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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 12:48 PM

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

Couturier a possibility for Flyers in Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers rookie center Sean Couturier will be a game-time decision for Game 4 of the team's Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, CBC).

Couturier left Game 3 on Thursday in the first period with a lower-body injury sustained when he became tangled with New Jersey's David Clarkson. He skated for less than five minutes by himself in a track suit Saturday, but was on the ice for all of the team's morning skate Sunday and did not look restricted.

"Sean is an important piece of the team," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He looked good skating out there. He's smiling -- that's always good."

Multiple media outlets said the injury was a skate cut to his right leg, but Couturier declined to describe the details of the injury, only saying it was "scary at the moment."

"Just battling and it just didn't feel good at one point," he said.

However, Couturier said he's feeling better now, and hopes for further improvement as the day goes on.

"Every day it gets better and better, every hour it gets better and better, so we'll see," he said.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 12:01 PM

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

Two-game lead could be commanding for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have an opportunity to open a two-game lead in a playoff series for the first time in six years Sunday when they play host to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal at Prudential Center.
 
How significant is that? Well, since the franchise first qualified for the playoffs in 1988, the Devils have taken at least a two-game lead in a playoff series on 14 occasions and they've won every time.
 
Still, not since their 2006 Conference Quarterfinal sweep of the New York Rangers have the Devils enjoyed the luxury of leading a best-or-seven by at least two games. A victory on Sunday, however, will give New Jersey a 3-1 lead with a chance to close it out Tuesday in Philadelphia.
 
The last time the Devils lost the first game of a playoff series, as they did against the Flyers this series, and won the next three games was against Ottawa in the 2003 Conference Finals. New Jersey would win that best-of-seven in seven games before defeating Anaheim in the Stanley Cup Final in seven.
 
The Devils made final preparations for their Game 4 matchup with the Flyers Sunday morning during an optional skate at Prudential Center. All players were present with the exception of Petr Sykora, Dainius Zubrus, Ryan Carter, Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador and Marek Zidlicky.
 
"As I said in the Florida series, I really felt this would be a slow build for us through the playoffs and we would get better as we went like we did during the regular season," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "It's new for a lot of guys in the room despite the average age of the team and the great experience we have with a few guys. We've got a lot of young guys at key positions too so I think we're getting better and better like we did during the regular season and that's the key."
 
New Jersey is hoping to give their hometown fans something to remember on the day goalie Martin Brodeur celebrates his 40th birthday.
 
The Devils sport a 3-1 mark at Prudential Center in the playoffs. The only loss was a 4-3 setback to the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of the Conference Quarterfinal, in which the team blew a 3-0 lead.
 
"We really need the support [of the home crowd]; they gave us that all year long," Ilya Kovalchuk said. "Now, I think it's the most exciting time of the year and they give us a lot of extra jump that's for sure."
 
Devils coach Pete DeBoer said the atmosphere Thursday in New Jersey's 4-3 overtime victory was fantastic.
 
"It was electric," DeBoer said. "It's a great environment and it really gives us an extra lift. The guys, when the building gets going, it's a huge momentum builder for us. So, I know the guys are excited and they've been talking about it since the last game ended and I think can't get wait to get out there [Sunday]."
 
Devils captain Zach Parise considers it a compliment that several Flyers' players had publicly admitted their frustration in this series.
 
"It means we're doing something right, we're playing the right way, and we've been really good in our defensive zone and haven't given them a lot of room," Parise said. "With all the really good players they got over there, you have to limit their space and I think our defense has done a really good job of that and the forwards are doing a good job of backchecking, so if they're saying their frustrated, I guess that's a good compliment to us."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 11:48 AM

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

Devils' Sestito could make postseason debut Sunday

NEWARK, N.J. -- While there was no official announcement made by New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer following his team's optional skate Sunday morning at Prudential Center, there's a good possibility forward Tim Sestito will replace Ryan Carter on the fourth line for Game 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers in their Eastern Conference Semifinal.
 
Carter, who was apparently receiving treatment, did not skate on Sunday. There was no equipment at his locker stall following practice, and Sestito was moved beside usual fourth line center Stephen Gionta and right wing Steve Bernier.
 
"I think the chances of him playing look pretty good," Gionta said. "[Tim] brings a lot to the table, he's a hard worker, great forechecker. I played with him in Albany and he'd add a new dimension to the lineup [Sunday]."
 
If the 27-year-old Sestito is inserted into the lineup, he would be making his Stanley Cup playoff debut. In 18 regular-season games this season, Sestito had no points and a minus-5 rating. In 64 appearances with the Devils, he has three assists and a minus-12 rating.
 
