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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 2:44 PM

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

Kovalchuk not worried about next oppnenet yet

NEWARK, N.J. -- It makes no difference to New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk who the next opponent will be in the Eastern Conference Finals beginning on Monday.
 
Still, a series against the Washington Capitals and fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin would make for a pretty neat storyline.
 
"It would be nice … the first time ever [that both players meet in the playoffs]," Kovalchuk told the media after practice on Saturday. "He's one of the best players in the League and it's nice to play against those guys, but that's something we'll talk about [on Sunday] if it even happens."
 
Kovalchuk said it wouldn't motivate him even more to face Ovechkin in the next round.
 
"You don't need anything else … you're in the conference finals," Kovalchuk said. "I'm sure everybody will be pumped up and ready to go. It doesn't matter. For sure, it'll be nice. We're both Russian and the same age. I think if they win, that'll be their first time in conference finals so I'm pretty sure it'll be special for both of us."
 
For the record, Kovalchuk turned 29 years old on April 15; Ovechkin is 26.
 
Kovalchuk wasn't too concerned when asked his opinion on Ovechkin's limited ice time in the postseason. The Capitals captain has averaged 19:46 on the ice in 13 postseason games.
 
"That's their business and their problems," Kovalchuk said. "I'm pretty sure they're winning and that's all that matters at the end of the day."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer said everyone's ice time is limited this time in the season.
 
"Coaches are playing four lines a game, and I think this time of year, almost everyone's minutes are down a little bit," DeBoer said. "Ovi's are down more significantly, but they have enough depth with that type of player there, with [Nicklas] Backstrom and [Alexander] Semin where they can do that."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 2:37 PM

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

DeBoer happy for his Devils to rest

NEWARK, N.J. -- There's never too much rest for the weary.
 
After going the distance against the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he wouldn't trade places with anybody to be playing another Game 7.
 
"For me, the longer the better," DeBoer said.
 
After needing just five games to dispose of the Philadelphia Flyers in the Conference Semifinals, DeBoer's team is now four days into a five-day break before kicking off Game 1 of the conference finals on Monday. The Devils will play the winner of a Game 7 on Saturday between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.
 
Is the five-day break too much?
 
"Like I've said all along, I don't think there's such a thing as too much rest this time of year," DeBoer said. "We have to stay sharp. That's our job to manage the schedule and the days off, so that we're ready to go Game 1. That's on the coaching staff to manage it properly, but I wouldn't want to trade spots with somebody playing Game 7 right now."
 
DeBoer has been on a regular routine during the playoffs this spring. He has provided the club with the necessary time off and has had them skate hard as well. It has certainly worked wonders. DeBoer worked his team through two practice sessions on Saturday at AmeriHealth Pavilion.
 
"The guys are excited and we got through a good practice [on Saturday] and we worked on a lot of stuff," DeBoer said. "Again it's managing the five days off and making sure we build and are ready for Monday.
 
"I think all year we've tried to make sure we've had a good ration of rest and practice," he continued. "My feeling is if we practice, we practice hard. If we don't need to practice, you should be resting both mentally and physically away from the rink. I think the guys have enjoyed that part of it and we came back [Saturday] in a good frame of mind after having [Friday] off."
 
The second session was dedicated primarily to specialty teams. The Devils first power-play unit had Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias up front and Ilya Kovalchuk and Marek Zidlicky on the points. The second unit had forwards Petr Sykora, Adam Henrique and David Clarkson with defensemen Andy Greene and Mark Fayne.
 
DeBoer said that whichever team he faces next, the challenge will be a little different than against the Panthers and Flyers.
 
"Both the Rangers and Capitals play a different style than the first two teams we faced in the playoffs," DeBoer said. "I don't think it's any tougher and I don't think easier. I just think it's a different style of play you're dealing with, but we've made the appropriate adjustments for that."
 
DeBoer said the minute he learns of his next opponent on Saturday, he'll reach out to his video coaches "as soon as the game ends."
 
DeBoer was asked if his wife would offer any advice regarding his next opponent on Mother's Day?
 
"No. She will steer clear," he said, laughing.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 12:44 PM

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

Zidlicky, Volchenkov return to practice for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov were both a welcome sight at New Jersey Devils practice here at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Saturday.
 
Both players had been off the ice since the team's Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. According to the team, each player was "resting" after being shaken up in the series-clinching win.
 
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told the media on Wednesday that Zidlicky was "day-to-day" with an unspecified injury he sustained in the second period of Game 5 against the Flyers on Tuesday.
 
Zidlicky, who was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 24, was shaken up 8:14 into the second after taking a crunching hit from Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds in the left-wing corner. He did return to the game and played four more shifts but sat out the entire third period.
 
