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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 2:08 PM

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

Zidlicky a good fit for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- When New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello acquired defenseman Marek Zidlicky in February, no one could have imagined the positive impact he'd have in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Well, no one but Lamoriello and the Devils coaching staff.

"At the time we made the trade, we needed someone to come in and play top-two minutes, and those guys aren't easy to find," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "Not only that, but come in and run your power play too, so when you're making that list of guys you're looking for and the needs you're looking to fill at the trade deadline, there's only two or three guys in that category. So for Lou to be able to go out and get one like him, we wouldn't be here without Marek."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 1:49 PM

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

Devils unfazed by Flyers line changes

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils were back on the ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Saturday in preparation for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers, scheduled for Sunday at Prudential Center.
 

FLYERS VS. DEVILS

Kovalchuk stars in his return to lineup

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
After sitting out Game 2 with a lower-body injury, Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the Devils' lineup with a vengeance. READ MORE ›
As expected, Ilya Kovalchuk was on the ice and in a pretty jovial mood. Kovalchuk returned to the Devils lineup for Game 3 following a one-game absence (lower body) and notched a playoff career-high three points in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Flyers.
 
The Devils lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1.
 
Coach Pete DeBoer is expecting to see the best Philadelphia has to offer in the postseason. However, the fact the Flyers did a little line shuffling during practice on Saturday has no bearing on how his team will play.
 
"We're concentrating on our game," DeBoer told the media following a 50-minute practice. "Obviously, they have key guys that we need to be aware of when they're on the ice, but we really feel that if we play our game, we don't have to spend an over-extensive amount of time on what they're doing."
 
Kovalchuk agreed.
 
"It's normal when things don't go your way [to change lines] … we did the same thing," Kovalchuk said. "We don't really care what they're doing there. We know how to play against those guys and how to be successful. We just have to go out there and do our job; they have the same faces and it's not like they're bringing five new guys in from somewhere.
 
"It doesn't really matter who plays with whom, it just matters who wants it more."

In addition to Kovalchuk, who said he feels fine and is ready to go for Game 4, rookie defenseman Adam Larsson remained in good graces with head coach Pete DeBoer following another solid showing in Game 3. Larsson logged 20:32 of ice time on 33 shifts in Thursdays' win and also blocked one shot.
 
"I was a bit worried about [Thursday] night," DeBoer said. "You always play the first game back with a lot of adrenaline. We anticipated he wouldn't have any problem returning to the lineup [for Game 2 in Philadelphia], but sometimes the second game hits you a bit. He was out three weeks [as a healthy scratch] but he handled it well and there was no drop off. He played the type of game we needed him to play."
 
Meanwhile, Devils backup goalie Johan Hedberg was celebrating his 39th birthday on Saturday. Starter Martin Brodeur will be celebrating his 40th on Sunday in what he hopes will be a victory.
 
Brodeur has basically rewritten the regular-season record book for goalies by setting marks for career games (1,191), victories (656), shutouts (119) and minutes played (70,028). He also surpassed Hall of Famer Patrick Roy with his 24th career playoff shutout in Game 4 against the Florida Panthers in the conference quarterfinal round.
 
His 26-save 4-0 victory over the Panthers marked his first postseason goose egg since blanking Carolina 1-0 on April 23, 2009. It was his fourth since blanking Anaheim 3-0 in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final to give the Devils their third title in nine years.
 
Here were the line combinations during Saturday's practice:
 
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
 
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 4:06 PM

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

Devils players having a blast during postseason

NEWARK, N.J. -- If you never considered how infectious winning was to a locker room, all you needed to do was listen to the comments made from the two sides involved in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers.
 
The Devils scored a 4-3 overtime victory over the Flyers in Game 3 on Thursday to grab a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes Sunday at Prudential Center.
 
What does Flyers forward Scott Hartnell think?
 
"I think everyone's frustrated. I know me, personally, I'm frustrated," Hartnell said. "Whether it's losing a puck battle at the wrong time or whatever, it seems like it's almost contagious right now."
 
Meanwhile, farther north and over in Devils camp:
 
"It's been awesome," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We're having fun as a team and having a blast. We're excited for everyone when we score … we're having a blast and that's making us play better. We're enjoying being here."
 
Patrik Elias, who snapped a six-game goal-less drought in Thursday's victory, knows exactly what Parise is talking about.
 
"It's a looser locker room and, in a way, we have the right approach, we're mentally committed," Elias said. "We're taking some days off, but we're still mentally and physically [engaged]. We're having fun and enjoying it."
 
Forward Ilya Kovalchuk and goalie Martin Brodeur credit coach Pete DeBoer and his assistants for providing the perfect setting this season.
 
"It's a great atmosphere … the atmosphere in the room is unbelievable and we enjoy playing for each other and that's very important to be successful," Kovalchuk said. "We know we didn't win anything yet. But we've played the way we expected to play, and we have a long way to go.
 
"I think Pete and his coaching staff has been unbelievable. We have great communication between coaches and players and the door is always open. We communicate a lot and it's made a big difference, and we have a great mix of guys who are all really excited to be in this position."
 
