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Posted On Friday, 04.22.2011 / 5:56 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Pronger in or out?

Still no word yet on Chris Pronger's status for Game 5 here at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Flyers list him as day-to-day, and the team's PR staff said no announcement would come until around game-time, which tonight is 7:30 p.m. (VERSUS, TSN, RDS).

Pronger went through the full morning skate and did the normal amount of puck drills, shooting and passing. The big question is, did he take full slap shots. Well, it sort of depends on how you define "slap shot."

Was it a full-on, hardest-shot-competition, stick-blade-scraping-the-ceiling slapper? No. But it certainly wasn't a little flipping wrister. There was definite backswing, and certainly some mustard on the shot.

Some of those shots came after the full team left the ice; Pronger stayed alone and shot for about 20 minutes, working on shots both light and hard, from each of the faceoff dots. He only looked up once as he banged the pucks, and it came on his third-to-last shot from the dot to the right of the net, when he either fanned on a shot or just didn't hit it right and stopped and appeared to wince or grimace. After that, he went back to shooting pucks.

So what does it all mean? Well, if you read CSNPhilly.com, it means he's definitely out. But the Flyers have yet to announce anything, so really, anything is possible.

In the CSNPhilly.com story, the reason being reported for Pronger's absence is continued pain near the fractured area and a belief that the hand isn't strong enough for Pronger to protect himself on the ice.

However, coach Peter Laviolette was asked Thursday to respond to a hypothetical question: Can Pronger still be effective in a limited role?

"Can Chris Pronger play in a game in a limited role and be a factor in the game? Yes," replied Laviolette.

Laviolette answered that question in the hypothetical on Thursday. It will get answered for real sometime in the next 90 minutes.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 04.17.2011 / 2:29 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Who's your goalie?

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette isn't talking goalies. He's got two to choose from for Game 3 on Monday, and there's a compelling argument either way.

On one side there's rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, who had 28 wins and played well despite losing Game 1 Thursday against the Sabres.

On the other side is veteran Brian Boucher, who Laviolette and teammates credited with bringing a calmness to Game 2 Saturday when he relieved Bobrovsky after the rookie surrendered three goals on seven shots.

Teammates don't seem to care who's in net -- even if it's Michael Leighton, last year's playoff starter who is with the team now as an extra goalie.

"We've got three good goalies," said defenseman Kimmo Timonen. "To me it doesn't matter who's in there because I know they're going to do their job and play well."

Bobrovsky and Boucher had simiar regular-season numbers -- in 54 games, Bobrovsky went 28-13-8 with a 2.59 goals-against average and .919 save percentage; Boucher was 18-10-4 with a 2.42 GAA and .916 save percentage in 34 games.

What does stand out, however, is Bobrovsky's resiliency.  In 24 occasions this season he either suffered a loss or was pulled from a game, in the next game, he went 12-5-4 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

"In the past Bob has bounced back," said Laviolette. "He's come back (after) an outing he wishes things had gone differently and maybe we could have played better in front of him and he's come back with a strong performance."

So which way is Laviolette leaning? He's not giving any hints.

"Any decision you make with the lineup, they're difficult decisions," he said. "They're all difficult. You're talking about people that aren't playing in the lineup right now, that are scratches, those are difficult decisions as well. It's people's livelihood, they want to play. We got guys that are sitting out right now and I'm sure they'd much rather be in the lineup. There's no decisions taken lightly."

Boucher said he didn't think he would find out one way or the other until the team left for Buffalo.

"He's trying to juggle (Bobrovsky's) psyche, how he's feeling, and at the same time he's trying to win playoff series so we can move on and try to win a Stanley Cup," said Boucher. "I'm sure it's a high-pressure situation for Lavi. It's why he gets paid the big bucks, to make those decisions. He's been pretty good at pushing all the right buttons since he's been here. We'll see what happens."

So what would you do?

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 04.17.2011 / 2:21 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Pronger making trip to Buffalo

The Flyers have announced Chris Pronger will travel with the team to Buffalo, but does that mean he'll practice with the team? Or the "Black Aces," the extra players every playoff team carries? What about his potential return to the lineup for Game 3 on Monday?

One thing is for sure -- the players have moved past worrying about whether Pronger plays or doesn't play.

"I don't think about it," said Scott Hartnell. "He's around, he's working out. I don't know if he's skating before us or not. Until he's practicing with us for a few times we can't expect him back. He's definitely a presence, we miss him, but it's the farthest thing from our mind."

The other consideration could be an extra forward. Andreas Nodl is listed as day to day, and if he can't go in Game 3, it could be either Nikolay Zherdev or Jody Shelley drawing in.

Zherdev could be the missing element for a power play that's gone 1-for-15 in the series, including 0-for-3 on 5-on-3 chances. However, he's spent most of the season as a healthy scratch. Shelley hasn't played in a month due to a broken orbital bone, but he's been cleared to play and on Sunday ditched the full cage he had been wearing for a visor.