Volchenkov took a hard hit from Zac Rinaldo in the opening period and, despite taking several minutes before returning the bench, was able to finish the game.
 
Right wing Dainius Zubrus, who practiced with the team on Thursday, was also skating hard on Saturday. The veteran forward sustained a charley horse on a hit from Rinaldo in the second period on Tuesday.
 
Devils coach Peter DeBoer conducted a double session on Saturday in preparation for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday.
 
The Devils will either play host to the Washington Capitals at Prudential Center or visit Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers. New Jersey's opponent will be determined on Saturday when the Capitals and Rangers play in Game 7 in Manhattan.
 
Here were the line combinations during the first session of Devils practice on Saturday:
 
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen.
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Matt Taormina - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
 


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Posted On Friday, 05.11.2012 / 12:00 PM

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

Devils get off day; status quo on injured defensemen

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils stayed off the ice Friday as they continued to wait for their opponent for the Eastern Conference Finals to be set.

That extra day of rest could be most beneficial to a pair of New Jersey defensemen who were injured in the Devils' series-clinching Game 5 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov sat out practice Thursday, but coach Peter DeBoer told reporters Friday the same thing he said Thursday -- he expects both to be in the lineup for Game 1 of the conference finals.

"Everyone's getting better," he said. "Shouldn't be an issue."

Neither player was available to speak to the media.

Volchenkov had to go to the locker room after absorbing a hit from Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo 6:28 into the game. He missed about seven minutes of game time, but returned and played a total of 14:59, just off his playoff average of 15:21 per game.

Zidlicky was shaken up after a hit by the Flyers' Wayne Simmonds with 8:17 left in the second period. He returned to play four more shifts in the second, but sat out the third.

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

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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 4:44 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils split on if they'll follow Rangers-Caps Game 7

NEWARK, N.J. -- By the time Game 7 between the Rangers and Capitals ends Saturday night, the Devils will finally know whom and where they'll be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals. But with four days off before that series finale even starts, not all of the Devils will be enjoying that evening watching on television.

"If I start watching the game, I'll start thinking we're going to play this team next. Then the next period I'll think I'm going to play the other team," said Petr Sykora, who won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2000 and has no plans on watching. "I'm going to worry about my own game and myself. The next day we'll have a meeting about who we're going to play. Mentally I'm going to try to recharge and just get ready for whomever we play."

For younger players experiencing their first prolonged playoff action, the opportunity to watch the game seems more appealing. But don't expect them to hover around the television anticipating their next opponent.

"I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't be at home with the game on, watching parts of it at least," winger David Clarkson said. "I might not watch the whole game, but I'll definitely watch some of it."

For one member of the Devils' staff, having the opportunity to rest and watch two teams battle for a spot in the conference finals is a luxury. But not because Game 7s are typically so exciting.

"Absolutely," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said when asked about watching the big game. "More with a coaching hat on than a fan's perspective. Every Game 7 is great, but from my perspective it's for pre-scouting both teams. So when we wake up Sunday morning we can hit the ground running based on who we're playing."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 1:10 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils have spirited practice minus two defensemen

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who left Tuesday's Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in the second period after suffering an undisclosed injury following a hit from winger Wayne Simmonds, was held out of practice Thursday in Newark, along with fellow defenseman Anton Volchenkov.

When asked about both defensemen, Devils coach Peter DeBoer described their day off as a "rest day" and said he expected them both to be available for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Devils went through a high-impact practice in anticipation of the next round of the playoffs, which will see them face either the New York Rangers or Washington Capitals for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Final.

"We had a work day today," said DeBoer. "I think you have to stay in the rhythm of pushing your bodies every other night. That's the NHL playoffs."

Zidlicky has six points in 12 games this postseason and has quarterbacked New Jersey's power play since being acquired from the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 24. New Jersey dressed just six defensemen for practice on Thursday, including Matt Taormina, who has yet to make an appearance in this year's playoffs and hasn't dressed for the Devils since March 27. Peter Harrold, who has not dressed since Game 2 against the Flyers, could be called into duty if the Devils found themselves short a defenseman.

Volchenkov was on the receiving end of a hard hit from Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo early in the Game 5 win over the Flyers, but managed to finish the game.

The Devils will hold an optional off-ice workout tomorrow before getting back on the ice for practice on Saturday.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 2:34 PM

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

Zidlicky 'day-to-day' with unspecified injury

New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello informed local reporters on Wednesday that defenseman Marek Zidlicky is "day-to-day" with an unspecified injury he sustained in the second period of Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.
 
According to The Star-Ledger, Lamoriello refused to reveal the nature of Zidlicky's injury but said he should be fine for the conference finals.

When asked if the injury should be a concern, Lamoriello said "No."
 
