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Posted On Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 4:04 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Grossmann returns to Flyers practice

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann appears to be on the mend after missing Games 5 and 6 against Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Grossmann practiced Thursday in a regular jersey, meaning he was able to take contact, for the first time since suffering what is reportedly believed to be a concussion in Game 4 against the Penguins.

Defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who is recovering from back surgery, skated toward the end of practice.

Also, Flyers forward Maxime Talbot was hit in the mouth early in practice and had to leave. His injury is not believed to be serious.

Philadelphia won't find out its next opponent until after the Game 7s are completed Thursday. The Flyers will face one of Florida, New Jersey, Washington or Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 4:19 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Flyers focus on staying sharp

VOORHEES, N.J. -- For their first practice after eliminating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers spent Tuesday skating.

Lots and lots of skating.

Coach Peter Laviolette put his players through a number of drills during the 60-minute session that focused on moving up and down the ice, transition play and puck movement. 

"I think it's real important to keep the guys out there and moving," Laviolette said. "It was really good. We didn't want them to think too much about systems today or what we may or may not be looking at or what we may or may not be doing. Just getting them up and down the ice. I thought it was a really good clip, 30 minutes up and down, was a great pace."

With the Flyers off for at least another few days while awaiting the start of the second round, Laviolette said he's going to use this time to let some players rest while keeping the group moving.

"I don't know the schedule, but we're looking somewhere on the weekend [to start the second round]," Laviolette said. "We still have time to prepare and go over things. I think an important thing right now is to keep moving. Keep breaking a sweat and move up and down the ice. These guys want to work, they want to run. I thought today was good."

The only healthy regulars missing from the workout were forward Danny Briere and defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who received treatment and worked out off the ice. Defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, skated earlier in the morning with the extra players.

Of the players who did skate with the main group, one noticeable participant was defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who is recovering from back surgery performed last month. He wore a gray, non-contact jersey, and likely is at least another two weeks away from returning. However Laviolette said it was nice to see the big blueliner back with the main group.

"Really encouraged," Laviolette said when asked what he saw from Meszaros. "He's a big part of our team. Any time you get a player back, that starts practicing, that's a positive."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 1:46 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Meszaros, Grossmann on the ice for Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Nicklas Grossmann were on the ice briefly Tuesday as they attempt to recover from their injuries.

Grossmann is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury that kept him out of the final two games of the Flyers' first-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He skated with the team's extra players prior to the start of regular practice.

Meszaros is recovering from back surgery performed March 21. He skated with the extra players and also was on the ice briefly with the main group wearing a gray, non-contact jersey. It's the first time he's skated with the team since leaving the lineup March 1. The original prognosis was for him to miss 6-8 weeks.

All but two of the healthy players were on the ice for Tuesday's practice. Center Danny Briere and defenseman Kimmo Timonen were absent from the workout, which was heavy on conditioning.

In Briere's absence, the Flyers shuffled two of their four lines, with the top trio of Claude Giroux with Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell staying intact, along with the line of Sean Couturier between Maxime Talbot and Eric Wellwood. The other lines saw Matt Read centering James van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn between Zac Rinaldo and Jakub Voracek.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK






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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 7:24 PM

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

Pens need help on the blue line

PHILADELPHIA -- Two summers ago, the Penguins signed defensemen Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek to five year contracts, and last season they traded for Matt Niskanen. But, in their first-round series loss to the Flyers it became obvious -- painfully at times for the Penguins and their fans -- that they still need help on the back end.

Pittsburgh gave up 30 goals in the six-game series loss to the Flyers, including 12 on the power play, and not all of them can be attributed to the inconsistent play of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

The Penguins won the Stanley Cup three years ago with Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi anchoring the defense and the penalty kill. They didn't have anybody as sturdy and consistent as those two against the Flyers and they got burned to the tune of five goals against per game.

Kris Letang and Niskanen are the exact type of offensive, puck-moving defensemen that a team with speed and talent up front like the Penguins need, but Brooks Orpik and Michalek didn't get enough help in the defensive role from guys like Deryk Engelland and Brian Strait.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma even tried to compensate by dressing seven defensemen for the last three games with Martin out with an undisclosed injury, but Simon Despres didn't have much of an effect on the games. And, in the two games he played, Ben Lovejoy showed he was not the answer as he struggled defensively and had a costly turnover.

If the Penguins are going to address a need in the offseason, it's on the blue line with a stay-at-home, solid, sturdy, and powerful defenseman. They needed a guy like that against the Flyers.

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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 12:06 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Teams not giving anything away in warm-ups

PHILADELPHIA -- Each team engaged in a bit of gamesmanship in pre-game warm-ups, skating 12 forwards and seven defensemen, leaving lineup questions unanswered.

For the Flyers, the only sure thing is defenseman Nicklas Grossmann will not play. He sustained an upper-body injury in Game 4 and sat out Game 5. He skated Saturday, but apparently wasn't feeling well enough from what teammate Claude Giroux called a concussion to play Sunday.

In Grossmann's place, the Flyers had rookies Erik Gustafsson -- who replaced Grossmann in the Game 5 lineup -- and Brandon Manning out for warm-ups.

The Penguins have dressed seven defensemen and 11 forwards the last two games in the absence of Paul Martin (undisclosed injury), but Joe Vitale skated as the 12th forward, and remains a viable lineup option.

Here is what the lineups could look like when the teams hit the ice for Game 6 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (Noon ET, NBC, TSN):

PENGUINS
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Matt Niskanen - Zbynek Michalek
Brian Strait - Deryk Engelland
Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

If Penguins coach Dan Bylsma elects to go back to 12 forwards and six defensemen, Joe Vitale would play on the fourth line with Tangradi and Adams.

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Andreas Lilja
Erik Gustafsson - Pavel Kubina

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Brandon Manning took pre-game warm-ups, and could potentially replace Gustafsson or Kubina on the third pair. The forward that would come out if Flyers coach Peter Laviolette elected to go with seven defensemen, however, is unknown.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 10:41 AM

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

Projected Penguins lineup

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins defenseman Paul Martin will sit out for the third straight game with an undisclosed injury and the rest of Pittsburgh's lineup will be a gametime decision, coach Dan Bylsma said Sunday morning prior to Game 6 against the Flyers.

However, don't be surprised to see the Penguins go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen again as they try to stave off elimination for a third time and force a Game 7. They are 2-0 when they play seven blue-liners, and Bylsma said he likes it because it forces him to give his top three centers, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, more ice time to potentially allow for better matchups even on the road, where he does not have the last change.

He doesn't have to necessarily worry about rolling four lines because he is essentially using only three lines with extra forwards Craig Adams and Eric Tangradi taking the odd shift here and there. Adams also plays a key role on the penalty kill.

"Depending on the situation we've seen one of those centermen has played with the two extra forwards to make up a line," Bylsma said. "Yeah, I like going to our big guys as much as we can in a situation like this."

Using the extra defensemen also enables Bylsma to have the option to use an extra body on the power play. It also does not tax his top-four defensemen.

Simon Despres played only 5:33 in Game 5, but he was used a bit on the power play. Brian Strait played eight minutes, but he got some time on the penalty kill.

"Each guy gives an element that is important," Bylsma said.

If Bylsma goes with seven defensemen again, here is what the Penguins lineup should look like for Game 6:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Matt Niskanen - Zbynek Michalek
Brian Strait - Deryk Engelland
Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 10:24 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Flyers' lineup likely stays the same for Game 6

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette declined to speak with the media because of the early start of Game 6 on Sunday (Noon ET, NBC, TSN), so any lineup changes he might have planned won't be seen until the game starts.

However, it's doubtful the Flyers' lineup will look much different than the group that took the ice for Game 5. On Saturday, Laviolette was complimentary of the job James van Riemsdyk did in his return from a seven-week absence with a broken foot.

The only real change could be on defense, with the possibility of Nicklas Grossmann returning to the lineup. Grossmann sat out Game 5 with an upper-body injury he sustained in Game 4. Grossmann is listed as day-to-day by the team, but skated for a short time twice on Saturday. Whether that means he's healthy enough to play, however, is in question.

Here's the lineup the Flyers likely will have on the ice for Game 6:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood

Braydon Coburn - Kimmo Timonen
Matt Carle - Andreas Lilja
Pavel Kubina - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

If Grossmann is able to play, he would return to his usual spot alongside Coburn. Timonen and Carle would form the second pair, and Kubina would play on the third pair with Lilja or Gustafsson.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:43 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

In Bryz they trust

VOORHEES, N.J. -- After watching Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury steal Game 5 for his team, the Philadelphia Flyers would like to see their goaltender do the same thing in Game 6 on Sunday (Noon ET, NBC, TSN).

"Give credit to their defense and Fleury played a great game in Pittsburgh," Scott Hartnell said. "We had to fight for opportunities and when we had them he was there to make the save. I think it's time for our defense and our goalie to win us a game."