Coach Peter Laviolette, as per his usual, would not tip his hand as to which way he might be leaning with his lineup.

"All decisions are tough and they're not taken lightly," he said. "You try to do what's best for the team. Ultimately somebody goes and somebody doesn't. The people that don't, they want to play. They're proud guys and they want to play and I respect that."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 04.17.2011 / 11:13 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Pronger off the ice Sunday

Philadelphia Flyers All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger did not practice Sunday, leaving in question his availability for Game 3 of the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN).

Pronger has not played since March 8 due to a broken bone in his right hand. He has been skating for about two weeks, but away from the team, and his sessions have been almost exclusively limited to skating drills. He worked with a puck Wednesday but made only soft passes and light shots, and only touched the puck one time Friday, skating laterally with it along the blue line and then letting it roll of his stick.

Prior to the Flyers announcing Saturday that Pronger would miss Game 2, CSNPhilly.com reported Pronger would miss Game 2 and Game 3 -- if not more.

The club continues to list Pronger as day-to-day with his injury.

In other injury news, forward Andreas Nodl played just 3:43 in Game 2 due to what the team called an upper-body injury. The team did not issue any other updates, but if Nodl can't play, the two most likely options to replace him for Game 3 are Nikolay Zherdev and Jody Shelley.

Zherdev brings a dynamic offensive element. He had been skating on a line with Claude Giroux and Jeff Carter for the final five regular-season games, but has been a healthy scratch in the first two playoff games, with James van Riemsdyk playing very well in that spot.

Shelley brings a more physical element. Despite not playing in a month due to a broken orbital bone and still wearing a full cage to protect his face, he's been medically cleared to play.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 04.15.2011 / 10:52 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Pronger skating again, but is that all?

Chris Pronger took the ice at 10:14 a.m. here at Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone, but his work continues with injured defenseman Oskars Bartulis and Ian Laperriere, who ran the drills. Pronger did all skating drills for the first 30 minutes and now is handling pucks a little bit, but he's not taking shots. Rather, he's skating across the blue line with the puck, but instead of shooting he's just dumping the puck into the boards.

We'll have more following the session, and maybe even more if Pronger decides to talk today.

UPDATE: Pronger off the ice after 51 minutes. Only one time did he touch the puck, just the one time he carried the puck along the blue line and then dumped it to the wall. The guess in the media room is he won't be speaking later today, but if he does, NHL.com will be there.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:53 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Will Zherdev play?

The Flyers didn't do line rushes during Thursday's morning practice, so it's unclear what the exact forward lines could look like, but what was noticeable were the final three players off the ice -- forwards Nikolay Zherdev and Jody Shelley, and defenseman Nick Boynton.

Generally the players who come off last this time of year have stayed out longer to get extra skating in because they won't be playing.

Zherdev had been a healthy scratch for 19 of 23 games between Feb. 13 and March 31, but had played the final five regular-season games, mostly on a line with Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux. He had a goal and 2 assists in that time and looked possibly to have earned his way back into the lineup.

Coach Peter Laviolette has a policy of not discussing lineups or playing decisions, so there's no knowing which way he's leaning. But if Zherdev does sit out, it's possible James van Riemsdyk joins Carter and Giroux, and Daniel Carcillo plays alongside Mike Richards and Kris Versteeg.

The other line combinations likely will be Danny Briere with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino, and Blair Betts centering Darroll Powe and either Andreas Nodl or Shelley.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:01 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Ennis saw Nugent-Hopkins' talent early

Tyler Ennis a loyal Buffalo Sabre, but there's another team very close to his heart -- the Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers.

He spent four seasons with the Tigers, including 43 goals in his final two seasons there. He still wears a spandex Medicine Hat shirt under his Sabres jersey, and is following them now in the WHL playoffs. The Tigers beat the Brandon Wheat Kings in the first round, and took a 3-0 lead on the Red Deer Rebels in the second round before losing 1-0 on Wednesday.

Red Deer is the home team of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Central Scouting's top-rated North American forward for the 2011 Entry Draft. Ennis remembered playing against Nugent-Hopkins in the WHL. It was during the 2008-09 season, Ennis' final season, while Nugent-Hopkins was a 15-year-old call-up to Red Deer.

Ennis said it was obvious right away what kind of talent Nugent-Hopkins had. "Sick passes, sick plays with the puck," Ennis recalled for NHL.com.

Ennis, an Edmonton native, had some advice for his hometown NHL team, which holds the first pick in June's Draft.

"He'd be my pick if I was making it," he said.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 1:52 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

No better place for Ennis than Philadelphia

Count Buffalo Sabres rookie forward Tyler Ennis among those who agree with W.C. Fields, who once said, "All things being equal, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

Ennis played his first NHL game here, Nov. 14, 2009, and scored his first goal in that game, and he had a goal and an assist here in a 5-3 Sabres win on March 5.

