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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 1:05 PM

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

Grossmann out, Gustafsson in for Game 5

PITTSBURGH -- The Flyers have gone back to their well of defensemen and pulled out Erik Gustafsson to play in Game 5 against the Penguins on Friday. Nicklas Grossmann did not make the trip to Pittsburgh, so Gustafsson said he will appear in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game.
 
The Flyers lead the series 3-1.

Grossmann was injured early in Game 4 on Wednesday. The team has labeled his injury as an upper-body injury.
 
"I think you just have to stay focused and visualize yourself doing good things on the ice," Gustafsson, who played in 30 regular-season games, told NHL.com. "Once I get out there I'm just going to try to keep it simple, don't make any mistakes. Once you get into the game, it's like any other game."
 
While the Flyers have not provided specifics about the injury, center Claude Giroux on Friday morning intimated that Grossman has a concussion.
 
When asked about Grossmann and the challenge of playing without him in the lineup, Giroux referred to his own concussion and said "it's all about your health."
 
"I had a concussion this year and it's just the worst," he continued. "You can't really do anything. You basically sit on your couch and you can't even watch TV because it messes up with your mind. It's not fun. We hope he gets better soon."
 
Grossmann joins a long list of Flyers' defensemen that are not here with the team. Chris Pronger (concussion) highlights the list, but Andrej Meszaros (back) and Marc-Andre Bourdon (upper-body) are also out.
 
However, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he's proud of the way his team has handled the injury situations this season and he expects them to respond in a positive manner again Friday.
 
"The fact that we've lost another defenseman, it's hard to take; but in saying that, our team is filled this spot all year long," Laviolette said. "We have close to 450 man-games lost to injury this year. This isn't something new to us. We'd much rather have Grossmann in there or any of the defensemen you listed, but that's not an option for us. We have to play good team defense and the players that come into the lineup will be expected to play well."

The Flyers have lost 437 man games to injury, but that number includes season-long injuries to Blair Betts and Ian Laperriere.
 
Laviolette said he has confidence in Gustafsson because the Swedish defenseman has earned his spot in the lineup with his play. He suited up for 30 games in the regular season and had five points and a plus-12 rating while averaging close to 17 minutes of ice time per game.
 
"He's a player that got sent back to the minors a couple of times, but it wasn't based on performance, it was based on numbers and being allowed to only dress six defensemen," Laviolette said. "I think he's had a good year. He had one tough injury, but short of that he's done a good job of playing at this level. The minutes he's played, they've increased over time. He's had games where he's played 18, 20, 22 minutes and he's done a good job for us. We have a lot of confidence in Gus and the way he plays the game."
 
The key, though, will be how the Flyers utilize their defense against Evgeni Malkin. Grossman was paired with Braydon Coburn and together they were on the ice a lot against Malkin and his line. Malkin had no goals in the series until he scored two in Game 4.
 
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma credited the Coburn-Grossmann pair for limiting Malkin at even strength even though most of the credit for that has gone to Flyers rookie center Sean Couturier.
 
"They've done a good job of having Grossmann and Coburn play in defensive situations," Bylsma said. "That was really a factor here at home. It wasn't having the Couturier line against Malkin, they really had Coburn and Grossmann on the ice in those situations. Without that matchup for them, if that's the case, there may be some circumstances where you try to have that in your favor given the last change."
 
Coburn pretty much disregarded the question when asked about the challenge of playing without Grossmann.
 
"Every game is a challenge," he said. "They've got world-class talent out there. We've got to find a way to win."
 
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 3:56 PM

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

Bryzgalov leaves practice early

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov left practice early Thursday, but it was unclear if he was bothered by any nagging injury or just cut his workout short as he sometimes does on days before games.

Michael Leighton, who recently was recalled from Adirondack of the American Hockey League, finished practice for Bryzgalov. Sergei Bobrovsky was in the other net.

Bryzgalov played in only two of the final six games of the regular season due to a chip fracture in his right foot. He has a 4.95 goals-against average and .844 save percentage in the series against Pittsburgh.

Bryzgalov was pulled 3:07 into the second period of Game 4 Wednesday after giving up five goals on 18 shots. Bobrovsky allowed five goals on 18 shots in relief in the Flyers' 10-3 loss.