Hartnell quickly added that he thought Bryzgalov was playing well, saying, "You need a goalie who can make those stops. Not that Bryz has played bad, but we'd love to win 1-0 and get a shutout and move on and get some rest and get some guys healthy."

Bryzgalov had a solid outing Game 5, stopping 20 of 23 shots in the 3-2 loss. It was a far cry from his poor performance in Game 4, when he allowed five goals on 18 shots and was pulled early in the second period.

The belief in the team is Bryzgalov can reach the same level as Fleury in Game 6.

"Bryz has made some great stops in the first few games," Hartnell said. "It's 3-0 [in Game 1] and it could have been 4-0 or 5-0 and they could have had that first game in their books. … We believe in Bryz, our organization believes in Bryz, and more importantly, the fans believe in Bryz. We're going to get it done."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:42 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Is faster or slower better for Flyers?

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Flyers and Penguins stood out because it was the first one that felt like a real playoff game.

After combining to average more than 11 goals per game in the first four games, Game 5 featured just five goals and 49 shots in the Penguins' 3-2 victory.

Despite losing, however, the Flyers were happy with the pace of the game, saying they preferred a low-scoring game to a track meet.

"They have some offensive players that can score a lot of goals," Claude Giroux said. "Anytime the score can be lower that's good for us."

"I like these low-scoring games that are tight and every play means a lot," Scott Hartnell added.

Coach Peter Laviolette, thought, said the final score in Game 6 on Sunday (Noon ET, NBC, TSN) was inconsequential.

"We need to win a game," he said. "If its 8-5, it's 8-5. If it's 1-0, it's 1-0. I don't really care how we win. I want to win a game. We want to limit the amount of chances we give them, that's part of it, but if we score eight goals, 10 goals, 20 goals, I don't care. We need to win a hockey game. It's irrelevant how it happens."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:39 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Even-strength play has been Flyers' weakness

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers have gotten ahead in their first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins thanks in part to their special-teams play. However, if they want to close the series, they'll need to be better at even-strength.

The Flyers haven't scored a five-on-five goal since Claude Giroux scored 27 seconds into the third period of Game 3. That's a span of 139:33 of game time, and they've been outscored 8-0 the last two games at even strength. The first three games, the Flyers outscored the Pens 11-9 in five-on-five play.

Coach Peter Laviolette said he didn't see anything different that the Penguins had done the last two games to win the even-strength battles.

"We had chances [in Game 5] at even strength," he said, "we just couldn't get it by them."

Claude Giroux agreed, saying he thought it was more about what the Flyers weren't doing to be successful rather than anything the Penguins were doing better.

"We haven't been skating like we can," he said. "We're a fast team. We got a lot of guys that can skate pretty fast. That's why we're first on the puck usually. We have to go back and be first on the puck, pay the price to want the puck."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:37 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Grossmann back on the ice

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Only 10 players took the ice here at Virtua Flyers Skate Zone on Saturday, but one was of particular interest -- defenseman Nicklas Grossmann.

Grossmann sat out Game 4 with an upper-body injury he sustained in Game 3, and still is listed as day-to-day. However, Grossmann took two short spins on the ice with volunteer assistant coach Blair Betts -- he skated early with the extra players and then again with the regular group. If he's skating so soon after what teammate Claude Giroux called a concussion, there has to be hope for a rapid recovery, and possibly even a return for Game 6 on Sunday (Noon ET, NBC, TSN).

Since arriving in Philadelphia just before the trade deadline, the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder has provided the Flyers with a strong, steady, shot-blocking presence in the defensive zone. Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said a lack of blocked shots was a big reason the team lost Game 5 on Friday.

With Grossmann in the lineup, the Flyers blocked an average of 16.5 shots per game in the first four games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In Game 5, they blocked just 10.

"He's been great for us," Giroux said. "Defensively he plays against the best lines on the other side. He's a solid teammate. He's a guy that we rely on on the penalty kill and he racks up a lot of minutes on the ice. We'll see [if he plays]. It's good to have him on the ice."

The other players skating with the regular group were defensemen Andreas Lijla, Brandon Manning, Erik Gustafsson and Pavel Kubina, forwards Jody Shelley, Zac Rinaldo and Tom Sestito, and goalies Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:21 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

JVR feeling OK

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The day after his first game in about seven weeks, Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk said he felt pretty good.

In his first game since breaking a bone in his right foot blocking a shot in a game March 1, van Riemsdyk played 11 shifts totaling 7:31 in ice time in the 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite the loss, van Riemsdyk said he was feeling good.

"All things considered, not too bad," he said. "It's the time of year you want to do everything you can to get in the lineup and do everything you can to contribute."

Coach Peter Laviolette said he would have given van Riemsdyk more opportunities to contribute, but couldn't because of all the special-teams play in the first two periods. Five of van Riemsdyk's 11 shifts came in the third period.

"[van Riemsdyk] was good," said Laviolette. "There were quite a few penalties right off the bat both ways, situational play that came up and if you don't factor into that, it's difficult to get into the roll of the game right away. We used him a bit more in the third period, and I thought he got going in the third. It wasn't his fault he didn't get the ice time in the first few periods, just the situations, the way they arose."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.  Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 7:28 PM

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

Van Riemsdyk returns to Flyers lineup for Game 5

PITTSBURGH -- Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk will play in Game 5 Friday against the Penguins. Zac Rinaldo is a healthy scratch.

Van Riemsdyk hasn't played since breaking his left foot on March 1 when he blocked a shot by Islanders defenseman Milan Jurcina. He has been practicing with the team and was considered a game-time decision; he will make his 2012 playoff debut and start on a line with Matt Read and Jakub Voracek.

The Flyers can close out the series with a win Friday at Consol Energy Center, where they are 7-1-0 since the building opened. 
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:27 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Pens know they must be special on special teams

PITTSBURGH -- Number-crunching or video watching isn’t necessary to determine why the Pittsburgh Penguins trail the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
 
Their dreadful special-teams performance is endangering the Penguins’ season going into Game 5 at Consol Energy Center on Friday night.
 
The Flyers’ power play is converting at a 60-percent success rate (9-of-15), a remarkably high percentage that dwarfs the next best in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (the Panthers and Blues are at 37.5 percent). The Penguins, except for their 10-3 win Wednesday in Game 4, can’t seem to stay out of the penalty box -- and, when they do occupy it, the puck can’t seem to stay out of their net.
 
For the first time since the Penguins owned a 3-0 lead in Game 1, before they went on to lose 4-3 in overtime and set the tone for the all-Pennsylvania series, they tightened up their special-teams play by holding the Flyers scoreless in the final two periods of Game 4.
 
If the Penguins are to keep playing in a series in which their next loss ends their season, coach Dan Bylsma said it’s evident what must happen.
 
“Our penalty kill is going to have to win us a game,” Bylsma said Friday.
 
Bylsma said it’s not as if the Flyers have dramatically altered what they do with the man advantage.
 
“We know exactly what the Flyers have done all year long. There are other teams that have power plays that are very similar. We know what to expect,” Bylsma said. “They’ve found ways to get goals on rushes, they’ve gotten goals on scrambles, coming out of scrambles and their set up. A little bit of that is more mental than anything. … We have to keep the momentum (from Game 4) and win a game special teams-wise.”
 
Bylsma dressed a seventh defenseman for Game 4 and may do the same Friday to help lessen the manpower load on an under-siege penalty kill.
 
Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek said the Flyers present problems that not all teams do. He didn’t detail all of them, but it’s evident that the Flyers’ speed, their deep group of forwards and their determination to succeed on special teams have perplexed the Penguins.
 
“Like I’ve been saying all along, they’re a good team. They work hard, they put the puck deep and they finish checks,” Michalek said. “They’re going to make it hard on us. We’ve got to make sure we take care of the puck better, don’t turn the puck over and now we’ve got to go out there and execute all those things.”
 
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby suggested a strong special-team effort in Game 5 could begin to swing the momentum of a series that, except for Game 4 and the start of Game 1, has belonged to the Flyers. During the season, the Penguins’ penalty-killing unit was the third-best in the League with an 87.8-percent success rate.

“Every team kind of goes through tough stints where it feels like every chance a team gets, it goes in your net,” Crosby said. “I think the PK still has a lot of confidence in what it needs to do. They know when the time comes, it’s the timing of the penalty kills that are the most important sometimes. We know we can depend on them for a big kill when we need it.”
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:00 PM

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

Flyers expect bounce-back effort from Bryzgalov

PITTSBURGH -- If the Flyers want to close out the series in Game 5 Friday, they know they have to be better in front of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. It would, of course, help if Bryzgalov was better as well.

Bryzgalov was pulled 3:07 into Game 4 after giving up his fifth goal on 18 shots. He has a 4.95 goals-against average and .844 save percentage in the series, but the Flyers remain confident that he will give them a series-clinching performance in net Friday.

"I'm not worried," Flyers center Claude Giroux said. "He's a professional. He's a veteran. He knows what to do. I think he'll be great tonight."

Bryzgalov certainly looked loose at the morning skate. Prior to leaving the ice, he was doing snow angels around his net.

"I've got a feeling," Giroux added. "He's focused and he wants to win. He can't wait for tonight."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said it's not about Bryzgalov.

"I don't think it's fair just to say that Bryz has to have a good game," Laviolette said. "He certainly does. We have great veteran players and you can count on them for a win. We've got great youth in the locker room and you can count on them. We have all year. It's a team sport. If we don't play well in front of Bryzgalov it's going to be more difficult.

"We need big performances out of everybody."

The question is will one of those players be forward James van Riemsdyk? He says he's ready to play for the first time since March 1, when he broke his foot blocking a shot, but van Riemsdyk was not on the ice Friday morning.

Neither was Danny Briere, but Laviolette made the morning skate optional for his players.

Provided Briere plays and van Riemsdyk does not, here's is what the Flyers lines and defense pairs will look like:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood
Zac Rinaldo - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Eric Gustafsson - Matt Carle
Andreas Lilja - Pavel Kubina

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


 
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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
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 12:19 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Penguins' Martin out again

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Paul Martin will sit out Game 5 of his team's Easern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers on  Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) with an undisclosed injury.

Martin also sat out Game 4. The injury could stem back to a hard hit he took from the Flyers' Brayden Schenn in the first period of Game 3.

With Martin out and three players suspended for Game 4 -- forwards Craig Adams, Arron Asham and James Neal -- coach Dan Bylsma went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, something he almost never does. But Bylsma hinted following the morning skate Friday that he could use the same scheme in Game 5, even though Adams and Neal will play.
 
Rookie defensemen Simon Despres and Brian Strait played in Game 4, as did defense regulars Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek, Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland. Niskanen had a goal and an assist as Pittsburgh won 10-3 to keep the series going.
 
"Paul is a second (unit) power-play guy and plays a lot of minutes in defensive situations," Bylsma said. "Having seven the last game, we were able to use guys in different spots. We could use Brian Strait for some of those minutes and have Simon Despres for the second power-play unit, which he filled in on and did a good job on. That’s why it was a positive thing and could be [Friday]."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 12:12 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Giroux: Grossmann has concussion

Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux told reporters Friday that teammate Nicklas Grossmann has a concussion, meaning the defenseman will not be in the lineup for the team when it faces the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette later confirmed Grossmann did not make the trip to Pittsburgh, and that rookie Erik Gustafsson will make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut.

Grossmann was hit hard twice in Game 4 on Wednesday. He was elbowed in the head by Penguins center Evgeni Malkin less than four minutes into the game, and then was rocked by forward Tyler Kennedy with 8:21 left in the period. That hit forced Grossmann to skate slowly off the ice and spend time on the bench. He returned, but played just four shifts in the second period, leaving the game for good with 9:20 remaining.

After the game, the Flyers listed Grossmann as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 11:00 AM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Projected Game 5 lineup for Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins' likely lineup for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Philadelphia Flyers:
 
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams - Richard Park
 
Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Matt Niskanen - Zbynek Michalek
Simon Despres/Brian Strait - Deryk Engelland
 
Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson
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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
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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."

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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

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 7:47 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Game 4 lineups for Flyers and Penguins

PHILADELPHIA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins entered Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers with a new-look lineup due to the suspensions of forwards Craig Adams, Arron Asham and James Neal. In addition, defenseman Paul Martin sat out with an undisclosed injury.

The Penguins opted to dress seven defenseman and 11 forwards, while the Flyers' lineup remained the same from Game 3.

Here's how the teams lined up for Game 4:

PENGUINS:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Tyler Kennedy

Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

Eric Tangradi - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke

Joe Vitale - Richard Park

Kris Letang - Brooks Orpik

Zbynek Michalek - Matt Niskanen

Deryk Engelland - Brian Strait

Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Brent Johnson

FLYERS

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr

Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds

Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood

Zac Rinaldo - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek

Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle

Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn

Andreas Lilja - Pavel Kubina

Ilya Bryzgalov

Sergei Bobrovsky

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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



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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 / 1:51 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Likely lineup for Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers had nearly every healthy player on the ice for practice Wednesday, but did not skate in line combinations. But after winning the first three games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, it's doubtful there will be any lineup changes going into Game 4 Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

So here is what the Flyers likely will have in the lineup for Game 4:

Jaromir Jagr - Claude Giroux - Scott Hartnell
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood
Zac Rinaldo - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Pavel Kubina - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 1:50 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Flyers non-plussed by Pittsburgh suspensions

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Flyers are clear their game plan isn't going to change one bit, no matter which players the Penguins have in the lineup for Game 4 on Wednesday.

In the wake of suspensions to forwards Craig Adams (one game), James Neal (one game) and Arron Asham (four games), all announced Tuesday, the Flyers said neither the term of the suspensionsnor the resulting rosetr makeover for the Penguins, will make a difference to them.

"It is what it is," Danny Briere said. "I can't change anything about that. Peter [Laviolette, coach] told us that suspension or not, it would be irrelevant to the game and I truly believe that. These guys have their backs to the walls so I expect them to play with a lot of desperation and that's why we have to be ready and leave it out all there tonight if we want to clinch."

"[NHL Vice President of Player Safety] Brendan Shanahan, I think, did a good job," forward Scott Hartnell said. "For us it really makes no difference who they put in there. We have to play the same way, have to have a good start. It's not like they're going to roll over and die just because of what happened. Whoever they put in there we have to do a job against the top guys and be disciplined."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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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 / 1:32 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Flyers scoring even without Hartnell chipping in

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Flyers' 20 goals have been scored by nine different forwards. The only three forwards to play in the series and not score are Eric Wellwood, Zac Rinaldo and Scott Hartnell -- the team's leading goal-scorer in the regular season.

Hartnell had a career-best 37 goals in the regular-season -- the sixth-most in the League -- but he hasn't found the back of the net in the first three games.

Adding more incentive for Hartnell to score is the fact that Wednesday is his 30th birthday.

"Everyone would like to score on their birthday," Hartnell said. "I had some chances, hit the post last game in the last game. Not too, too worried about it."

No one else in the Flyers' locker room is, either.

"I think Scott's done a good job in the series," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I'm sure at some point you'll see him crack the score sheet, but right now we think he's playing a physical game and getting to those areas."

"Scotty doesn't have to score goals to be good for our team," linemate Claude Giroux added. "He's been in their face, he's been hitting, he's been winning battles. He's playing great right now. I know the score sheet doesn't show any goals, but he's doing a lot of good things for us."

The players believe the fact that their leading goal-scorer hasn't scored and yet they're up 3-0 in the series is a testament to their scoring depth.

"It doesn't matter who scores the goals," Jakub Voracek told NHL.com. "All four lines can score the goals and that's what we're doing right now, and that's why we're scoring so many goals."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK



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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.

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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."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 5:43 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Penguins' Fleury pulled after second period

PHILADELPHIA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins started the third period with Brent Johnson in goal, in place of Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury allowed six goals on 28 shots through two periods as Philadelphia led 6-4 after 40 minutes.

Fleury entered the game with a 5.45 goals-against average, and in just more than eight periods in the series, he's allowed 17 goals on 84 shots.

The last time Fleury was pulled from a playoff game was Game 5 of the Penguins' first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning last year, when he allowed four goals on 14 shots in 25:10 of action.

The move didn't help much as the Flyers scored on the first shot they took on Johnson, by Claude Giroux, 27 seconds into the period.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 3:00 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Projected lineups for Flyers, Penguins

PHILADELPHIA -- Here are the projected lineups for the Flyers and Penguins for Game 3 Sunday at Wells Fargo Center (3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN).

PENGUINS
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham - Richard Park - Craig Adams

Kris Letang - Paul Martin
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Zac Rinaldo - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood

Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Pavel Kubina - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 1:33 PM

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

Return for Pens' Niskanen possible in Game 3

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen could become a part of this first-round series against the Flyers on Sunday if he gets through warmups OK.

Niskanen, who has not played since April 3 because of an upper-body injury, will take warmups for the first time in the series prior to Game 3. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma called him a gametime decision, but if he is to play he will likely replace Ben Lovejoy, whose turnover led to Sean Couturier's hat-trick goal in Game 2 that made it 7-5.

The Flyers hold a 2-0 lead in the series.

"It's a strength issue," Bylsma said. "We know where he's obviously been at the last few days, and as long as that is there he'll be a possibility to play."

Niskanen, who had 21 points in the regular season, said Saturday that he will play through any pain, but he doesn't want to be restricted. He has missed four straight games.

"It's just killing me being in the press box. It really hurts to watch," Niskanen said. "But I've got to get back when I can, and I have confidence in the guys that we're going to turn it around."

After witnessing the Penguins and Flyers combine to score 20 goals in the first two series, Bylsma said he anticipates Game 3 could be different.

