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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

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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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 remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic