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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."
 
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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
 
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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."
 
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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."

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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 4:55 PM

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

Devils ready for Flyers' skill and strength

NEWARK, N.J. -- So which team holds the advantage?

The Philadelphia Flyers have been idle since beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs on April 22. The Devils won 3-2 in double overtime triumph at Florida in Game 7 in a game that extended into early Friday morning.

Would you rather be on the team coming off a week's rest or the one coming off an emotional one-game showdown for all the marbles?

"I guess we'll find out [at] 3:20 tomorrow afternoon," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said Saturday. "You hope they're a little stale and hope that we're game ready and refreshed enough to pick up where we left off in overtime in Florida … but I don't know those things."

Patrik Elias doesn't see and advantage one way or another.

"Every series is always a new beginning," Elias said after his team's practice in Newark on Saturday.

"If you had a couple of weeks or 10 days to rest, maybe that would help, but they had a physical six-game series [with Pittsburgh] … it's not like they swept a team," Elias continued. "It's always nice to get some time off and rest the body before a physical series."

Speaking of a physical series, do the Devils anticipate having to match the Flyers' physicality from the outset -- particularly at the Wells Fargo Center, where fans enjoy spirited, hard-hitting play?

"I don't think we'll have any problem matching them physically, but you just have to do it whistle to whistle," DeBoer said. "You can't get into the stuff away from the puck and away from the whistle. We know the game they want to play but you can't fall into that trap. Pittsburgh did and they're at home watching."

Elias admitted this is a different Philadelphia team than the Devils have faced in playoffs past.

"They like to play a physical style of hockey, but they're a lot more skilled then in the past," Elias said. "They have a great mix of players there. They have role players, physical guys and plenty of skill up front."

Devils captain Zach Parise agreed.

"They put up a lot of goals against Pittsburgh and we'll have to make sure we're sharper with the puck," Parise said. "I was looking at their lineup [Saturday] morning and they have a lot of depth, so we're going to need everyone to be on top of their game.

"I'm sure it'll be physical since that's the style of hockey they want to play and that's what they're good at, so we're expecting that and know it will come."

The Devils and Flyers split their six regular-season games, with the road team winning twice in each building. The teams have met in the playoffs four times, with the Flyers taking the last two confrontations via five-game, first-round knockouts in 2004 and '10.

Here were the line combinations on Saturday:

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/Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur

Johan Hedberg

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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 4:48 PM

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

Devils adjust lines at practice

NEWARK, N.J. -- An effective forecheck and undeniable compete level ultimately proved to be the difference for the New Jersey Devils in their opening-round triumph against the Florida Panthers in seven hard-fought games.
 
So what will be the game plan against the bigger Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series slated to begin at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC)?
 
For starters, how about a few line adjustments.
 
The Devils returned to practice on Saturday and coach Pete DeBoer conducted a one hour-plus workout in preparation for the Flyers.
 
DeBoer opened some eyes when he had top-line center Travis Zajac between Alexei Ponikarovsky and Ilya Kovalchuk, and second-line center Patrik Elias between Zach Parise and Dainius Zubrus -- Ponikarovsky and Parise were basically flipped. Petr Sykora, who was a staple on the Elias line most of the season, was placed on a line with center Adam Henrique and David Clarkson.
 
"Any kind of change is refreshing and it gives players around them a different jump and different look," DeBoer said after practice. "It doesn't mean we will make a change; we've won a lot of games here over last month with the lines we've had. No decisions have been made yet but any change usually gets a positive reaction, one way or another."
 
Henrique was the overtime hero in Game 7. The rookie connected for his second goal of the game 3:47 into the fifth period to end New Jersey's longest overtime playoff game since 2003.
 
Ponikarovsky was asked about the shuffling and being placed on the top line with Kovalchuk and Zajac.
 
"If they stay that way, it won't change my game," he said. "I know what I have to do and I'll just fit in with Trav and Kovy. We played one game against Pittsburgh back in the regular season and had some success, so that's what they're trying right now."
 
The only trio that remained intact from the Florida series was the fourth line of Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. That's not too surprising considering the trio accounted for five goals and nine points in seven games.
 
"We scored well 5-on-5 against Florida but there's always room for improvements," DeBoer said. "I thought our fourth line generated a lot of offense, and the top two lines were a little sporadic. We're going to try different things throughout this series."
 
DeBoer was also asked if rookie defenseman Adam Larsson could make his playoff debut in this series. Larsson has been a healthy scratch for 12 of the team's last 13 games, including all seven of the opening round.
 
"I would guess so," DeBoer said of the team's top pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. "We've only got seven defensemen here and you rarely get through series without some types of bumps and bruises, so I wouldn't doubt that he would play."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 8:31 PM

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

Theodore to start, Garrison to play for Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. -- It's official -- goalie Jose Theodore and defenseman Jason Garrison will return to the lineup on Thursday for the Florida Panthers against the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at BankAtlantic Center.
 
Jose Theodore
Goalie - FLA
RECORD: 2-1-0
GAA: 2.59 | SVP: 0.919
Theodore missed Game 6 in New Jersey on Tuesday with an apparent lower-body injury he suffered the day before during practice. The 35-year-old veteran of 16 NHL seasons is 2-1 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in four postseason appearances against the Devils.
 
Garrison, who set a franchise record for defensemen with 16 goals in the regular season and logged the second-most ice time behind Brian Campbell, has been vital to the success of the Panthers all season. He missed the last three games with a lower-body ailment but appeared confident and ready to go at the team's morning skate on Thursday at BankAtlantic. Garrison has one goal, two points, nine hits and 10 shots in three playoff games.
 
With the 27-year-old defenseman in the lineup, Florida's power-play was clicking at a 60-percent success rate (6-for-10) in the opening three games of the series. During his absence, the team has gone 1-for-13 with the extra man.
 
"He a big part of their power play and we have to be aware of him," Devils captain Zach Parise said of Garrison. "Campbell likes to walk it down the wall and give it to him for one-timers, so we have to try and take that pass away."
 
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