"The one thing about our series is it felt like that game (Game 3) was a Friday the 13th type of game," Bylsma said. "It was an odd game and it happened very fast. I'm not sure I've seen two goals scored in 16 seconds on a power play. You put your head down one second and there's another situation arising. It's been that way for the two games, but you talk about it now and I feel like we might be in for a low scoring affair (Sunday)."

It should be noted that the Penguins came back from 0-2 deficits twice in 2009 en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Their mentality heading into Game 3 Sunday is the same as it was when they were staring at a similar uphill battle against both Washington and Detroit three years ago.

"You can look at a lot of different situations to understand that right now it's about one game, getting one game to make this 2-1," Bylsma said. "You can look at '09. You can look at the Boston Bruins last year. There are other examples. That's the challenge right now, coming out real focused and real galvanized as a group to get a win here in Philly and make it 2-1."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 1:29 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Laviolette holding off on Couturier comparisons

PHILADELPHIA -- After his outstanding performance in the first two games of the series -- especially his Game 2 hat trick -- Flyers rookie center Sean Couturier has become the talk of the postseason in Philadelphia.

The 19-year-old has received rave reviews for his play at both ends of the ice, including the job he's done limiting the League's leading scorer, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, to just two assists in the first two games.

Some have compared Couturier to another tall, lanky defensive-minded center who can chip in offensively -- the Penguins' Jordan Staal. Teammate Jaromir Jagr went even further, comparing Couturier to one of his former teammates -- Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Francis.

"I don't know if I know any words to describe his game today. Awesome? Maybe something better than that?" Jagr said to reporters after the game. "I would say he's our best defensive forward. Age 18, 19 years old. Ron Francis was kind of like that."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who coached Francis for one season and worked with him for three seasons in Carolina, said it was a bit early to make that comparison.

"Sean is a good player, he's a young player, he's done a good job for us," Laviolette said. "It's his [third] playoff game. For the sake of Sean, let's let him develop into the player he is and maybe hold off on calling him Ron Francis, who's the … fourth-leading scorer in the game.

"[Sean is] doing a real nice job for us. Let's let him grow into his position here in Philadelphia."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 4:28 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Pens not looking back as Game 3 approaches

PITTSBURGH--Losing all those multiple-goal leads against the Philadelphia Flyers was bad enough for Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. Dealing with them might be just as difficult.

With Game 3 against the Flyers coming up on Sunday, Bylsma said the Penguins must shove aside the bad memories and focus on what they need to do to correct the numerous mistakes they made while losing the first two games of their Eastern-Conference Quarterfinals series.

The Flyers rolled into Pittsburgh and withstood a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 in overtime in Game 1 Wednesday. On Friday, they shook off Penguins leads of 2-0 and 3-1 to win 8-5 and take a firm grip on the series. After stealing home-ice advantage, they can now lose once in Philadelphia and still win the series.

"If you're asking does it affect the mindset? It does," said Bylsma, whose team has led the Flyers by two goals or more in five games since March 18, losing all but one. "You can say that losing 4-3 is a 4-3 loss no matter how it goes down; but in an overtime game, it's painful for anyone who is losing 4-3."

The Penguins also led 2-0 in Philadelphia on March 18, only to lose 3-2 in the final second of overtime -- thereby ending their NHL season-long 11-game winning streak. They also lost 6-4 in Pittsburgh on April 1 in a game they led 2-0.

"I think we understand we had leads, and 3-0 leads and two-goal leads, and they were able to come back," Bylsma said Saturday. "We knew they were going to be able to play and I don't think there have been a lot of surprises in that regard. I think it's difficult to deal with those losses and, at the same time, we have to put it behind us. We have to get ready for one game, which is Sunday at 3'oclock in Philly."

While the Flyers are 7-1 in Pittsburgh since the Consol Energy Center opened -- with the only loss coming in a nonessential game last weekend --the Penguins are 10-4-1 in their last 15 in Philadelphia.

"It's not what we planned to start with," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said of the 2-0 deficit. "But at the same time we can't panic right now. We have to play hard, play our best and get some wins."

Defenseman Kris Letang said, "You don't want to [be down 2-0]. Sometimes in life you're forced to go through adversity and that's what we're facing right now."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 4:24 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Flyers trying to stay humble despite series lead

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers may be up 2-0 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the players and coaches know they haven't really won anything yet.
 
Falling behind by two goals in the first period of each game is enough to keep any team humbled regardless of the final result.
 
"We're OK with the eight goals," coach Peter Laviolette said. "It's the five and the first 20 minutes. … I think we look at that and try to be better at that. Certainly they're going to get chances, they're a dangerous team. They have talented players. But I think a lot of it has to do with our attitude in the first period.
 
"I think there's things we can do better."
 
Better starts have been a focal point for the last month. In nine of their last 14 games going back to the regular season, they've trailed 2-0 or worst. That they've gone 8-4-2 in those games speaks to the resiliency of the team. However, they know there's a limit to how many times you can dig into that reserve.
 
"It's not easy to come back," Claude Giroux said. "All year we've been doing it, being able to come back every game. Guys don't quit [but] we've got to find a way to put ourselves in a better situation because at the end of the day we won't be able to come back against this team too many times. We have to make sure we do better."
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 3:00 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Past, present residents of Chez Briere excelling

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Last season, Flyers center Claude Giroux moved into the house teammate Danny Briere shares with his three sons. This season, Giroux moved into his own home and rookie forward Sean Couturier has moved in.
 
That trio has accounted for eight of the Flyers' 12 goals in the first two games of the series.
 
So is there something in the water at the Briere home?
 
"I don't know," Couturier, who at age 19 years, 128 days old became the youngest player since 1945 to have a hat trick when he scored three in Game 2, said with a laugh. "It's not the food, for sure. We don't eat."
 
Giroux also had a hat trick in Game 2, after Briere scored twice in Game 1.
 
"I don't know how to explain it," Briere told NHL.com. "It's pretty cool. It's cool to see both Claude and Sean take over the game [Friday]. You put a special touch on it."
 
There's been no word on any team-wide sleepover parties at the Briere home.
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:30 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

van Riemsdyk practices, not quite ready for return

VOORHEES, N.J. -- James van Riemsdyk was on the ice early for extra skating and for all of practice Saturday in his recovery from a broken left foot, but the Flyers' forward said it was highly unlikely he would return in time for Game 3 of the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN).
 
"I don't think I'm going to do that," van Riemsdyk said after the workout at Virtua Flyers Skate Zone. "We're taking it day by day and we'll go from there."
 
Van Riemsdyk last played March 1, and has been skating for about a week. He said watching games -- especially games as exciting as the first two in this series -- has been difficult, but he's trying to be patient and let things heal.
 
"It's pretty brutal when you're sitting at home by yourself without the guys, and they're on the road, they're playing in these exciting games, and big games, and you want to do anything to be out there with them," he said. "It's a good step in the right direction, being on the ice with the guys today. Have to keep building off that and go from there."
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK






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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:19 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Penguins Niskanen Could Return Sunday

PITTSBURGH--Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen, out for four games with an upper-body injury, could return for Game 3 against Philadelphia on Sunday.
 
Niskanen, who had been skating on his own, returned to practice Saturday at the team's suburban ice rink.
 
"Everybody plays through pain," he said. "That's not going to be an issue. It's going to be a functional thing, if I can play the way I need to play without anything holding me back."
 
Niskanen hasn't played since apparently injuring a shoulder on a hit by Daniel Paille of Boston on April 3. He sat out the Flyers' 4-3 overtime win in Game 1 and 8-5 decision in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
 
"It's just killing me being in the press box. It really hurts to watch," Niskanen said. "But I've got to get back when I can, and I have confidence in the guys that we're going to turn it around."
 
Niskanen is coming off a strong season in which he was a plus-9 in 75 games, with four goals and 17 assists.
 
Coach Dan Bylsma said the defensive pairings will be a game-time decision. Niskanen's status will be determined by whether he has enough strength in the affected area to play effectively.
 
If Niskanen returns, Ben Lovejoy probably would be scratched. Lovejoy returned for the series only two weeks after having arthroscopic knee surgery.
 
Lovejoy made an ill-advised pass early in the third period of Game 3, mere seconds after Tyler Kennedy's go-ahead goal, that resulted in a steal and a pivotal goal by Flyers rookie Sean Couturier.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:40 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Five reasons the Penguins are in trouble

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins can only hope they have five more games remaining to get this right.
 
The Penguins, a popular pick to raise the Stanley Cup only a few days ago, suddenly find themselves in a two-game hole after being swept at home by the Philadelphia Flyers to begin their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series.
 
What's remarkable is how they're losing: By opening up substantial early leads in both Game 1 and Game 2, only to have the Flyers dominate play the rest of the way. Pittsburgh owns a 6-1 scoring advantage in the first period; Philadelphia has an 11-2 edge in the second and third periods and overtime.
 
The only time in franchise history the Penguins dropped the first two games at home and recovered to win a series was against Washington in the conference quarterfinals in 1996, even though Boston pulled off just such a comeback last year against Montreal and went on to lift the Stanley Cup. And at least there's this: The Penguins have been swept in a four-game playoff series only once, by Boston in 1979.
 
