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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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