Zidlicky, acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 24, was shaken up 8:14 into the second period after taking a crunching hit from Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds in the left-wing corner. He did return to the game and played four more shifts, but sat out the entire third period.
 
Zidlicky has been a key cog along the Devils blue line in the playoffs, producing one goal, six points and a plus-3 rating in 12 games.
 
"Zid brings more mobility to our defense," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "He's balanced our defense even more and that's why it was so important to pick up a guy like that, especially when you lose a guy like [Henrik Tallinder]. That created a hole that Zid was able to fill pretty good."
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 7:21 PM

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

Flyers juggle lines in Giroux's absence

PHILADELPHIA -- In the absence of leading scorer Claude Giroux, the Flyers reconfigured all four of their forward lines for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils.

Zac Rinaldo replaces Giroux, who is serving a one-game suspension for his hit to the head of New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus in the second period of Game 4 on Sunday. It's Rinaldo's first game since Game 4 of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Flyers also will have a new face on defense, as Andrej Meszaros will play his first game since March 1. He had surgery March 21 to remove a disc fragment that was impinging on a nerve root in his lower back. Tuesday marks one day shy of seven weeks since the procedure; the original prognosis for recovery was 6-8 weeks.

The Devils will have one lineup change, as Ryan Carter returns after sitting out Game 4 after a bout of food poisoning.

Here are the lineups the teams play Game 5 with:

FLYERS

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

Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andrej Meszaros - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

DEVILS

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

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

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

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 5:18 PM

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

Flyers want to channel emotion heading into must-win

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Kimmo Timonen stripped off his hockey gear after practice Tuesday to reveal a T-shirt that read "Play Angry."

Teammate Wayne Simmonds said that's not a bad philosophy to have going into a win-or-go-home Game 5 Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) in their conference semifinal series.

"You've got to go into the game desperate," he said. "We've got to play the best hockey we played all year. I think we know that. I think every man in here is ready."

Scott Hartnell said he wasn't sure anger was the right path to travel, but adding emotion to their game definitely was something his team needs.

"I don't know if its play angry, but play with emotion," he said. "Play angry, that's when you might cross the line or something like that. We definitely have to have that emotion. Definitely after the whistles, they're not even looking us in the eyes, they're skating to the bench, so we're not looking for that stuff after the whistles. We've got to do our talking between the whistles."

Coach Peter Laviolette said it would take more than a catchy slogan to help his team extend its season.

"I think it's just a shirt," he said. "I would like to see our team compete and play hard, do a lot of the things we've done for a majority of the year. A couple bad games that stick out recently, but this team knows how to compete. They know how to play with a lot of energy, a lot of pride, a lot of success. I expect that tonight.

"I don't think we're going to hang Kimmo's T-shirt behind the bench, or rally behind that."

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




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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 12:24 PM

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

Suspended Giroux left to hope for a Game 6 return



VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux told reporters Tuesday that he never had been suspended at any point in his hockey career.

Getting sat out in an elimination game, he added, wasn't the best time for the first one.

Giroux was suspended for Game 5 as punishment for his hit to the head of New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus late in the second period of Game 4 on Sunday.

"It's obviously not easy," he said of sitting out. "You want to be there to help the team win. But I've got a lot of confidence in the guys that are going to go out there and get the win. After that, we're going to have to go to Jersey [for Game 6] and come back for Game 7 here."

Giroux said he didn't think he would get suspended, but now that the decision is made, he said his focus has moved to getting ready for a hoped-for Game 6.

"Obviously I hit his head with my shoulder, but I still think I didn't jump," he said. "My elbow was down. That wasn't my intention to hit his head. Obviously it's disappointing to see that I can't go on the ice and help the guys win this game tonight. But all I got to do is focus for Game 6 now.

"I didn't think I was going to get suspended, to be honest. I think they want to get hitting to the head out of the game, and I respect that. There's nothing I can do about it now. Obviously, I can't play tonight and it's frustrating."

Giroux said he spoke to a few of his teammates but said he didn't feel he needed to give any motivational speeches.

"Talking to the guys, they look pretty confident," he said. "Everybody wants to win. That's pretty clear. Just [stinks] that I can't do anything about it. I have no control over the game tonight. I've got to make sure I'm ready to go for Game 6."

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


 
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 12:22 PM

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

Devils get Carter back after one-game absence

PHILADELPHIA -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer confirmed on Tuesday that fourth-line forward Ryan Carter will return to the lineup for Game 5 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Wells Fargo Center.
 
Carter was forced to sit out Sunday's 4-2 victory in Game 4 after suffering a case of food poisoning the previous night.
 