But as they try to figure out how to extend this series for five more games, here are five reasons why the Penguins are in trouble:
 
1) THEIR STARS AREN'T STARRING. Unlike last season's first-round ouster by Tampa Bay, the Penguins appear to be relatively healthy, with both Sidney Crosby and NHL scoring champion Evgeni Malkin in the lineup. Only they're not being stars. Malkin looks frustrated as the Flyers keep targeting him for contact on almost every shift. Crosby scored early goals in each of the first two games, but couldn't find the net when the games were being decided. The Penguins are built to have No. 87 and No. 71 win games for them, especially in the playoffs, but, so far, it's not happening; Malkin is a minus-5. And James Neal, who is coming off a 40-goal season? He has one goal in nine career playoff games. Malkin's other linemate, Chris Kunitz, scored two goals in Game 2 yet, remarkably, was a minus-5.
 
2) THEY'RE OUT OF THEIR LEAD. The Penguins led 3-0 in the first period of Game 1, 3-1 in the first period of Game 2. And they lost both times. An anomaly? Hardly. Four times since March 18, the Penguins have built multi-goal leads against the Flyers, and they've lost each time. The Flyers keep rallying by staying patient and waiting for the free-wheeling Penguins to start making mistakes -- risky cross-ice passes, questionable decisions while in defensive zone coverage, a stubborn refusal to avoid  carrying the puck into traffic in the neutral zone (Malkin is a prime offender). The Flyers simply aren't worried when the Penguins get ahead, and it shows. And here's another worry for Pittsburgh: Philadelphia is 17-0 when it leads 2-0 in a series.
 
"We've got to find a way to do better with a lead, no doubt," Crosby said. "We know they're going to keep going. We know that."
 
3) THEY'RE NOT GETTING SEPARATION. Even while owning the final line change at home, the Penguins are constantly contending with Malkin's line being shadowed by Flyers rookie center Sean Couturier -- a younger version of the Penguins' own Jordan Staal. The 19-year-old Couturier not only is controlling Malkin, he is only the second teenager in Stanley Cup history to score three goals in a game. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma must be more creative to find ways to get Malkin on the ice when Couturier isn't.
 
"I don't know if I know any words to describe his game," 40-year-old Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr said of Couturier, who is less than half his age. "Awesome, maybe -- something like that?"
 
4) THERE'S NO DEFENSE FOR WHAT'S HAPPENING. For most of the season, the Penguins were a solid, stay-within-the-Bylsma system team defensively -- a prime reason why they accumulated 108 points despite not having Crosby for three-quarters of the season. During their 11-game winning streak from Feb. 21-March 17, they allowed only 17 goals. Over their last 11, they've given up 48. With opponents getting so many scoring chances, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury simply has had no chance at times, and he appears to be losing confidence. If the Penguins don't start playing with some pride and a purpose on defense, it won't matter how many goals Crosby and Malkin score.
 
"We've got to tighten up and try to play in their end," center Jordan Staal said.
 
5) THEIR SPECIAL TEAMS ARE ESPECIALLY BAD. As Bylsma desperately tries to find a workable power-play unit -- Crosby began the first couple of Game 2 power plays on the bench -- the Flyers keep turning games around with their special teams play. They scored on their first two power plays of the series, including Brayden Schenn's all-important tying goal in the third period of Game 2. And they struck for shorthanded goals by Maxime Talbot and Claude Giroux in Game 2. Whether it's personnel, or mindset or coaching, the Flyers are dominating the game-within-a-game special teams contest -- and, while they're doing it, the series, too.
 

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:06 PM

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

Bourdon not part of Flyers' morning skate

PITTSBURGH -- Flyers rookie defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon did not take part in the morning skate Friday at Consol Energy Center, an indication that the upper-body injury he sustained in Game 1 will keep him out of the lineup for Game 2.

Pavel Kubina, a healthy scratch in Game 1, will draw into the lineup if Bourdon indeed can't play. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette does not update his lineup or talk about injuries.

Kubina had four assists and was a minus-3 in 17 games with Philadelphia after coming in a trade from Tampa Bay on Feb. 18. He missed seven games with an injury in March.

"It's always tough when you get traded and obviously it takes a little time to get used to everything, the new system, the new teammates and everything else," Kubina said. "I've been here two months now so I should be used to everything now."

Kubina, who won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004, said he was disappointed that he was a healthy scratch in Game 1, but he is not holding any type of grudge.

"It's always hard when you're not playing and obviously everybody wants to play, but I do understand it," he said. "Hopefully I can help the team in the future."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl



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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:00 PM

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

Projected lineup as Flyers go for 2-0 stranglehold

PITTSBURGH -- The Flyers have jumped out to a 2-0 lead in a seven-game series 17 times in their history. They have gone on to win the series every single time.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have been tied 1-1 in a series 32 times. They are under .500 in those series with a record of 15-17.

Those are two interesting little stats heading into Game 2 Friday, when the Flyers will be looking to take a 2-0 series lead back to Philadelphia. But they're also two meaningless stats to the orange and black.

"Game 1 is done and now it's another game. It's about playing Game 2," Flyers forward Maxime Talbot said. "The stats and all these things that happened, I don't really believe in that. Every year is a chance to make a new story, and tonight is one game and we'll treat it like that."

The stat that does matter to the Flyers is the amount of times they have fallen behind in games recently. They have been down by at least two goals in nine of their last 13 games.

Sure, they've come back to win three of them, including Game 1 on Wednesday, but it's not exactly a trend they want to keep going with.

"Not that we're afraid (of any deficit), but we'd rather not put ourselves in that position," Danny Briere said. "Obviously we go down and we have that belief we can come back, but at the same time we realize in the playoffs you're not going to make that happen as often in the regular season. You have to find a way to be better at the start, compete and weather the storm."

Here is the expected lineup that will be given the task of avoiding yet another slow start:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Eric Wellwood - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Pavel Kubina - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:42 PM

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

Penalty killers have been game changers for Flyers

PITTSBURGH -- Their No. 1 goal is to stay out of the penalty box Friday in Game 2, but should the Flyers find that task to be impossible, they have complete confidence in a penalty kill that looked downright dominant in Game 1 against the Penguins.

While the talk in the Penguins dressing room since late Wednesday night has been about making adjustments on the power play, the talk in the Flyers room Friday was about staying consistent with what obviously worked so well.

After falling into a 3-0 hole early in Game 1, Philadelphia stole momentum with a PK that was perfect on three opportunities and gave up only five shots on goal. The Flyers killed off two penalties in the second period, including one when the score was still 3-0, and another early in the third when the deficit stood at 3-1.

Philadelphia was 17th in the League on the PK in the regular season (81.8 percent), but 19-for-22 in six games (86.4 percent) against the Penguins.

"Specialty teams always factors into a game, so if you look at it in that sense it definitely factored," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought at the end of the second we got better and in the third I really liked our period. I'm not sure if that was a direct result of the penalty kills, but if you think about it the penalty kills, if they let one through, that lead maybe becomes too big. It was big enough as it was."

The Flyers were successful on the PK in Game 1 because they did not give the Penguins' power play much room to operate. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was also good when called upon, but it was the time and space the Flyers took away from guys like Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal that led to their success and to the Penguins' lack of pressure in the attacking zone.

"We have a PK system and we try to do the same thing," Flyers forward Maxime Talbot said. "We know whatever element they put on the ice we have to try to contain him and do the best we can to try to kill the penalty. Yes we have to know who is there, who is left-handed and right-handed, who is a passer and shooter, but we have a way of killing and we have to do it right."

Talbot said the system does not change against the Penguins even though their attack includes superstars like Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Neal.

"You know they're dangerous weapons and instead of trying to fly at them you might contain him more, but in general it doesn't change that much," Talbot said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 12:54 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Pens not fazed by having to play from behind in series

PITTSBURGH -- They've done it in the past, now they need to show they can do it again. The Pittsburgh Penguins understand they must prove they can play from behind.
 
It's been the playing while ahead part that’s been difficult for them.
 
Twice during their Stanley Cup run in 2009, the Penguins rebounded from 2-0 deficits to win series -- against Washington in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Detroit in the Stanley Cup Final. They also bounced back from losing the first game against Ottawa in the 2010 conference quarterfinals to win in six games.
 
But the Penguins couldn't hold a 3-2 series lead against Montreal in the 2010 conference semifinals or a 3-1 series lead against Tampa Bay in the conference quarterfinals last season. And they couldn't hold a 3-0 lead in the first period during their 4-3 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series Wednesday night.
 
Detecting a theme?
 
While every team and every season is different, the core group of Penguins has remained the same since 2008-09 -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Brooks Orpik, Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy, Kris Letang and Matt Cooke.
 
"I think experience from playing games before," Fleury said Friday of the Penguins' bounce-back tendencies. "And the best thing is to forget about it (a loss), the quicker the better. The next day's a new day and I think everybody is excited to have another shot at it."
 
