team coming off a week's rest or the one coming off an emotional one-game showdown for all the marbles?

"I guess we'll find out [at] 3:20 tomorrow afternoon," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said Saturday. "You hope they're a little stale and hope that we're game ready and refreshed enough to pick up where we left off in overtime in Florida … but I don't know those things."

Patrik Elias doesn't see and advantage one way or another.

"Every series is always a new beginning," Elias said after his team's practice in Newark on Saturday.

"If you had a couple of weeks or 10 days to rest, maybe that would help, but they had a physical six-game series [with Pittsburgh] … it's not like they swept a team," Elias continued. "It's always nice to get some time off and rest the body before a physical series."

Speaking of a physical series, do the Devils anticipate having to match the Flyers' physicality from the outset -- particularly at the Wells Fargo Center, where fans enjoy spirited, hard-hitting play?

"I don't think we'll have any problem matching them physically, but you just have to do it whistle to whistle," DeBoer said. "You can't get into the stuff away from the puck and away from the whistle. We know the game they want to play but you can't fall into that trap. Pittsburgh did and they're at home watching."

Elias admitted this is a different Philadelphia team than the Devils have faced in playoffs past.

"They like to play a physical style of hockey, but they're a lot more skilled then in the past," Elias said. "They have a great mix of players there. They have role players, physical guys and plenty of skill up front."

Devils captain Zach Parise agreed.

"They put up a lot of goals against Pittsburgh and we'll have to make sure we're sharper with the puck," Parise said. "I was looking at their lineup [Saturday] morning and they have a lot of depth, so we're going to need everyone to be on top of their game.

"I'm sure it'll be physical since that's the style of hockey they want to play and that's what they're good at, so we're expecting that and know it will come."

The Devils and Flyers split their six regular-season games, with the road team winning twice in each building. The teams have met in the playoffs four times, with the Flyers taking the last two confrontations via five-game, first-round knockouts in 2004 and '10.

Here were the line combinations on Saturday:

Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Alexei Ponikarovsky

Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus

David Clarkson - Adam Henrique - Petr Sykora

Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold/Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur

Johan Hedberg

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 4:48 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils adjust lines at practice

NEWARK, N.J. -- An effective forecheck and undeniable compete level ultimately proved to be the difference for the New Jersey Devils in their opening-round triumph against the Florida Panthers in seven hard-fought games.
 
So what will be the game plan against the bigger Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series slated to begin at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC)?
 
For starters, how about a few line adjustments.
 
The Devils returned to practice on Saturday and coach Pete DeBoer conducted a one hour-plus workout in preparation for the Flyers.
 
DeBoer opened some eyes when he had top-line center Travis Zajac between Alexei Ponikarovsky and Ilya Kovalchuk, and second-line center Patrik Elias between Zach Parise and Dainius Zubrus -- Ponikarovsky and Parise were basically flipped. Petr Sykora, who was a staple on the Elias line most of the season, was placed on a line with center Adam Henrique and David Clarkson.
 
"Any kind of change is refreshing and it gives players around them a different jump and different look," DeBoer said after practice. "It doesn't mean we will make a change; we've won a lot of games here over last month with the lines we've had. No decisions have been made yet but any change usually gets a positive reaction, one way or another."
 
Henrique was the overtime hero in Game 7. The rookie connected for his second goal of the game 3:47 into the fifth period to end New Jersey's longest overtime playoff game since 2003.
 
Ponikarovsky was asked about the shuffling and being placed on the top line with Kovalchuk and Zajac.
 
"If they stay that way, it won't change my game," he said. "I know what I have to do and I'll just fit in with Trav and Kovy. We played one game against Pittsburgh back in the regular season and had some success, so that's what they're trying right now."
 
The only trio that remained intact from the Florida series was the fourth line of Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. That's not too surprising considering the trio accounted for five goals and nine points in seven games.
 
"We scored well 5-on-5 against Florida but there's always room for improvements," DeBoer said. "I thought our fourth line generated a lot of offense, and the top two lines were a little sporadic. We're going to try different things throughout this series."
 
