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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:00 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Tangradi among fill-ins hoping to seize opportunity

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins forward Eric Tangradi was born in Philadelphia and is now staring at an opportunity to play a crucial playoff game in his hometown. Tangradi, who will likely draw into Pittsburgh's lineup for Game 4 Wednesday, is looking to seize the moment and prove he belongs in big-time NHL games with the hope of helping his team stave off a sweep.

The Flyers lead the Penguins 3-0.

"The playoffs are such a big stage for any player," said Tangradi, who got into one playoff game last postseason but only 24 regular-season games this season. "Sometimes this season things may not have gone how I hoped, but at this stage and with this opportunity I could really elevate my expectations from everyone."

While Penguins coach Dan Bylsma did not confirm his lineup, it's possible that Tangradi will play along with Dustin Jeffrey and Joe Vitale for suspended players James Neal, Arron Asham and Craig Adams. Rookie defenseman Simon Despres will replace Paul Martin, who is out with an undisclosed injury.

The four players that could be coming into the lineup have a combined three games of playoff experience. The four guys leaving the lineup have a combined 200 games of playoff experience.

There's also a question about defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who did not participate in the morning skate. Michalek did practice Tuesday in Pittsburgh. If he can't play, the Penguins will have to use Brian Strait, who has been a healthy scratch for the first three games of the series.

"Last year I was able to get into a (playoff) game and have a little experience, but nothing will compare to getting in a game back in your hometown in a crucial series when there are 20-plus guys in this room that are really trying to give it all they got 20 minutes at a time," Tangradi said. "It's definitely a big stage, but I've been on big stages before and I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

Since the Penguins have dealt with adversity from injuries to key players such as Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang pretty much all season, Bylsma said it almost gives the team an odd sense of normalcy having to replace at least four veterans with four young players even in such a critical game.

"Part of the obstacles this team has faced and dealt with repeatedly is that type of thing," Bylsma said. "So, to see a lineup on the board today of Adams, Asham and Neal not playing almost gives our team a sense of normalcy and resiliency about how we're going to come out and play tonight."

Regardless of who is in the lineup, Bylsma said the mindset does not change going into Game 4.

"I know the group of guys in there, every one of them plan on going out and winning our first game tonight here in Philly," he said. "I think we're ready to be at our best."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 1:42 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Penguins continue to rally behind their goaltender

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said Wednesday morning that anybody pointing a finger at goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and blaming him for Pittsburgh's problems against the Flyers through three games in the series is dead wrong to do so.

"People that point the finger at him are probably the people that whenever he's playing well are like, 'Oh, I knew he'd play well,'" Orpik said. "It's always the so-called experts that have all the answers. You can't control what other people say about you. He knows he has the belief of the guys in this room. That's always easy, finding a guy to point the finger to. There are 20 guys in this and we haven't played well in front of him."

Orpik added that nobody in the Penguins dressing room is upset with Fleury, who has a 6.34 goals-against-average and .798 save percentage in the series. Fleury was pulled after the second period of Game 3.

"I don't know who he is taking heat from. He is not taking heat from anyone in here because we all know we haven't played well," Orpik said. "He probably hasn't played his best. I haven't played my best. Nobody in this room has played their best."

Defenseman Kris Letang also defended Fleury and said he expects him to be at his best in Game 4 Wednesday.

"It's a tough spot for Flower, especially when we're not playing well," Letang said. "But I think he's going to bounce (back) pretty well. He's a great competitor. I'm confident in him."

Both Orpik and Letang said the key for the Penguins in Game 4 is for everyone to be at their best individually.

"If that's the case it'll add up to us giving ourselves a chance to win," Orpik said. "You can't guarantee how the outcome is going to be, but you can control your effort and execution. You try to be at your personal best and hopefully it adds up to a good opportunity to win the game."

The Penguins are confident that they can give themselves that opportunity mostly because they feel as though they beat themselves in the first three games with undisciplined play and uncharacteristic mistakes.

"If you played really well for three games and you were down 3-0 I don't think you'd be as optimistic," Orpik said. "Maybe we're idiots looking at a situation like that, but that's how we believe in this room. We'll see where it takes us tonight.

"Hockey is a weird game. You can outshoot a team 50-10 and their goalie can stand on his head," he continued. "The only thing you control is your effort, your execution and how you play. The officiating and how they play, you can't control that, but you try to make it tough on them. We haven't played well for three games and we all know that. It's just up to us to move forward here and play as best we can."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 1:18 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Pens get last chance to put complete game together

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins captain Sidney Crosby might end up saying something to motivate his team in the dressing room prior to Game 4 against the Flyers, but he's not so sure he has to.

Pittsburgh is in a 0-3 hole with the possibility of being swept Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center.