Brodeur, who turns 40 on Sunday, said it's been a while since stability has really set in within the locker room. Of course, he's referring to the fact that since the 2004-05 work stoppage, DeBoer is New Jersey's seventh coach in seven seasons, with Jacques Lemaire and GM Lou Lamoriello each holding the position twice.
 
"We're trying to build something together and we're having a lot of fun," Brodeur said. "It's a little more relaxed as far as guys being around and doing the things we're doing. We're well-organized, and nothing is hidden. It's wide-open and constructive all the time, and that makes it a lot different than before when maybe there was a little more private side when things were going wrong."
 
Brodeur feels that's a direct reflection of the coaching staff.
 
"Everyone has a part in that, but definitely the coaching staff," he said. "I think they put us at ease and don't try to embarrass. There's no blame and everybody wants the best of everybody, and that line of communication has been tremendous.
 
"As long as I've been in this organization, it's as good as I've seen it."
 
While DeBoer is ecstatic to hear his players are having a blast, he realizes times are a little more stressful right now for the men behind the bench.
 
"That's the difference between a player and a coach," DeBoer said, laughing. "[The players] should be having fun. They shouldn't be thinking about anything other than showing up and executing and being ready to play their next game. When they have down time, they should enjoy their down time. It's a different mindset with [coaches]. That's why it's a lot more fun to be a player."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 11:58 AM

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

Projected Game 3 lineup for Flyers

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers held an optional morning skate Thursday in preparation for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Central (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
 
All players expected to be in the lineup Thursday stayed off the ice, including goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Coach Peter Laviolette also was not available.
 
The best-of-seven series is tied, 1-1.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for the game:
 
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
Matt Carle - Kimmo Timonen
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson
 
Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 11:41 AM

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

Devils say Kovalchuk a game-time decision

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk will be a game-time decision on Thursday when his team battles the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal round series at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
 
Kovalchuk was sidelined for Tuesday's Game 2 in Philadelphia -- a 4-1 Devils victory -- with a lower-body injury but was back on the ice Thursday morning during the team's practice. The Devils will host the Flyers at 7:30 p.m. ET.
 
"I just have to make sure I'm ready for the game … I feel really good," Kovalchuk told the media. "It will be a coaches' decision. I just have to prepare myself for the game and we'll see."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 3:08 PM

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

Brodeur ribs Clarkson for unorthodox goal celebration

NEWARK, N.J. -- It wasn't your typical goal celebration immediately after David Clarkson had given the New Jersey Devils the lead for good in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
 
And Devils goalie Martin Brodeur took notice.
 
"I always tell him he can't pass the puck, but he had six or seven assists already," Brodeur told the media following New Jersey's 4-1 victory on Tuesday. "I said, 'Maybe you're a passer now in the playoffs.'"
 
Clarkson established career highs in goals (30) and points (46) in 80 regular-season games with the Devils in 2011-12. Not until Game 2 against the Flyers did he finally notch the third playoff goal of his career and the first in three years. After pouncing on the rebound and driving a shot home 11:17 into the third, Clarkson leaped on top of the goal cage over Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and defenseman Nicklas Grossmann in delight.
 
"It's nice for him to go to the net and score one of his typical goals," Brodeur said. "Hard-nosed, jump-on-the-crossbar, and then hold it for a second for pictures. I was happy for him. He works hard. He's got the beard, too. He's proud of that."
 
When told of Brodeur's postgame comments, Clarkson laughed while peering over at Brodeur's stall in the club's locker room.
 
"I don't think anyone would score and have time to think about [posing for pictures]," Clarkson said. "He's giving me trouble every chance he can. Really, though, I was kind of shoved in from behind and Zach was behind the net celebrating after the goal so I starting celebrating, too. It was a good feeling to put that one in."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 2:54 PM

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

Devils' task figuring out how to sustain momentum

NEWARK, N.J. -- How difficult is it sustaining momentum from game to game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
 
It's not easy, but something the New Jersey Devils will try to continue on Thursday in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center.
 
"It can be hard, and that was a little bit of a challenge for us in the first series [against Florida]," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We'd have one great game and one game where we didn't follow it up. We talked about that [on Wednesday] and we have to try to be even better than we were last game because we have to expect them to have a great game, too."
 
The Flyers will no doubt be seething after being totally outplayed in their own building on Tuesday in a 4-1 loss in Game 2.
 
"We know Philly is going to come out ready to play, and, listening to their comments, they intend to fix issues they felt they didn't do a good enough job in for some areas," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "For us, we not only have to match our level from Tuesday, but find a way to raise it because they'll raise theirs. I know this will get a lot tougher and we'll have to be ready for it."
 
Speaking of preparation and getting ready, DeBoer admitted on Wednesday that he rarely has "fun" as a head coach in the thick of a playoff series.
 
"It's definitely stressful," DeBoer said. "I don't think you enjoy this when you're in the middle of it. You're getting ready for the next game, looking at film, trying to see what areas worked and what didn't. Where you need to improve … my history with any kind of good runs is you don't look back with any kind of enjoyment or appreciation until long after they're done."
 
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was asked if his team entered this best-of-seven series with the Flyers as the underdog.
 
"Games are played on the ice and not in the media or how people perceive the series to be," Brodeur said. "You have to go perform those 60 minutes, maybe more. So regardless what people are saying, we just have to put our head down and keep doing what we're told to do."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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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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