"It was a food-born illness," Carter said. "After practice [on Saturday], I went home to eat and had some dinner and lunch -- one of those two meals was the culprit. I'm much better now and I'm good to go."
 
Devils captain Zach Parise feels having Carter back in the lineup is a plus. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound left wing has one goal, three points, a plus-2 rating and 14 hits in 10 games.
 
"I think he's been playing really well for us," Parise said. "That fourth line has done a great job of putting pressure on their defense, and even chipping in with some goals, so it's good to get him back."
 
Carter will take his usual spot on the fourth line alongside center Stephen Gionta and right wing Steve Bernier, a line that has combined for five goals and 10 points in 10 playoff games together.
 
Carter said watching the game on television on Sunday turned out to be a pretty enlightening experience.
 
"You get a much different perspective than playing during the game," Carter said. "The crowd was really into the game [at Prudential Center] and I think that helped with our momentum. I also learned the importance of wearing them down and working hard on the forecheck."
 
Here are the probable line combinations for Game 5:
 
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 Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 12:19 PM

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

Meszaros could make return to Flyers' lineup

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers will be without their top player for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) in center Claude Giroux, but they could be getting back a major part to their defense in Andrej Meszaros.

Meszaros, who is one day shy of seven weeks removed from March 21 back surgery to remove a disc fragment that was impinging on a nerve root, went through the morning skate and left the ice with the regulars. Andreas Lilja, who has played less than 15 minutes in three of four games against the New Jersey Devils, remained on the ice for extra skating with frequent healthy scratches Pavel Kubina and Jody Shelley, as well as assistant coaches Craig Berube and Jeff Reese.

If Meszaros does play, it would be his first game since March 1. He had seven goals and 25 points in 62 games, and would give the Flyers another experienced, puck-moving defenseman who can help get the puck out of the defensive zone, something Philadelphia has struggled with in this series.

Coach Peter Laviolette, who never reveals information about his lineup prior to game-time, would not talk about Meszaros' playing status.

"[Meszaros] has looked good for the past seven days, 10 days," he said. "He's looked good."

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




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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 4:34 PM

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

Flyers feel adversity will bring out their best

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Some teams seem to thrive on adversity, and the Philadelphia Flyers believe they are that kind of team. Whether it's been injuries or scoring slumps or streaks of poor play, the belief in future success never is farther than the next game.

"I have a tremendous amount of confidence we can win a game [Tuesday]," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I don't say that as a sales pitch. This team has had success all year long. Regular season had success, first round had success, Game 1 [against the Devils] had success. … We need to do things better and we need to do them quicker and faster. I think if we do that, then we'll find the results that we're looking for."

They'll have to find those results without top scorer Claude Giroux, who will sit out Game 5 as punishment for his hit to the head of New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus in the second period of Game 4 on Sunday.

However, it's just another slice of adversity for the team to get past.

"It's the belief first of all in your teammates," Danny Briere said. "We've shown all year we can come back. We've faced adversity all year and we've shown we can come back from it. Obviously this is the biggest challenge of the year. But we've shown all year we're not quitters. And that's what makes me believe that the guys are not going to just quit at this point. I might be wrong -- we'll see [Tuesday]. But the character that we've shown all year I really believe is going to come out [in Game 5]."

Kimmo Timonen said part of the message delivered in meetings Monday was for each player to focus on his individual role, and not to worry about trying too hard, or to do someone else's job.

"I'm sure everybody was a little down today, obviously, but stay positive, think about [Game 5] and do your job," he said. "Everybody has a role. If we do our role … everybody can do their role much better than they have been the last three games. That's why I'm really confident and I believe in our team and we can do a better job."

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


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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 4:12 PM

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

Flyers using 2010 comeback as touchstone

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Only once in their history have the Flyers rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win in the playoffs.

It was their magical rally against Boston in the 2010 conference semifinals, when they lost the first three games of that series before winning four straight.

Seven players from that team are still active on the current roster -- forwards Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and James van Riemsdyk, and defensemen Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle.

Peter Laviolette, who coached that team, said he didn't believe what happened two years ago could have much effect on this year's team.

"It's hearsay," he said. "It's a story from a different team in a different day. … To tell a story or have someone tell a story, I'm not sure if that's going to get the deal done [in Game 5]. It's going to be how we play in certain areas and certain things we do better that will dictate the outcome. Not a good story form a couple years ago."

His players, though, felt different, and believe the lessons they learned in surviving that series can help them now.

"We believed we can beat those guys that time," Timonen said. "We just focused game by game. Don't think about what happens if we lose this game or win this game -- just focus on [Game 5] and believe we can win, we can be a better team than we've been the last three games."

Briere said he doesn't think the story needs to be re-told, because whether his current teammates were there for it or not, they certainly know what happened.

