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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 11:42 AM

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

DeBoer: Kovy return could be 'sooner than later'

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils were back at the friendly confines of Prudential Center on Wednesday less than 24 hours after unleashing an all-out offensive assault on Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal.
 
Devils coach Pete DeBoer gave his players a day off the ice and while talk of the big win to even this best-of-seven series 1-1 was fresh on everyone's mind, there was also concern regarding the status of forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
 
Kovalchuk missed Game 2 with what general manager Lou Lamoriello termed a "lower-body injury." Prior to faceoff on Tuesday, Rich Chere of the The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported that two anonymous sources told him Kovalchuk "has been icing a back injury, which got progressively worse in the last few days."
 
Devils coach Pete DeBoer told radio station WFAN 660 AM on Wednesday morning that he doesn't know if Kovalchuk will suit up for Game 3. Kovalchuk is scheduled to meet with doctors today and a decision will be made at some point on Thursday prior to puck drop.
 
"I'm sure you're going to see him again in the series," DeBoer told the station. "It could be sooner than later."
 
Lamoriello told the media on Tuesday morning that Kovalchuk was injured at some point during the middle of their seven-game series win over the Florida Panthers in the conference quarterfinals. He said it got to a point where if he couldn't play at 100 percent, it wouldn't benefit either the player or team for him to be on the ice.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 7:21 PM

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

Report: Kovalchuk may have back injury

Ilya Kovalchuk
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 25 | +/-: -5
PHILADELPHIA -- It's quite possible New Jersey Devils right wing Ilya Kovalchuk may be suffering from a back injury that will sideline him for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal round series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.
 
According to Rich Chere of the The (Newark) Star-Ledger, two anonymous sources told the paper that Kovalchuk "has been icing a back injury, which got progressively worse in the last few days."
 
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told the media on Tuesday morning that Kovalchuk is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Kovalchuk's status for Game 3 will likely be updated on Wednesday when the team returns to New Jersey.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 12:56 PM

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

Devils moving on without Kovalchuk


PHILADELPHIA -- Despite the loss of their leading point-producer during the regular season for at least one game with a lower-body injury, players for the New Jersey Devils appeared upbeat and focused ahead of Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Philadelphia Flyers following Tuesday's morning skate at Wells Fargo Center.
 
The Devils are hoping to even their best-of-seven series after dropping Game 1 4-3 in overtime Sunday.
 
"Playoffs are about injuries and overcoming injuries and using your depth," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "Everyone deals with that stuff. It's nothing we haven't dealt with before with Travis [Zajac] gone for most of the year. So it's business as usual. Someone will have to jump in and take those minutes."
 
It is possible Kovalchuk, who was ruled out of Game 2 by general manager Lou Lamoriello prior to his team taking the ice Tuesday morning, could return for Game 3 when the series moves to Newark.
 
Until then, however, the Devils are ready to resume the series without Kovalchuk, who has three goals, six points and a minus-5 rating in eight playoff games.
 
"We're not going to pout all the way until [Game 2] and feel sorry for ourselves because he's not in the lineup," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We've all got to be better now and it'll give some guys an opportunity to take his minutes. The lines will be a little different, so we'll have to make it work."
 
The lines will look significantly different, actually. In addition to moving defenseman Peter Harrold to the fourth line, alongside left wing Ryan Carter and center Stephen Gionta, rookie defenseman Adam Larsson will make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.
 
"I'm excited. I'm glad to get back in and it'll be fun," Larsson said. "To be honest, I didn't think it would ever come. But they told me [Monday] and I was very glad to know I'd be getting this opportunity."
 
Harrold said he played forward during his stint with the Los Angeles Kings.
 
"I played maybe 15 or 20 games at forward with the Kings, so I'm familiar with it," Harrold said. "I'm a natural defenseman, but at the same time, maybe that'll help. I can be more responsible in my own end and that's priority No. 1."
 
Parise said Kovalchuk's lower-body injury must be pretty significant for him to miss any playoff time.
 
"He plays hard and plays a lot, and it could be physically demanding with the amount of ice time he gets," Parise said. "I'm not sure what [the injury] is, but for him to sit out, it must be something that was pretty significant."
 
Harrold agreed with Parise's assessment that the injury must have been pretty bad.
 
"I don't know what it is, but I'm certain that he was in pain," Harrold told NHL.com. "He's one of the tougher men I've ever been around, so I'm certain, whatever it is, it can't be too fun for him."
 
Kovalchuk leads all NHL forwards in average ice time per game during the playoffs (25:09). In fact, he was averaging more ice time in the playoffs than he did in 77 regular-season games (24:26).
 
Kovalchuk refused to speak to the media Monday after the team's public relations department said he was "in therapy."
 
Here are the probable line combinations for Tuesday's game:
 
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Petr Sykora - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - Steve Bernier
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Peter Harrold
 
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 12:54 PM

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

Larsson ready for first chance at playoff hockey

PHILADELPHIA -- New Jersey Devils rookie defenseman Adam Larsson says he's ready.
 
Larsson, drafted with the fourth pick last June by the Devils with the hope of providing a solid transition from defense to offense, will have to showcase that very skill set on Tuesday when New Jersey battles the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Wells Fargo Center.
 