Of course, in a short series, the "next days" dwindle quickly once the losses start to mount. Hence the Penguins' belief that they must play with a sense of desperation in Game 2, lest they go down 2-0 heading into Game 3 Sunday in Philadelphia.
 
"I think there's a sense of that in every game. Everyone always talks about the scenarios, the way a series works out. The reality is, everyone's desperate every game," Crosby said. "That's the way it is. There's obviously more emphasis when you've lost a game to bounce back and get the momentum. That's the case in every series. That's the case here tonight. We want to make sure we bounce back."
 
Even if those outside their room keep focusing on how the Penguins couldn't hold onto a seemingly safe lead in their own arena, Crosby said a hockey team can't do that.
 
"You lose a game, you have to bounce back. In the regular season, we've had to do that. The playoffs aren't any different," the Penguins captain said. "You have to have a short memory and forget it and move on. The way you play doesn't change. If anything, you should be even more desperate coming off a loss. I don't see that really being an issue."
 
During the Crosby-Malkin era, the Penguins are 15-8 following a loss in the playoffs.
 
In 1996, the Penguins lost the first two games at home against Washington in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals only to rebound to win the next four games, but that was long before any of these players' careers had begun.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 12:10 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Penguins hope room full of Cs translates into Ws

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are hoping that a room full of Cs translates into some Ws during their Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
 
The Penguins made a point of wearing specially-designed playoff T-shirts that feature a "C" on the front following their morning skate before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Friday.
 
James Neal said they did it for a reason.
 
On Jan. 13, the Penguins wore taped-on Cs on their practice jerseys during their morning skate in advance of that night's game at Florida. They did so as a sign of team unity -- and to support then-injured team captain Sidney Crosby -- following a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report that the players had discussed appointing a fill-in captain if Crosby could not return.
 
Forward Pascal Dupuis, one of the Penguins' most-tenured players, suggested the players wear the Cs.
 
The Penguins went on to secure a 4-1 victory over the Panthers that not only ended a six-game losing streak but launched them on an eight-game winning streak. From that point, they finished the season with a 30-8-2 record to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference with 108 points, only one point behind the Atlantic Division- and conference-leading New York Rangers.
 
As the Penguins attempt to bounce back from squandering a 3-0 lead during a 4-3 loss to Philadelphia in Game 1 on Wednesday, the players felt it was the right time to wear the T-shirts, which they have shown off several times since they were released two weeks ago.
 
"When we were going through a little slump there and when we had a controversy with Sid and that little stuff kind of brought our team back together," Neal said. "We turned a little losing streak around into a winning streak and it kind of brought back some good memories. It's something we pride ourselves in."
 
Coach Dan Bylsma wasn't aware of any team-unity display by his players.
 
"That's a playoff T-shirt they made and there's more than one or two themes on the shirt," Bylsma said.
 
But it's the black "C" on the right shoulder of the gray T-shirt that stands out most.
 
"That's why we're wearing them today," Neal said.
 
There's also this: The Penguins first wore the Cs on a Friday the 13th in Florida. The day of Game 2 against the Flyers also is a Friday the 13th. So maybe the Penguins are more than a little bit superstitious.
 
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 3:24 PM

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

Flyers know they need better starts

PITTSBURGH -- Although they've made a habit of getting down early in games and coming back, the Flyers understand it's not exactly the greatest formula for success in the playoffs, especially against a team with as much firepower as the Pittsburgh Penguins.

So what do they have to do to combat what has been a problem for a large portion of the season but has seemed to swell in the last month?

Well, it's simple really.

"We have to find a way to be ready from the get-go," Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "That hasn't been the case the last few weeks. Games are getting tighter and tighter and we have to find a way to get better starts. That's why I say we got lucky [Wednesday], because against a really good team, down 3-0, you don't usually get back into the game."

For the third time in the last month the Flyers came back to beat the Penguins after falling into an early hole. This time it was 3-0. The last two times it was 2-0.

Philadelphia, though, now has won four games this season after trailing by at least three goals and has come back to win 10 games when trailing by at least two.

"It says a lot about the youth and firepower on our team that we can score goals and never be out of a game," Scott Hartnell said. "But I've said it once and I'll say it a hundred times, we can't be down 2-0 or 3-0 and expect to win."

The Flyers fell behind 3-0 in Game 1 because the Penguins took it to them with their speed. Granted, the Flyers had six rookies in the lineup and maybe that was a reason why they seemed to have that deer-in-the-headlights look in the first, but Timonen said that argument isn't valid because everybody had that look.

"Everybody was standing still," he said. "We were looking around and waiting to see what is going to happen. That's not a way to start the game. We need to come at these guys and make sure we're the ones to dictate the pace. [Friday] we have to be totally different from the first period on."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 3:20 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Penguins hope changes energize power play

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins player agree that their power play needs some work. So it's not surprising that barely 12 hours after they surrendered a three-goal lead and Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Flyers, the Penguins concentrated on their power play at practice Thursday.
 
Almost every player worked on it, too. Coach Dan Bylsma tried a variety of combinations and alignments in an effort to kick-start a unit that was 0-for-3 against the Flyers in that 4-3 overtime loss Wednesday.
 
In the Penguins’ last two playoff series dating to last season, the power play is 1-for-38 (2.6 percent) – and 0 for 28 at Consol Energy Center. By comparison, the Penguins were much better with a man advantage during the regular season, finishing tied for fifth -- with Philadelphia -- at a 19.7-percent conversion rate.
 
That might explain why forward Steve Sullivan, a power-play fixture until Bylsma began experimenting late in the season, was back on the point during the practice Thursday.
 
"Obviously, the power play needs to do a better job,” said defenseman Kris Letang, another point man on the power play. “That’s the reason we practiced it this morning. We could have put the game away with a power-play goal [while leading 3-0 in the second period]. We have to work on it and learn from it and make sure we do the right things.”
 
Bylsma explained the multiple combinations as simply making sure multiple players know how to play the same position. That became a concern when most of the players on the top power-play unit had just been out for a shift and substitutions had to be made on the fly during one of the three failed power plays in Game 1.
 
“We’re struggling a little bit with the units we do have so we’re trying to mix and match a little bit to make sure everyone’s comfortable at everyone’s position,” Sullivan said.
 
Bylsma also worked with multiple combinations, rather than keeping the top unit led Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out for most of a power play.
 
“We want to try to use two units, two sets of players that can play a minute and get us going and get us a goal,” Letang said.
 
Bylsma began tinkering with the power play after Crosby returned in mid-March, with the most radical change being an all-forwards unit. However, the Penguins had four different games down the stretch in which they went 0-for-4 on the power play.
 
Letang went back to the point late in the season, and now it appears Sullivan will return there, too, which allows Malkin and Crosby to try to find openings down low.
 
“He's played there all year and shown he's pretty comfortable there,” Crosby said of Sullivan. “He can make plays and he's a smart player. He distributes the puck well so he brings all of that to the power play. He's pretty familiar with that area.”
 
Sullivan often was used during the season to carry the puck out of the defensive zone and establish the power play. In Game 1, the Flyers were successful in disrupting that flow, one reason the Penguins' extra-man units sometimes looked ragged.
 
“It felt like we'd take a shot and they'd clear it,” Crosby said. “We didn't really get set up and really try to expose anything there. We were trying to get shots, which is always a good mentality to have on any power play, but sometimes I think we could have been a bit more patient to try to set something up.”
 
Pittsburgh also didn’t have much success during the season against the Flyers’ penalty kill, going 3-for-22 (13.6 percent).
 
“They’re a very pressure-first mentality of a penalty kill over there, and they’re not giving us much time,” Sullivan said. “So we’ve got to make sure we execute the passes we make, that we’ve got some support and we’ve got some clean entries so we have as much zone time as we can.”
 
The Flyers had only one power play and took advantage of it, with Brayden Schenn’s goal at 12:23 of the third tying the game. Philadelphia has scored a power-play goal in all seven games against the Penguins this season, counting Game 1, and is 7-for-30 overall against Pittsburgh (23.3 percent) despite going 1-for-6 in three different games.
 
“We let the special teams get away from us,” Chris Kunitz said.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 3:00 PM

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

Kubina could return to Flyers' lineup for Game 2

PITTSBURGH -- Flyers rookie defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon did not practice Thursday because of an the upper-body injury he sustained in Game 1 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Peguins. While Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette would not comment on injuries or his lineup, it's possible veteran blueliner Pavel Kubina -- a healthy scratch in Game 1 -- could return to the lineup for Game 2 Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

Laviolette said he would have no problem inserting Kubina into the lineup despite the fact that his struggles since coming to the Flyers from Tampa Bay in February likely were among the reasons why he was a healthy scratch Wednesday.

Kubina has four assists and a minus-3 rating in 17 games.

"Well, he is effective," Laviolette said. "Pavel has done a terrific job since he's been here, a welcome addition. Because he didn't play last night is not a reflection of him."