"I don't think there is really anything that needs to be said," Crosby said after what will be the Penguins last morning skate of the season if they don't stave off elimination. "We've had a couple of days to digest everything. We've talked as a group about what we need to do better and where our game is, that kind of thing. Now we have to go out and play."

They'll be playing without three forwards. James Neal, Arron Asham and Craig Adams were all suspended late Tuesday by the NHL's Department of Player Safety.

Neal is clearly the biggest loss. He is tied with Crosby for the team lead with five points in the series and he is coming off a regular season in which he scored 40 goals and had 81 points.

"He's a big part of our offense, but we have a lot of depth," Crosby said. "That's something we prided ourselves on all year and we're more than capable."

Dustin Jeffrey, Joe Vitale and Eric Tangradi could all draw into the lineup for the suspended players. Between them they have a combined three games of playoff experience, with Vitale getting two in this series and Tangradi playing in a game last postseason against Tampa Bay.

"I don't think you really need to tell them anything," Crosby said. "They've watched the games and know what to expect. They've been involved in all the meetings and everything we've discussed. Whoever is coming in, their role doesn't change. They have to do it to the best of their abilities. That's really the same situation everyone else is in."

The situation looks grim, but Crosby said he has faith that his team will find a way out of the 0-3 hole.

"We know we're capable of it," he said. "Whether it's a good or bad thing, we haven't put a full game together yet. Knowing that should give us confidence that we're quite capable of winning a hockey game and playing the right way. Our focus is more on just playing the right way and we like the chances that we'll get the right result."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 12:44 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Penguins won't have Martin in lineup for Game 4

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma announced after the morning skate Wednesday that defenseman Paul Martin will not play in Game 4 against the Flyers because of an undisclosed injury.

Bylsma said the rest of the Penguins lineup will be a game-time decision, but he referred to rookie defenseman Simon Despres as having an opportunity Wednesday night.

"I think you're going to see Simon step up in a big way," Bylsma said.

Zbynek Michalek also did not skate Wednesday morning, but there was no reason given for that and his status for Game 4 is up in the air. If he can't play, Brian Strait will be in the lineup. He has been a healthy scratch for the first three games.

Dustin Jeffrey, Eric Tangradi and Joe Vitale all will likely play for suspended players James Neal, Arron Asham and Craig Adams. Vitale played in Games 1 and 2 before being benched for Game 3 in favor of Richard Park. Tangradi played one game in the playoffs last season while Jeffrey will be making his playoff debut.

In the regular season, Jeffrey had six points in 26 games and Tangradi had two points in 24 games. Despres had four points in 18 games.

"It's guys that have played for us and been in roles for us," Bylsma said. "It's a big game, obviously a huge game for them to get dropped into, but they know exactly what to do and what is expected, where they fit in and they've done that for us before."

Here is what the Penguins forward lines looked like in the morning skate:

Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Dustin Jeffrey - Joe Vitale - Richard Park

The Penguins rotated their defensemen and since it is unclear if Michalek will play it's too difficult to determine the pairings.
 
Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start in net after being pulled following the second period of Game 3. Fleury has allowed 17 goals on 84 shots in this series and has a 6.34 goals-against average and .798 save percentage.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 11:32 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Penguins recall defenseman Despres

PHILADELPHIA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins announced Wednesday morning that defenseman Simon Despres was recalled from the American Hockey League. Despres joined the Penguins for the morning skate prior at Wells Fargo Center in advance of Game 4 against the Flyers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS2).

The Flyers lead the series 3-0.

Despres could draw in for either Paul Martin or Zbynek Michalek. Both did not skate Wednesday. It is believed that Martin is battling some type of injury stemming from the hit he took from Brayden Schenn in the first period of Game 3. Schenn received a charging minor for the hit.

The status on Michalek is unclear at this time. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma will likely update his lineup when he addresses the media following the morning skate.

Despres, 20, played 18 regular-season games with the Penguins and had a goal plus three assists and a plus-5 rating. He averaged 14:13 of ice time.

If he plays Wednesday he will be making his Stanley Cup Playoff debut.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 3:38 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Friendships on hold for Talbot during series

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Maxime Talbot said Tuesday he never experienced the emotional roller coaster a player sometimes can go through when he's about to face his old team and some of his best friends for the first time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think the big test for me was during the regular season, and it went pretty good against the Penguins so personally I just basically built on that," Talbot, who played six seasons with Pittsburgh before joining the Flyers over the summer, said. "When it happened, I take it as a challenge and it's definitely been a good challenge. I like it."

Talbot said he also was prepared for the Flyers-Penguins series because he expected it to happen all along. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he never had any reservations or concerns about how Talbot would respond playing against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are some of his best friends.

"I did not have any concerns about Max," Laviolette said. "We never had a conversation or any of that pause in my thought process of using him against any players because maybe it would be hard to play against them. It's not about that right now, and I think it has shown in how Max has played. He's a guy that doesn't care. He's ready to play and it doesn't matter who it is against."