"There's a lot of guys that were there and they remember very well," he said. "Lot of guys have seen it. I think everybody has heard about it. … Definitely it's something that can make you believe. I know I'm using that."

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


 
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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 3:34 PM

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

DeBoer: 'We want to end this as soon as we can'

NEWARK, N.J. -- As has been the case after every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring, New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer kept his team off the ice during the following off-day as preparations began for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
 
A win on Tuesday will enable the Devils, who hold a 3-1 series lead over the Philadelphia Flyers, to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in eight seasons.
 
"We want to end this as soon as we can," DeBoer told the media at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Monday afternoon. "We know they're going to play their best game. I'm confident we're going to bring our best game. They're a dangerous team at any point in the series, and this one is always the toughest to win. I like how we're playing so we have to continue to do what we've been doing."
 
The one-game suspension given to Flyers forward Claude Giroux for his illegal hit to the head on Dainuis Zubrus in Game 4 was announced after DeBoer spoke to the media. But he was asked if Giroux's absence would make a difference, one way or another.
 
"If he doesn't play, teams in that situation have a tendency to rise to the occasion," DeBoer said. The Devils were without Ilya Kovalchuk (lower body) for Game 2 in Philadelphia and came away with a series-tying 4-1 victory.
 
Meanwhile, forwards Dainuis Zubrus, who was on the receiving end of Giroux's hit late in the second period, and fourth-line wing Ryan Carter, who was sidelined for Game 4 with a stomach virus, are both expected in the lineup for Game 5.
 
The two-game series lead also holds some added significance as the Devils have never lost a playoff in which they've opened a two-game lead at any point -- they are 14-0. 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.
 
DeBoer said his team would like to continue doing the things in Game 5 that have frustrated the Flyers to a point where they seemingly have no answers.
 
"I think coming into this series we saw what they did to Pittsburgh and wanted to make sure that didn't happen to us," DeBoer said. "We knew that composure and discipline were going to be at a premium for us. When we got our heads wrapped around the fact that we're going to have to walk away from those types of situations and take a punch in the head at different points and not retaliate, I think everything else fell in place."
 
DeBoer also said that the experience his team gained in their seven-game series victory against the Florida Panthers in the conference quarterfinal round has been taken to good use against the Flyers.
 
"They are similar teams … Florida had a big speed-rush type of team just like Philly and that helped prepare us for this series," DeBoer said.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for Game 5:

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 Monday, 05.07.2012 / 10:26 AM

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

Brodeur makes 40th birthday a night to remember

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur got his birthday wish on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinal at Prudential Center.
 
In addition to turning back 20 shots in securing a 4-2 victory on the day he turned 40 years old, he also added an assist for a little icing on the cake. The Devils now lead the best-of-seven series, 3-1.
 
Brodeur, who said the day would have been even sweeter had he been able to post a shutout, also established another hockey standard. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Brodeur became the first goalie in NHL history to appear in a playoff game in his teens and his 40s.
 
Brodeur's first postseason game came as 19-year-old when he replaced Chris Terreri in an 8-5 loss to the New York Rangers on April 27, 1992. His victory on Sunday before 17,625 was the 106th of his illustrious career. He is now 2-2 all-time in games played on his birthday.
 
"A shutout would have been better, but that's all right," Brodeur said. "It's great. The guys played awesome. It started a little rocky, but apart from that we were really good. We were on the puck, we were physical and we did the good things to win hockey game tonight."
 
Midway through the first period, backup goalie Johan Hedberg, who turned 39 on Saturday, and Brodeur had their names displayed on the center ice scoreboard to the delight of those in attendance. The ovation was loud, but Brodeur said he didn't see his name until the last second.
 
Brodeur assisted on an empty-net goal by Dainius Zubrus with 44.4 seconds remaining in the third period. The helper enabled him to become the oldest player in NHL history to record a playoff assist on his birthday.
 
"The guys played really well in front of me," Brodeur said. "It's nice to win the game. A lot of people talked about me turning 40 today. I was kind of center stage for whatever reason that is, but it's kind of nice to pull out a win."
 
He now has 12 career playoff points on one goal and 11 assists, moving him ahead of Patrick Roy into second place all-time among goaltenders behind only Grant Fuhr, who had 14 career playoff points (all assists).
 
Devils rookie center Adam Henrique was asked after the game if the team sang "Happy Birthday."
 
"No 'Happy Birthday,' just a big win and that's extra special," he said.
 
Zach Parise said the team presented Brodeur with the best gift possible this time of the year.
 
"A win … that was it," Parise said, grinning.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 7:22 PM

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

Flyers' Couturier will play in Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier will play in Game 4 of the team's Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils.
 