Kubina, who also would not reveal if he is going to play Friday, said while it was tough, he enjoyed watching the Flyers come back from a 3-0 deficit to win Game 1.

"It was an unbelievable effort in the second half and it was fun to watch that," Kubina said. "When you see the guys do so well and battling like that, it's fun to watch that even when you're not in."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 12:36 AM

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

Laviolette focused on Friday

PITTSBURGH -- After winning a thriller Wednesday that probably caused a few too many strands of his hair to turn from brown to gray, a calm and composed Peter Laviolette sat at the podium and confidently talked about tomorrow being bigger, better -- and more important.

"I definitely think we can move forward now," Laviolette said. "We had a lot of first-time experiences today and that's over with and we persevered, so that's a good thing."

Laviolette isn't a believer in momentum in the playoffs because, in his own words, "the playoffs is like a loaf of bread; it's slice-by-slice. Some slices you really like, and some are really moldy."

What he means is Game 2 on Friday will be different than Game 1 was Wednesday, and the Flyers have to make significant changes, especially at the start of the game, if they want to leave Pittsburgh with a 2-0 lead in the series.

"Every day you have to go out and work for your win," Laviolette said. "Whether you win or lose you have to move on to the next game. That'll be the focus, what can we do to be better. It's just one win and now we have to focus on the second game and making sure we're better in a lot of different areas."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 2:32 PM

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

Flyers expect rookies to do their jobs

PITTSBURGH -- Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette offered a hint Wednesday morning, albeit in a round-about way, that he already has spoken to the six rookies expected to be in his Game 1 lineup about playing in the playoff pressure-cooker for the first time.

"We didn't go, 'Oh my god it's your first playoff series,'" Laviolette said with a laugh. "I don't think that would have helped them."

No, probably not. But, the message seems pretty clear.

Laviolette said he expects forwards Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, Eric Wellwood, Sean Couturier and Zac Rinaldo, and defenseman , Marc-Andre Bourdon, to be themselves and to play their roles, just as they have all season long.

"Our younger players have been utilized in every situation imaginable to this point," he said. "They got the opportunity to be part of HBO, part of the Winter Classic, and never once has there been any lack of confidence from the organization, our staff and their teammates for that matter. They are contributing factors.

"For me this is not a roll the dice and hope they make it through. This is, 'We need you to do your job, the job you've done all year.' And, they've done it well. This is their first opportunity in the playoffs, but they give us no reason to believe life will be any different than it was yesterday. We count on them for our success."

While the Penguins likely will try to find a way to exploit the rookies, Philadelphia veteran center Danny Briere said he thinks they will give the Flyers an energy boost.

"I know people are probably thinking there are a lot of rookies on this team and you don't know how they're going to answer, but I think these guys will be excited to prove themselves just like they did at the beginning of the year [when they had] to prove they had a place on this team," Briere said. "I think our youth is going to give us energy and take us a long way."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 1:48 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Bylsma respects Laviolette despite recent remarks

PITTSBURGH -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma’s ears perked up the other night while he was watching a scouting tape in advance of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
 
An announcer was discussing the most successful U.S.-born coaches in the NHL, and he mentioned Peter Laviolette of the Philadelphia Flyers and John Tortorella of the New York Rangers. Both coached teams that won the Stanley Cup -- Tortorella with the Tampa Bay Lighting in 2004 and Laviolette two years later with the Carolina Hurricanes.
 
Left out of the discussion? Bylsma, who didn’t take over until midseason in 2008-09 yet coached the Penguins to a seven-game Stanley Cup Final series win against the Detroit Red Wings.
 
An unintended slight? Perhaps. A bit of a motivator for Bylsma? Perhaps that, too.
 
"I was disappointed not being mentioned in the commentator's comments about American coaches," Bylsma said. "But that's part of the game."
 
And a Bylsma vs. Laviolette coaching matchup in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals is bound to contain some coaching gamesmanship, too.
 
Bylsma said Laviolette deserves all the praise he has gotten during a season in which the Flyers withstood the offseason departures of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and the influx of a half-dozen rookies to finish with 103 points, the sixth-most in the League.
 
"They play a consistent game," said Bylsma, whose team won 51 games -- the second-most in Penguins history. "I think their team has a real identity, which isn't the old Flyers identity, but a real good identity. This team in particular, they talk about (Claude) Giroux and (Jaromir) Jagr. Their power play has been a factor, but this is a team that does it throughout their lineup. They keep coming at you and they play well throughout their lineup. They’ve dealt with injuries."
 
Bylsma added, "He (Laviolette) is going to have matchups that he goes after and these things are important for his team. You'll see their team go after those. He's also a coach that does a good job of adjusting his team and their mindset. I have a lot of respect for Peter as a coach for what he’s done -- regardless of the name calling."
 
Bylsma was referring to Laviolette's comment after an April 1 game against the Pens that Bylsma was "gutless" for putting out his toughest players against the Flyers' Danny Briere line late in Philadelphia's 6-4 victory in Pittsburgh. During that shift, Penguins center Joe Vitale put a clean but hard hit on Briere, who went on to miss the final three regular season games with a back contusion that caused back spasms.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 1:21 PM

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

Flyers to have Briere, Grossmann for Game 1

PITTSBURGH -- Danny Briere and Nicklas Grossman both played coy Wednesday morning and said their status would not be decided until game time. The Flyers didn't want to wait that long to make it official, so shortly after the media session with the players was over, the team revealed on its Twitter page that Briere and Grossmann will play in Game 1 against the Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

The news is not surprising since both players have been practicing this week and they came off the ice with the rest of the regulars after Wednesday's pregame skate.

They each missed the last three regular-season games after being injured in the teams' game April 1, both on plays involving Penguins center Joe Vitale. Grossmann was left with a lower-body injury after colliding with Vitale in the first period. In the game's final moments, Vitale's hard shoulder check on Briere left the Philadelphia center with a back contusion that caused back spasms.

Now with Briere and Grossmann set to go, the Flyers will have their full lineup. Defenseman Pavel Kubina, who played the last 10 games of the regular season, and forward Jody Shelley will be healthy scratches.

Briere is one point shy of being a point-per-game player in his playoff career (96 points in 97 games). He'll center the second line, between Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.

"In the playoffs he's been pretty good and we hope he plays the way he can," Claude Giroux said of Briere. "I have no doubt for him. The last few practices he's been flying out there. He just finds a way to get it done."

Grossmann has been a key addition to the Flyers' lineup since arriving in trade just before the trade deadline. He has been using his 6-foot-4, 230-pound body to clear space in front of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who was the NHL's Player of the Month in March.

Grossmann recognizes how important his job will be against the high-powered Penguins.

"They've got a lot of skill up front, obviously. They have two, I think, real high-skilled lines that can score a lot of goals," Grossmann said. "If everyone is on the same page and doing the right things it's going to make us successful in helping Bryz out."

Here is the Flyers' likely lineup for Game 1:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Jakub Voracek - Matt Read - Eric Wellwood
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Brayden Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Marc-Andre Bourdon - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 12:13 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Cooke wary of Flyers' skill more than braun

PITTSBURGH — Matt Cooke wants to make something clear now that the long-awaited Flyers-Penguins playoff series is finally here.
 
The Penguins are not – with the emphasis on "not" – playing the Broad Street Bullies in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
 
The Flyers-Penguins regular season game April 1 was intense and physical and wound down with two coaches screaming at each other as all 10 skaters on the ice skirmished briefly. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was incensed by a clean but hard hit by center Joe Vitale on Flyers forward Danny Briere and was highly critical of the Penguins and coach Dan Bylsma.
 
After the teams met again this past Sunday in a far-less-emotional game, Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said he expected this series to be a "bloodbath."
 
However, the Penguins believe the Flyers teams they defeated in the 2008 and 2009 playoffs better fit the Broad Street Bullies stereotype. To them, these Flyers are built around elements other than tough guys and a push-it-to-the-limits mentality.
 
"I mean they're not a bruiser team. They don't physically punish you, I wouldn't say, any more than the way we want to play,” Cooke said following the morning skate at Consol Energy Center. "They have that persona from the 1970s and that’s what the Philadelphia Flyers are about. They have a lot of skill over there. They play a skill game and they look for turnovers. Those are the things that are going to win them games, not physical play."
 
Not that the Flyers don’t have agitator-type players that try to disrupt and distract a team. After that April 1 game, Penguins star Sidney Crosby acknowledged he gave more retaliatory hits than in any recent game he can remember.
 
The Flyers also are expected to try to provoke Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin into taking a retaliatory penalty – he can be prone to doing that – that not only puts Philadelphia on the power play but takes one of the NHL’s most creative offensive players off the ice. Malkin had 70 penalty minutes this season – 26 more than long-reputed agitator Cooke, for example.
 
“They’ve got certain players that are willing to irritate guys," Cooke said. "I think that's a situation where playing three games against them late in the season are fresh in our memories and make us understand and realize how we have to defend against that."
 