The injury to Ilya Kovalchuk (lower body, day-to-day) has enabled Larsson to get his opportunity. To make room for Larsson along the blue line, Devils coach Pete DeBoer will remove Peter Harrold from defense and put him on the team's fourth line alongside left wing Ryan Carter and center Stephen Gionta.
 
Harrold, 28, had played in just two playoff games as a member of the Los Angeles Kings prior to signing as a free agent by the Devils last August. In eight appearances this year, he has three assists and a plus-2 rating.
 
Larsson has been a healthy scratch for 13 of New Jersey's last 14 games, including the regular season. He'll partner with hard-hitting defenseman Anton Volchenkov. Harrold had averaged 15:11 of ice time along the blue line, but it remains to be seen if DeBoer decides to limit Larsson's.
 
Does Larsson feel he learned a lot by sitting with the assistant coaches and taking in the first eight games of the playoffs?
 
"It's more like what the coaches told me and why I sit out the last few weeks," he said. "All the experience from that, and all the things I worked on now for two or three weeks I hope I will be able to bring to the game [Tuesday]."
 
When asked if he expects a higher intensity level than from the regular season, Larsson smiled.
 
"I don't know … I hope," he said. "I practiced pretty hard during this time and I think that's been good for me."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 4:40 PM

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

Harrold's play has kept Larsson on sidelines

NEWARK, N.J. -- Do the New Jersey Devils need another player along the blue line capable of carrying the puck and exploding off the transition in their Eastern Conference Semifinal round series against the high-powered Philadelphia Flyers?
 
Rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who was drafted fourth last June with the potential of providing that very skill set, could be that guy. The thing is, the only player Larsson could replace at this stage is a healthy Peter Harrold. And head coach Pete DeBoer has been extremely impressed with Harrold's poise and consistency.
 
"He's come in after playing in the minors the entire year and really given us some real solid minutes back there," DeBoer said of Harrold. "He's good defensively, can skate the puck out of trouble and add on the offensive side. He's a low-maintenance guy and you can tell he has some veteran savvy to him; you can tell he's played NHL playoff games before."
 
Harrold, 28, had played in just two playoff games as a member of the Los Angeles Kings prior to signing as a free agent by the Devils last August. In eight playoff games this year, he has three assists and a plus-2 rating.
 
But the key part of DeBoer's analysis on Harrold is the fact he considers him "a low-maintenance guy." If Larsson were inserted into the lineup, the coaching staff would have to monitor his minutes and also determine the ideal points in the game when he would be put on the ice.
 
Larsson has been a healthy scratch for 13 of New Jersey's last 14 games, including the regular season.
 
Harrold, paired mostly with Anton Volchenkov, has averaged 15:11 in ice time during the playoffs. He amassed a season-high 19:18 during the team's double-overtime win against Florida in Game 7 last Thursday.
 
DeBoer gave his team the day off on Monday. Forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who didn't register a shot on goal against the Flyers on Sunday, was unavailable for comment as he was receiving therapeutic treatment prior to boarding the team bus to Philadelphia in the afternoon. It has been rumored that Kovalchuk has been playing hurt in the playoffs.
 
"I think that it's not for a lack of effort with Kovy," DeBoer said. "Great players go through stretches where things aren't working well, and then where they are. You just have to work through it."
 
Here were the line combinations for the Devils during Sunday's game:
 
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
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 4:12 PM

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

Devils get day to regroup before going for series tie

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer decided to give his club a complete day off on Monday following their Game 1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in their Eastern Conference Semifinal game on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center.
 
DeBoer informed the media on Monday afternoon at AmeriHealth Pavilion that he is undecided on whether he will stick with the same line combinations he had for Sunday's game against the Flyers.
 
"I'm going to sleep on the line changes," DeBoer said. "I liked some of them. Some of them weren't as effective. It's juggling to try and get four lines that are really contributing in a positive direction and we weren't there [Sunday]."
 
The Devils, who dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Flyers, will look to even this best-of-seven series on Tuesday in Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, CBC).
 
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who made 32 saves in Game 1, said there were a lot of positives to take out of the loss -- the most important being the team never quit.
 
"We showed a lot of character," Brodeur said. "It could have been easy after that power-play goal [by Claude Giroux that gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead early in the third period]. We allowed another power play right after, we killed it, and we stuck with it. There's a lot of good things besides winning. I thought we did a good job. We got to be happy, refocus and try to win a game in this building now."
 
Devils captain Zach Parise, who had a goal, assist, three hits and two blocked shots in the game, said his team needs to be faster on the puck.
 
"We need to make better plays through the neutral zone and put the puck in the right spot to allow us to forecheck," Parise told reporters on Monday afternoon before his team bused to Philadelphia. "We turned the puck over too much, and they have a good transition. We made it a lot harder on ourselves."
 
The Devils had six giveaways in the game, as compared to 13 by the Flyers.
 
"We're not going in with mindset of losing that game [Tuesday]," Brodeur said. "They're a confident bunch of guys. They took down the best in the League and played us pretty well in the second and third period [in Game 1]. They feel good about themselves, so we'll have to find a way to put a little doubt in the way they play the game."
 
Parise knows just how infectious confidence can be this time in the season.
 
"I'm sure they're not lacking in the goal-scoring confidence after their first-round series," Parise said. "You can tell they play systems well, and when a team is confident, they play loose. You can tell they're playing like that right now."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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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 / 1:16 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."
 
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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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