Sean Couturier
Center - PHI
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 4
SOG: 15 | +/-: 2
Couturier sustained a lower-body injury in the first period of Game 3 on Thursday, but did not look restricted in the morning skate Sunday, took line rushes in pre-game warm-ups in his usual spot, between forwards Maxime Talbot and Eric Wellwood.
 
Couturier, the eighth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, has three goals and an assist in nine playoff games, but has developed into the team's best defensive center.
 
"Sean is an important piece of the team," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said following the team's skate Sunday morning. "He looked good skating out there. He's smiling, that's always good."
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 5:50 PM

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

Sestito to make postseason debut for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils left wing Tim Sestito will make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut on Sunday on the fourth line when his team plays host to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal at Prudential Center.
 
Sestito will replace Ryan Carter in the lineup. The official announcement came via the Devils' Twitter account almost two hours prior to the opening faceoff. Carter was receiving treatment earlier on Sunday during the team's morning optional skate at Prudential Center.
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 1:27 PM

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

Flyers hoping for continued road success

NEWARK, N.J. -- History shows the Philadelphia Flyers are not in a good situation right now. In the 28 times in team history the Flyers have trailed 2-1 in a series, they've won just seven times. They've lost the last five series they've trailed 2-1, dating to the first round of the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when they trailed the Toronto Maple Leafs after three games, but rallied to win the series in seven.

However, this current group of Flyers isn't affected by that bit of history. They point to their League-best 25-13-3 regular-season road record, which includes a 2-1-0 mark at Prudential Center.

"I think that we're comfortable either way," coach Peter Laviolette told NHL.com. "It hasn't really seemed to affect this group. We don't seem to get intimidated by circumstances or surroundings, so I don't see that being an issue."

Scott Hartnell said home or away, the Flyers need to improve in every area of their game if they want to win Game 4 Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"It's not rocket science," he said. "You work hard, you win the battles, you're more than likely to win the game. … It's us winning the battles in the [defensive] zone, having good breakouts, having good dumps, keeping them away from [Martin] Brodeur. It's not just one thing we have to focus on. It's not going to be our power play, it's not going to be our penalty kill -- it's every aspect of our game that has to be picked up."

Hartnell said in his case, it's getting to the net and creating havoc in front of Brodeur.

"I've got to get to the net," he said. "That's where all my goals come from, that's where all the stuff happens. It's been way too easy for Marty to make the saves that he's had to make. Especially paying with Jags [Jaromir Jagr] and G [Claude Giroux], or whoever we're playing with. Got to make it harder on him. Can't stop what you can't see. If he gets frustrated he'll get off his game. Got to make it hard on him. Just have to be skating. I have to do what I do that makes me a good player out there."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 12:52 PM

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

Flyers rule Meszaros out for Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros has been ruled out for Game 4 of the team's Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Meszaros hasn't played since March 1, and is 6.5 weeks removed from March 21 back surgery to remove a disc fragment that was impinging on a nerve root. He's been skating with the team for more than a week, and Saturday went through what he said was his hardest day on the ice. He took part in the full morning skate Sunday, but prior to leaving the arena, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said Meszaros would not play.

The only Flyers missing from Sunday's practice were center Danny Briere and defenseman Kimmo Timonen, but that's a usual occurrence; both are healthy and will be in the lineup.

The Flyers didn't skate in line combinations for defense pairings, but with Meszaros out and rookie center Sean Couturier a game-time decision but likely to play, here's how Philadelphia could look when they hit the Prudential Center ice:

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

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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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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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 4:06 PM

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

Devils players having a blast during postseason

NEWARK, N.J. -- If you never considered how infectious winning was to a locker room, all you needed to do was listen to the comments made from the two sides involved in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers.
 
The Devils scored a 4-3 overtime victory over the Flyers in Game 3 on Thursday to grab a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes Sunday at Prudential Center.
 
What does Flyers forward Scott Hartnell think?
 
"I think everyone's frustrated. I know me, personally, I'm frustrated," Hartnell said. "Whether it's losing a puck battle at the wrong time or whatever, it seems like it's almost contagious right now."
 
Meanwhile, farther north and over in Devils camp:
 
"It's been awesome," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We're having fun as a team and having a blast. We're excited for everyone when we score … we're having a blast and that's making us play better. We're enjoying being here."
 
Patrik Elias, who snapped a six-game goal-less drought in Thursday's victory, knows exactly what Parise is talking about.
 
"It's a looser locker room and, in a way, we have the right approach, we're mentally committed," Elias said. "We're taking some days off, but we're still mentally and physically [engaged]. We're having fun and enjoying it."
 
Forward Ilya Kovalchuk and goalie Martin Brodeur credit coach Pete DeBoer and his assistants for providing the perfect setting this season.
 