While the Flyers may not try to beat up an opponent at the same time it is trying to defeat it, Bylsma said the Penguins must be prepared for the offensive pace Philadelphia will attempt to mount with all four lines.
 
“This is a team that keeps coming at you," Bylsma said.
 
Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy is expected to play only two weeks after having arthroscopic knee surgery; he was expected to be out for three-to-four weeks. Defenseman Matt Niskanen didn’t take part in the morning skate and is all but certain to miss a third consecutive game.
 
One change: Deryk Engelland, usually on the right side when he is paired with Niskanen, will be on the left side with Lovejoy playing the right side.
 
The only other defenseman in uniform is rookie Brian Strait, who was a minus-two in the final two regular season games.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 10:41 AM

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

Likely lineup for Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Penguins are on the ice for their morning skate in advance of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Flyers (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN). Here are their expected lines and defense pairs:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Brian Strait/Ben Lovejoy - Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 7:05 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Pens' Lovejoy could return for Game 1

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy could return for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Philadelphia on Wednesday, two weeks after having arthroscopic right knee surgery.
 
Lovejoy was expected to be out for 3-4 weeks after getting injured March 25 against New Jersey. But he resumed skating last week and returned to practice on Monday.
 
With Matt Niskanen (lower-body injury) unlikely to be ready for Game 1, the only other healthy defenseman available on the Penguins' roster is rookie Brian Strait. He was a minus-2 in season-ending games against the Rangers and Flyers last week.

Niskanen was held out of practice Tuesday, although he skated beforehand. He missed the final two games of the regular season.
 
Lovejoy has been limited to 34 games because of injuries and the depth the Penguins possess on the blue line when Niskanen is healthy. He has one goal and four assists and is a plus-3.
 
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma seemed to suggest following practice Tuesday that Lovejoy could be ready to go.
 
"Ben Lovejoy is a guy who three times this year has played after long absences and has played really well after he's stepped back in," Bylsma said. "He's played in the postseason and has that experience there. He's been a guy who's stepped in for us this year when we've had injuries. When and if Ben gets healthy, he's going to be a guy we're comfortable putting in situations."
 
Lovejoy had two assists while playing in all seven games of the Penguins' conference quarterfinal round series loss to Tampa Bay last season.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 2:18 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Flyers have decision to make on defense

VOORHEES, N.J. -- One of the more interesting lineup decisions for Flyers coach Peter Laviolette could come in his third defense pairing.

For the second straight day at practice, Andreas Lilja and rookie Marc-Andre Bourdon formed the third pairing, while Pavel Kubina -- acquired from Tampa Bay in February to bolster the back end -- skated as the extra blueliner.

Kubina had just four assists in 17 games with the Flyers, and missed two weeks in March with what the team called an upper-body injury. In 10 games back since the injury, he has two assists, a minus-3 rating and has looked easy to push off the puck.

"Pavel has been really good," Laviolette said. "He's been a welcome addition to our back end."

Bourdon has been a pleasant surprise this season, with four goals in 45 games and a good level of physical play for his 6-foot, 206-pound frame. Lilja also brings size and physicality, but played just 46 games due to injury and being a healthy scratch 26 times.

Laviolette wasn't going to discuss his lineup, which at Tuesday's practice saw Braydon Coburn paired with Nicklas Grossmann -- likely to play in Game 1 after missing the last three games with a lower-body injury -- and Kimmo Timonen with Matt Carle.

"We're fortunate to get some health now so we've got good defensemen available for the playoffs," Laviolette said.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK



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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 2:02 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Flyers put youth up against Penguins' experience

VOORHEES, N.J. -- No team got a bigger contribution from its rookies in the 2011-12 season than the Philadelphia Flyers.

They got a League-high 64 goals from their rookies, and with as many as six first-year players expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, their play will be pivotal for Philadelphia.

How those young players react in the crucible of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be so important because of the Penguins' advantage in experience -- 11 players expected to be in the Game 1 lineup for Pittsburgh were part of the team that won the 2009 Stanley Cup.

While many would think that playoff knowledge would give the Pens a major advantage, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he isn't so sure.

"That's one I don't have an answer for," he said. "If you're asking me if I like our team and if I like our young players that we've had and that we've had in place all year and if they've answered the bell every time we've asked them to answer a bell, I have. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in this group. And I guess the guys, to answer your question, the guys that don't have the playoff experience, we really like them as players. They've done a terrific job all year.

"How does that compare to [the Penguins]? I'm not sure. I'm not sure if matters. We're going to go in there and we expect to play a good hockey team and we expect to win."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


 
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 7:56 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Neal, Sullivan ready to go for Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- Dan Bylsma skated onto the ice Monday for the Pittsburgh Penguins' first practice in advance of their Stanley Cup Playoffs series against Philadelphia and was greeted by an uncommon sight.
 
All of his forwards were in uniform , healthy and ready to go -- including James Neal and Steve Sullivan.
 
James Neal
During a season in which star Sidney Crosby missed 60 games with concussion-related issues, Tyler Kennedy was out for 22 games, Jordan Staal sat out 20 and Neal and Sullivan were sidelined for the final two games, Bylsma rarely had all four lines healthy at the same time.
 
Evgeni Malkin even missed seven games early in the season, although he still managed to easily win the scoring title by 12 points over Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay.
 
Neal, whose 40 goals ranked fourth in the League, and Sullivan, who had a 48-point season, each missed games Thursday against the Rangers and Saturday against the Flyers with lower-body injuries.
 
"We saw Sullivan and Neal return to practice and play on the lines they played on three games ago and will be playing on for the start of Game 1," Bylsma said.

That means Neal goes back onto the Malkin line with Chris Kunitz, where he has played nearly all season, while Sullivan and Pascal Dupuis will be the wings on Sidney Crosby's line.
 
"It was good to get back out there and get the legs going, get your timing back and get ready for playoffs," said Neal, who had one goal in seven playoff games against Tampa Bay last spring.

Asked whether his condition was a concern with the start of the playoffs so close, Neal said, "No, it's fine. I'll be all right. I had a good week of rest. That's what I needed and I'll be ready to go, 100 percent."
 
Sullivan felt he could have played Saturday but, since that game did not affect the Penguins' playoff seeding, he was held out.
 
"Awesome," Sullivan said when asked how he is feeling. "I'm ready to go."
 
Sullivan signed with the Penguins before the season started in part because he has never lifted the Stanley Cup since breaking into the NHL with New Jersey during the 1995-96 season.
 
"It's probably the best opportunity that I've had," Sullivan said. "I think I'm very excited, energized and ready to go. These opportunities don't come along very often, so I'm going to make the best of my opportunity here."

Defenseman Matt Niskanen's status for Game 1 at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday is uncertain. He missed the final two regular season games with an upper-body injury, and he didn't practice Monday although he skated on his own.
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 3:45 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Flyers getting healthy at the right time

Danny Briere wasn't allowed to say as much, but after a full practice, it appears likely he'll be able to play when the Philadelphia Flyers open the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN).

"To be honest, I'm not allowed to speak on any injuries or the roster or if I'm going to play or not," Briere said following the team's workout at Virtua Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. "All I can tell you is -- and you saw it -- I'm practicing and working to get ready. That's all I’m allowed to say at this point."

Briere missed the final three games of the regular season with a back contusion that he said was causing spasms. The injury came on a hit by the Penguins' Joe Vitale in the third period of the teams' April 1 game.

Getting a healthy Briere in the lineup would be a huge advantage for the Flyers. Briere had seven goals in 11 playoff games last season, and has 19 goals and 39 points in his last 34 playoff games.

"It's the best time of the year," said Briere. "There's nothing like playoff hockey. It's kind of the time that we're all waiting for. It's one thing you work hard all season to get in the playoffs, but this is another level."

Defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, also injured on a Vitale hit in that April 1 game with the Penguins, said he will be in the lineup for Game 1. He collided with Vitale in the first period of that game and suffered what the team called a lower-body injury. Grossmann was seen with a brace on his right knee last week, matching the one he wears on his left knee.

Like Briere, he sat out the final three regular-season games, but told reporters following Monday's practice that he'll be ready to go Wednesday.

"I've done this before, so hopefully, it won't be a problem," Grossman said of playing with two braces. "It's just getting used to it. This was a good day. It was nice to get out with the boys. I've been skating. I'm ready. I feel good."
 
Grossmann said he didn't feel the braces would change how he plays, or limit his mobility.
 
"No, it doesn't change," he said. "You can't go out and think about stuff like that or it won't make you successful. You just got to keep playing the game and do things you can contribute."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelamn@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Penguins, Flyers to play Game 1 Wednesday

The Penguins and Flyers will open their hotly-anticipated Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

Game 1 between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will start at 7:30 ET. The showdown will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.
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Quote of the Day

I kept refreshing the page on the NHL website after the second round and I was shocked he lasted that long. I'm sure the Coyotes were pretty happy to get him. He's such a good player and he plays big in big games.

— Arizona Coyotes forward Henrik Samuelsson on prospect Edgars Kulda being draftedd