He's back Thursday looking to add to those numbers.

"I scored my first goal here in my first game, that was really exciting for me," he told NHL.com. "I know this place is going to be rocking pretty good, the fans are pretty crazy so we're all pretty excited. It's going to be loud and crazy, going to be a competitive series. Both teams play hard. We're going to have to try to shut them down. They play really offensive, so we're looking forward to it."

His job will be a bit easier without Philadelphia's All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger, but not that much easier.

"They have a really strong team without him," said Ennis. "He's a great player and a very important part of their team. But they have a lot of great D-men. He plays hard but a lot of (their) guys play hard, too. We just have to play the same way we've been playing."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 1:19 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Flyers hoping to put power in power play

With their array of talent up front, you would think the Philadelphia Flyers' power play would run with precision and efficiency.

That didn't happen, however, as Philadelphia was just 19th with man-advantage during the regular season, with a 16.6-percent efficiency.

"It's been an issue all year," defenseman Matt Carle told NHL.com. "That's just one of those things. It seems like we've been answering those questions all season."

The struggles were no more obvious than down the stretch, as the team as a whole struggled. In their last 23 games, they were just 10-for-72 (13.9 percent) on the power play, while team went just 8-8-7.

"I think a lot of that (power-play struggles) the last couple weeks goes hand in hand with where we were (as a team) the last couple of weeks," said coach Peter Laviolette. "Just inconsistent."

It's a fine line between a successful power play and a wasted opportunity, but no one's been able to spot the one or two things that might need to be fixed.

"It's always different," said Danny Briere. "There's days where the breakout might not work or we don't retrieve pucks or we're forcing plays. Usually it's one little thing that you need to fix. On the power play you need everything to go right for you to score a goal. You need a good breakout, you need to retrieve the puck, need to set it up, have people in position and find a way to get the puck to the net, have guys in front. There's all kinds of little things. If one thing is off, the puck goes down the ice and you have to start over again."

Part of the problem could be the fact that the Flyers have so many talented offensive players to use and not enough power-play time to use them. Who does Laviolette pick to center the two units -- Mike Richards and Jeff Carter? Or Claude Giroux and Briere? If you shift one to the wing, where does that leave Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino, James van Riemsdyk, Nikolay Zherdev and Kris Versteeg?

In the absence of injured defenseman Chris Pronger, Laviolette has tried using a fourth forward to play the point, at times going with Richards, van Riemsdyk and Versteeg.

Nothing, however has seemed to work, no matter how much Laviolette has juggled.

"I think he's going to try different groups and try to get some chemistry going with whatever is going to work," said Carle. "We haven't really had a consistent group all year that's been working. It's just one of those things that I think he's trying to see how it goes."

The Flyers have spent their off-time since the regular season ended attempting to solve their power-play problems, and the players feel they'll see the benefit of that work starting Thursday.

"Everything the last couple days has been positive," said Carle. "That's the way we're feeling after this week. We kept everything positive and we're looking forward to the start tomorrow."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 03.24.2011 / 1:38 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Countdown to the Playoffs

Orpik near a return

If Penguins fans were wondering just how close defenseman Brooks Orpik is to returning to the lineup he said if the situation were different, he'd be playing.

"If it was the playoffs, I'd be playing tonight," he told NHL.com following Thursday's practice here at the Wells Fargo Center. "Or I'd probably be playing before tonight."

Orpik won't play Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) in Philadelphia against the Flyers, but he's getting closer to playing again for the first time since he broke a finger on his right hand blocking a Patrick Marleau shot Feb. 23 against the San Jose Sharks.

Coach Dan Bylsma said that return could come next week, maybe in time for Tuesday's rematch in Pittsburgh.

Orpik has stayed in shape by skating during his recovery, saying he missed just two or three days, so conditioning won't be an issue.

"He means a lot to our team, especially on the PK," said Kris Letang, his usual partner. "He shuts down top guys every night. The physical aspect of the game, which we don't really have on the back end except for maybe two guys -- I think he can bring a lot. Can't wait to bring him back."

The Pens' top four blueliners -- Letang, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek -- haven't been in the lineup at the same time since Feb. 20. And with eight games left following Thursday's game with the Flyers, it's not coming too soon.

Although with the storm of injuries that has battered the Penguins all season, Orpik remains a cynic.

"We've still got nine games to go," he said. "The way thing are going here this year, who knows?"

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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For six months, it's a really good accomplishment. But as soon as April [11, the end of the regular season] comes around, no one thinks about the regular season anymore. For six months, it's a real battle to get into the playoffs in the NHL these days. There are a lot of good teams, and it takes consistency over a long time.

— Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on clinching a playoff berth after a win against the Islanders on Saturday
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