"It's a great atmosphere … the atmosphere in the room is unbelievable and we enjoy playing for each other and that's very important to be successful," Kovalchuk said. "We know we didn't win anything yet. But we've played the way we expected to play, and we have a long way to go.
 
"I think Pete and his coaching staff has been unbelievable. We have great communication between coaches and players and the door is always open. We communicate a lot and it's made a big difference, and we have a great mix of guys who are all really excited to be in this position."
 
Brodeur, who turns 40 on Sunday, said it's been a while since stability has really set in within the locker room. Of course, he's referring to the fact that since the 2004-05 work stoppage, DeBoer is New Jersey's seventh coach in seven seasons, with Jacques Lemaire and GM Lou Lamoriello each holding the position twice.
 
"We're trying to build something together and we're having a lot of fun," Brodeur said. "It's a little more relaxed as far as guys being around and doing the things we're doing. We're well-organized, and nothing is hidden. It's wide-open and constructive all the time, and that makes it a lot different than before when maybe there was a little more private side when things were going wrong."
 
Brodeur feels that's a direct reflection of the coaching staff.
 
"Everyone has a part in that, but definitely the coaching staff," he said. "I think they put us at ease and don't try to embarrass. There's no blame and everybody wants the best of everybody, and that line of communication has been tremendous.
 
"As long as I've been in this organization, it's as good as I've seen it."
 
While DeBoer is ecstatic to hear his players are having a blast, he realizes times are a little more stressful right now for the men behind the bench.
 
"That's the difference between a player and a coach," DeBoer said, laughing. "[The players] should be having fun. They shouldn't be thinking about anything other than showing up and executing and being ready to play their next game. When they have down time, they should enjoy their down time. It's a different mindset with [coaches]. That's why it's a lot more fun to be a player."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 5:51 PM

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

Laviolette expects better effort in Game 3

NEWARK, N.J. -- After a Game 2 that saw them manage just 20 shots on net -- including just two in the second period -- Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he expects a better effort from his team in Game 3 on Thursday night -- not just because he's demanding it, but because that outing was a shot to their pride.

"I don't think anybody likes not playing their game," he said. "We're looking to right some wrongs. We didn't have a good effort; the guys know that. [Thursday] is a crack at playing a better hockey game."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer said earlier in the week that he thought the pressure in the series was on the Flyers as the higher seed. However, Laviolette called that opinion "irrelevant."

"Who somebody says the pressure is on is irrelevant," he said. "New Jersey has a good team, the Flyers have a good team. It's 1-1 in the series. The team who plays the best on the ice has the best chance of winning the hockey game.

"I'd like to think that our strides are more meaningful tonight. … Nobody wants to go down 2-1 in this series."

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

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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 11:58 AM

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

Projected Game 3 lineup for Flyers

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers held an optional morning skate Thursday in preparation for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Central (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
 
All players expected to be in the lineup Thursday stayed off the ice, including goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Coach Peter Laviolette also was not available.
 
The best-of-seven series is tied, 1-1.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for the game:
 
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
James van Riemsdyk - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood
 
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Matt Carle - Kimmo Timonen
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson
 
Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 11:41 AM

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

Devils say Kovalchuk a game-time decision

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk will be a game-time decision on Thursday when his team battles the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal round series at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
 
Kovalchuk was sidelined for Tuesday's Game 2 in Philadelphia -- a 4-1 Devils victory -- with a lower-body injury but was back on the ice Thursday morning during the team's practice. The Devils will host the Flyers at 7:30 p.m. ET.
 
"I just have to make sure I'm ready for the game … I feel really good," Kovalchuk told the media. "It will be a coaches' decision. I just have to prepare myself for the game and we'll see."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 3:28 PM

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

Bryzgalov heads back into space

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Ilya Bryzgalov has been known to say a few … eccentric things in his time. Most hockey fans remember his curious statements on topics ranging from the size of the universe to his love of Siberian huskies.

However, the last few months have seen Bryzgalov keep his comments more mundane.

But like you can't predict the weather, you just can't predict what might come out of a goalie's mouth. After walking into the locker room following Flyers' practice, one reporter casually asked Bryzgalov what he would do for a living if he wasn't a professional hockey player.

After a pause, Bryzgalov replied, "Astronaut." He added that he was serious.

That sparked an impromptu discussion on the merits of the U.S. space program compared to the Russian/Soviet space program, as well as Bryzgalov's belief that the first two animals sent into space were Russian dogs.

Bryzgalov also had an opinion on sending monkeys into space.

"The problem with monkeys," Bryzgalov said, "is they push the wrong buttons."