Talbot has played well, too. He's scored a shorthanded goal in each of the last two games and has three goals plus an assist in the series. He's coming off a regular season in which he posted career-highs in goals (19), assists (15) and points (34).

His best season as a Penguin was in 2006-07, when he had 26 points.

"You'd be hard pressed to find a stride on the ice that doesn't matter," Laviolette said of Talbot. "It doesn't matter which way he's going, he accounts for every stride. He makes sure he works. He makes sure he does his job. He's a passionate guy and he's a terrific team guy. We found out offensively he could contribute as well. It's been a terrific addition to our team.

"He's a leader smothered in character. That's been real important for our team."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Couturier no longer a Malkin fan

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Sean Couturier used to admire how Evgeni Malkin played. The key words there, though, are used to.

"He's always going to be a good player, a great player, and he's well-respected around the League," Couturier said. "Right now it's a war out there, so there's no respect."

Couturier, who has limited Malkin to no goals and just one even-strength point through three games of the teams' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, added that his admiration for Malkin's game probably won't return even after this series, not with the Penguins being the Flyers' biggest rival.

"Now that I play in this League every night I'm going to try to go hard," he said. "There are no friends out there so there is not going to be any pity, for sure."

"I just think he's another player and I do what I have to do."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:52 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Van Riemsdyk still working toward return

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Injured Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk took part in the full practice Tuesday, but he stayed on the ice long after it was over to do extra work and said he does not expect to play in in Game 4 of the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

"I'm just taking it day-by-day right now," van Riemsdyk told NHL.com. "I'm on the right path so I'm just going to keep worrying about that. You just have to take it one game at a time and when your number gets called be ready to go."

Van Riemsdyk hasn't played since March 1, when he broke his left foot blocking a shot from the Islanders' Milan Jurcina. He still is wearing a walking boot, but said he will be for a while even after he returns to the lineup.

He said he does expect to return at some point in the postseason, provided the Flyers advance. There's also a chance he plays later in this series if the Penguins can extend it.

"Every day that goes by it feels better so I am hoping to get to that point," van Riemsdyk said.

When asked the hypothetical question of would he be ready to play Wednesday if coach Peter Laviolette called for him, van Riemsdyk smiled and said, "I'll be ready, yup."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 3:16 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Hartnell got a kick out of seeing Timonen mix it up

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Scott Hartnell added some humor Monday into what really is a nasty series between two of the fiercest in-state rivals.

Hartnell drew more than a few laughs from the large media contingent when he talked about Kimmo Timonen fighting Kris Letang in the first period. Hartnell has been with Timonen since their days together in Nashville, and they both came to the Flyers before the 2007-08 season in the same trade for Peter Forsberg.

"In 12 years I haven't seen that guy with his heartbeat over 140, and the guy is over there scrapping with a tough guy like Letang," Hartnell said. "It's great to see."

He was asked about his orange and black necklace, which got yanked off by either Craig Adams or Sidney Crosby late in the third period.

"It's a Phiten bracelet that pitchers use in baseball," said Hartnell, who was wearing it Monday. "I don't know much about it, but it makes me feel good. I've been wearing it for half the year now. Obviously I didn't know it came off there, but when you're attacked from behind like that by a scrappy animal, something is going to go."

As for his hair getting pulled in that same sequence, Hartnell said, "I don't know what the rule is in the NHL rulebook about hair pulling, but maybe you should look into that. Letang has some nice hair over there on the other team and I'm sure he wouldn't like it if someone pulled his hair either. I'm definitely going to have to call Shanny about that."

He also offered a slight dig at Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has allowed 17 goals on 84 shots in the series.

"Obviously eight goals a night is usually going to get you a win," Hartnell said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl



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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Crosby comments met by smiles, silence from Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Sidney Crosby made a point of saying after the game Sunday that he does not like anybody on the Flyers. A smiling Claude Giroux responded in kind Monday.

"I guess we've got to be doing something right if he hates us, right?" Giroux said.

Giroux was also asked if the feeling is mutual from the Flyers to the Penguins.

"Well, with the first three games it's gotta be hard to like them," he said. "Obviously we're not big fans of them and that's why this series is so entertaining for the fans."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette predictably did not take the bait when he was asked for his thoughts on Crosby's comments.

"We're just trying to focus on the next game," he said. "I haven't thought much about it."

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Quote of the Day

I mean, hockey had to change the rules because of Marty, and that's impressive. I got two Stanley Cup rings because of the guy. Look at the banners of [Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko] and Marty is right up there when you think about the New Jersey Devils; he was part of the core group and he'll go down as one of the greatest goalies ever.

— New Jersey Devils center Scott Gomez on former teammate Martin Brodeur, who will announce his retirement Thursday