DeBoer was also asked if rookie defenseman Adam Larsson could make his playoff debut in this series. Larsson has been a healthy scratch for 12 of the team's last 13 games, including all seven of the opening round.
 
"I would guess so," DeBoer said of the team's top pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. "We've only got seven defensemen here and you rarely get through series without some types of bumps and bruises, so I wouldn't doubt that he would play."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 3:03 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Flyers get a special visitor at practice


VOORHEES, N.J. -- With his team in town to play the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster couldn't pass up a chance to visit a few friends on the Flyers.

Dempster and Flyers center Danny Briere have been friends for a number of years, having been introduced by Todd Simpson, a teammate of Briere's when he played with the Phoenix Coyotes.

"Any chance during the season I get to watch a buddy of mine practice, it's exciting for me," Dempster said. "I'm a big hockey fan. It's fun to see these guys prepare for a big game [Sunday]."

Dempster, who turns 35 next week, was born in Sechelt, B.C., about two hours northwest of Vancouver.

"I was a Canucks fan, and my team in the East was the Flyers," he said. "I was a big Pelle Lindbergh fan. I don't know why, but I took to the goalies. Just remember watching him and watching the Flyers in the late 80s with [Ron] Hextall and stuff like that. Lots of good memories."

Dempster's time on the ice is limited to the offseason, but he said he's keeping track of the playoffs.

"Any time I can get to a hockey game it's awesome," he said. "To be able to get out there and watch a game, it's something I admire, never having the skill to do it. I kind of skate like Happy Gilmore. It's nice to sit there and watch these guys. I have so much admiration for what they can do on the ice."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 2:50 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

New look for two lines

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Whether he was trying out a new line or just trying to give the New Jersey Devils something to think about ahead of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC), Flyers coach Peter Laviolette switched around a pair of lines at practice Saturday.

He broke up the productive trio of Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, giving Briere a new pair of wingers -- James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek. Schenn moved from left wing to center, where he was flanked by Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds.

Laviolette refused to comment on any line combinations, and even his players weren't sure what the plan for Sunday was.

"We'll see how it shakes out [Sunday]," van Riemsdyk said.

Briere told NHL.com recently how much he enjoys playing with Schenn because of their on-ice similarities, but said playing with van Riemsdyk and Voracek is also good.

"It doesn't really matter," he said. "I've played with pretty much everybody all year. long. For me it's not a big change."

Van Riemsdyk, who was held without a point or a shot in two games in the first round against the Penguins -- his first two since breaking his foot March 1 -- said nothing changes his approach to the game, no matter who his linemates are.

"I've played with pretty much everyone in the room here so you know what to expect a little bit playing with guys," he said. "You just do what you do best and hopefully it works well together."

The Flyers' other two lines remained the same as they were in the final two games of the Pittsburgh series -- Claude Giroux centering Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr, and Sean Couturier between Maxime Talbot and Eric Wellwood.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 2:31 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Grossmann unsure of Game 1 availability

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Saturday marked the second straight day Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann practiced with the full group, but his status for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC) remains unknown.

Grossmann hasn't played since leaving Game 4 of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period. In that game he sustained what the team is calling an upper-body injury but which at least one teammate called a concussion.

Grossmann skated Saturday with his usual defense partner, Braydon Coburn, and took part in all the drills.

"Nick's looked good," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's moving up and down the ice well."

Grossmann said it felt good to be back with the team, but said he's unsure if he'll be ready to play Sunday.

"I don't know at this point, we'll see," he told reporters. "It feels good to be on the ice. I haven't talked to the doctors yet. I don't want to make any conclusions yet. I feel better every day and try to take it a day at a time."

If Grossmann is able to play, it's likely veteran Pavel Kubina will be a healthy scratch. Kubina on Saturday was paired with Andrej Meszaros, who likely won't be available until the middle of the series at the earliest as he recovers from back surgery last month. Kubina sat out Game 1 of the first round but played the final five games after an injury to Marc-Andre Bourdon; however, he averaged just 10:33 per game of ice time, fewest among Philadelphia defenders.

Other defense pairings featured Matt Carle and Kimmo Timonen, and Andreas Lilja with Erik Gustafsson.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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