The fourth line for the Devils during the playoffs has been incredibly productive. Carter, Gionta and Bernier have combined for five goals and 10 points in 10 games together.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for Game 4:

Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter/Tim Sestito - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 11:15 AM

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

Briere delivers for young hockey player

The Stanley Cup Playoffs seem to be motivation enough for Danny Briere, who scored the 50th goal of his playoff career in just his 106th game in Game 3 of the Flyers' Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
 
After the game, Briere told RDS reporter Renaud Lavoie that he wanted to send a message to a friend of his -- 11-year-old Michael Pageau of Gatineau, Que. Pageau had spent 14 hours in surgery on Monday at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa as doctors attempted to remove a large brain tumor.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 3:06 PM

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

Meszaros still working his way back

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Andrej Meszaros said Saturday's practice was the hardest he's worked since having back surgery March 21. But, he remains unsure if the next step for him is a return to the lineup.
 
"It's a long process," Meszaros said. "It's getting better day by day, but every day is different."
 
Meszaros hasn't played since March 1, and had surgery to remove a disc fragment that was impinging on a nerve root. The original prognosis was a 6-8 week recovery; May 2 was the six-week mark.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 2:50 PM

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

Flyers don't think Giroux is pressing

Claude Giroux
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 15
SOG: 35 | +/-: 3
VOORHEES, N.J. -- After the Flyers beat the Penguins in Game 6 of the first round, Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette started a response of Claude Giroux demanding to start the game, "When the best player in the world comes up to you …"
 
The moniker was picked up on by fans and hockey experts throughout North America, with few disagreeing.
 
But as dominant as Giroux was in the first round, he's been mostly quiet through the first three games of the conference semifinal against New Jersey. He has just one goal -- a power-play goal in Game 1 -- and is a minus-3 with seven shots, and he's winning just 47.8 percent of his faceoffs. 
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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 2:38 PM

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

Flyers trying to get emotionally invested in series

VOORHEES, N.J. -- In the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers had no trouble getting emotionally invested in that series from the first puck drop in Game 1, and it seemed to play a large role in their six-game series win.

Reaching that same level through the first three games against the New Jersey Devils in the conference semifinals has been far tougher.

"Of course we hate them," defenseman Andreas Lilja told NHL.com. "You have to hate them, we play them almost every night. We have to get more emotions involved."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 2:08 PM

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

Zidlicky a good fit for Devils

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

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

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

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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 1:49 PM

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

Devils unfazed by Flyers line changes

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

FLYERS VS. DEVILS

Kovalchuk stars in his return to lineup

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

In addition to Kovalchuk, who said he feels fine and is ready to go for Game 4, rookie defenseman Adam Larsson remained in good graces with head coach Pete DeBoer following another solid showing in Game 3. Larsson logged 20:32 of ice time on 33 shifts in Thursdays' win and also blocked one shot.
 
"I was a bit worried about [Thursday] night," DeBoer said. "You always play the first game back with a lot of adrenaline. We anticipated he wouldn't have any problem returning to the lineup [for Game 2 in Philadelphia], but sometimes the second game hits you a bit. He was out three weeks [as a healthy scratch] but he handled it well and there was no drop off. He played the type of game we needed him to play."
 
Meanwhile, Devils backup goalie Johan Hedberg was celebrating his 39th birthday on Saturday. Starter Martin Brodeur will be celebrating his 40th on Sunday in what he hopes will be a victory.
 
Brodeur has basically rewritten the regular-season record book for goalies by setting marks for career games (1,191), victories (656), shutouts (119) and minutes played (70,028). He also surpassed Hall of Famer Patrick Roy with his 24th career playoff shutout in Game 4 against the Florida Panthers in the conference quarterfinal round.
 
His 26-save 4-0 victory over the Panthers marked his first postseason goose egg since blanking Carolina 1-0 on April 23, 2009. It was his fourth since blanking Anaheim 3-0 in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final to give the Devils their third title in nine years.
 
Here were the line combinations during Saturday's practice:
 
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
 
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 12:27 PM

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

Flyers juggle lines at practice

VOORHEES, N.J . -- Following a few line changes in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the New Jersey Devils, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette unveiled four new lines at practice Saturday, a day before Game 4 on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Danny Briere was centering Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek, while Claude Giroux was with James van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds. Brayden Schenn centered Matt Read and Jaromir Jagr, while Maxime Talbot was between Zac Rinaldo and Eric Wellwood.

Putting Hartnell back with Briere could be what Hartnell needs to get on track -- he has just one even-strength point in nine playoff games. When Hartnell and Briere were together in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Hartnell had 17 points in 23 games and the Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.

Rinaldo could make his series debut in Game 4 in place of rookie Sean Couturier, who suffered a lower-body injury in the first period of Game 3 when he got tangled along the boards with the Devils' David Clarkson. According to RDS, Couturier skated on his own in a track suit for less than five minutes about an hour before the full team hit the ice.

Another change could come on defense, with Andrej Meszaros possibly returning to the lineup for the first time since March 1. Meszaros had back surgery on March 21, and for the first time was paired with one of the team's regular defenders, Andreas Lilja. The initial prognosis after surgery for Meszaros was 6-8 weeks, and May 2 was six weeks.

If Meszaros comes in, it's likely rookie Erik Gustafsson could sit. Gustafsson on Saturday skated with Pavel Kubina, who has been a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs.

Here is how the Flyers' lineup could look for Game 4:

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

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andrej Meszaros - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

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

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