Leighton was one of the three goalies that played for Philadelphia in the playoffs last year, and also was the goalie that led them to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2010.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 3:29 PM

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

Flyers still feeling good despite Game 4 rout

VOORHEES, N.J. -- "It's just one loss," is how the Flyers were talking about the 10-3 drubbing they received at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 Wednesday.

"Today is a new day," Flyers center Danny Briere said. "The great thing is we're up 3-1 in the series. We've put ourselves in a good position. We had a bad day and we didn't come prepared to play the same way they did. Now it's time to fix that."

The Flyers skated Thursday for roughly 30 minutes at their practice facility here in southern New Jersey before departing to Pittsburgh for Game 5 Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

They aren't trying to forget what happened Wednesday, when they gave up eight unanswered goals after taking a 3-2 lead, but instead they're hoping to learn from the errors of their ways.

They gave Pittsburgh nine power plays that totaled only 12:26 because the Penguins scored on four of them. In a game that was officiated tightly, the Flyers were whistled for 12 two-minute minors.

"One of the things that we did a really good job of since the beginning of the series was staying composed and disciplined," Briere said, "and those two things we completely threw out the window [Wednesday]."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was just as blunt.

"Let's leave [Wednesday] to the side and just come out and say that we were beat bad by a very good hockey team, and there's a lot of things we have to do better," he said. "We're trying to defend a good hockey team. {Wednesday] we failed miserably."

The Flyers, though, are confident heading into Pittsburgh. They are 7-1 in Consol Energy Center since the building opened its doors last season.

"If you look at Games 3 and 4, they're the exact opposite for both clubs," Laviolette said. "Why didn't their Game 3 resemble Game 4? They churned up their desperation level and they came out and they were quicker and executed better and they won a hockey game. We're looking to get back on track with how we play games."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:56 PM

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

Van Riemsdyk ready to return in Game 5 if called upon

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk is preparing, both physically and mentally, to play in Game 5 Friday at Consol Energy Center. Nobody is saying if he will just yet.

"He looked good on the ice, and through discussions with everybody involved, if he's ready to play we'll consider playing him," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said Thursday before his team flew to Pittsburgh carrying a 3-1 lead in the series. "He's looked better every day, and at some point I guess we'll make that decision."

Van Riemsdyk has been out since March 1, when he broke his foot blocking a shot by Islanders defenseman Milan Jurcina. He still uses a walking boot and he's wearing plastic shields on both of his skates, but he said he's ready to go if called upon.

If practice Thursday is any indication, there's a good chance he will be.

Van Riemsdyk was skating on a line with Matt Read and Jakub Voracek while Zac Rinaldo was on a line with black aces Tom Sestito and Matt Ford. Rinaldo has played in every game of the series, but he is averaging less than five minutes per game of ice time and has 46 penalty minutes.

"You know what, obviously we have the luxury of being up and the team was playing great without me so you want to keep that rolling," van Riemsdyk, who had 24 points in 43 games during the regular season, told NHL.com. "I have to be a good teammate and wait for my chance and go from there."

"It's tough to not be in the lineup, but I'm just trying to feel better everyday so I can get out there and contribute."

Laviolette said he would not be opposed to making a lineup change if need be.

"Lineup changes are made all the time, constantly made," he said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:25 PM

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

Jeffrey ready for first taste of playoff action

UPDATE: Jeffrey was made a healthy scratch by coach Dan Bylsma. He chose to dress seven defensemen instead.

PHILADELPHIA -- As he was unstrapping both of his knee braces, Dustin Jeffrey spoke about his level of excitement and anticipation heading into what will could possibly be his first career NHL playoff game.

Jeffrey played in 26 regular-season games, but he was limited this season after having surgery to repair a torn ACL last April. He's good to go now, and the Penguins need him with three forwards suspended.

"It's been an intense series, lots of action both ways with physical stuff and the goals," Jeffrey told NHL.com. "To jump in is pretty exciting."

Jeffrey insisted that he will not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment, the crowd, or the speed of the game.

"One of my biggest attributes is my hockey sense and being able to read plays," he said. "It's going to be fast and physical, but once you get that first shift under your belt you should be able to read the plays."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl



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

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


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


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


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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Hopefully [Jonathan] has a year that pushes us, that is the organization, to speak to him next summer and looking for [a long-term contract]. Because the thought process is trying to get a goaltender, and hopefully it's Jonathan, to be the stabilizer for this franchise.

— Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello on goaltender Jonathan Bernier