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


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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 3:14 PM

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

Faceoffs, entries Flyers' keys to improved power play

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Flyers' power play, so dominant in the first round, has been firing blanks in the first two games in the second round against the New Jersey Devils.

They went 0-for-5 in their 4-1 loss in Game 2, with just one shot on goal. In two games, they're just 1-for-11.

One reason given for the struggles was problems in the faceoff circle. In Game 2, Claude Giroux went just 1-5 on power-play draws, and Danny Briere went 0-3. Losing faceoffs means losing possession, but lost faceoffs on power plays results in extra time draining off the clock and wasted opportunities.

"Obviously the power play starts with the faceoff," Giroux said. "I wasn't able to do that last game. We did a lot of bad things last game."

Another reason was the Devils varying the way they attacked the Flyers' extra-man units.

"There's times when they're aggressive and then there's times when they're passive," coach Peter Laviolette said. "We did have possession and we didn't find shooting lanes, but they did back off at times when we did have possession. So they mix it up a bit."

Scott Hartnell said the best way to counter that is to change the way they bring the puck into the zone.

"I think they're up-ice when we're trying to break in, kind of giving us some grief, we have to put it on the wall and they attack us with three guys coming on you," he said, "And it's on me, it's on [Claude] Giroux and they take away Kimmo [Timonen], and that's the side we want to set up on. We're going to have to do a better job of entries, setting the puck up. When we had a set-up moving around, they gave us time to make plays. It's that initial break-in. We have to get things set up and get it up top and get pucks on net."

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


 

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 3:08 PM

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

Brodeur ribs Clarkson for unorthodox goal celebration

NEWARK, N.J. -- It wasn't your typical goal celebration immediately after David Clarkson had given the New Jersey Devils the lead for good in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
 
And Devils goalie Martin Brodeur took notice.
 
"I always tell him he can't pass the puck, but he had six or seven assists already," Brodeur told the media following New Jersey's 4-1 victory on Tuesday. "I said, 'Maybe you're a passer now in the playoffs.'"
 
Clarkson established career highs in goals (30) and points (46) in 80 regular-season games with the Devils in 2011-12. Not until Game 2 against the Flyers did he finally notch the third playoff goal of his career and the first in three years. After pouncing on the rebound and driving a shot home 11:17 into the third, Clarkson leaped on top of the goal cage over Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and defenseman Nicklas Grossmann in delight.
 
"It's nice for him to go to the net and score one of his typical goals," Brodeur said. "Hard-nosed, jump-on-the-crossbar, and then hold it for a second for pictures. I was happy for him. He works hard. He's got the beard, too. He's proud of that."
 
When told of Brodeur's postgame comments, Clarkson laughed while peering over at Brodeur's stall in the club's locker room.
 
"I don't think anyone would score and have time to think about [posing for pictures]," Clarkson said. "He's giving me trouble every chance he can. Really, though, I was kind of shoved in from behind and Zach was behind the net celebrating after the goal so I starting celebrating, too. It was a good feeling to put that one in."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 3:04 PM

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

Flyers focus on picking up the pace

VOORHEES, N.J. -- A day after generating just 20 shots -- including two in the second period -- in their Game 2 loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Philadelphia Flyers went through an up-tempo practice Wednesday that was based on skating and quick puck movement.

"We worked on some things that we wanted to do," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Practice today was good. Guys were out there, we broke a sweat, we did what we wanted to do, we had some meetings. And that's what you do on off-days, you try to move past what happened the day before, good or bad, and focus on the next one."

If resetting the focus was the goal, the players certainly felt like it was accomplished.

"We wanted to regroup and it seemed like we didn't have our legs [in Game 2]," Scott Hartnell said. "Just got our legs moving. So it was good."

They certainly didn't appear to have their legs in Game 2, which was the reason they lost 4-1 and head to Newark for Game 3 on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) tied in the series.

"They just out-skated us," Jakub Voracek told NHL.com. "They were faster on the pucks, they won more battles than us. I think that's what made the difference in the game."

"They played great," Hartnell said. "They were playing great offense and we couldn't get out of our end -- not for shifts at a time but for periods at a time. It was … I don't think it was our best effort. We lost a lot of battles. Our compete level wasn't there. It's going to have to be a lot better if we want to stay in this series."

The game was similar to the one the Flyers played in Game 4 of the first round against the Penguins, when they cited a lack of skating and competitiveness for their 10-3 loss at Wells Fargo Center. After that game, Claude Giroux vowed a performance like that would not happen again, especially not at home.

That it did left him frustrated, but eager to get back on the ice for Game 3.

"In the playoffs it's the team that puts games behind them and goes forward from there and motivates themselves to be better next game," he said. "I think we're a team like that. We've got a lot of character in this room. Guys who want to win, guys who hate to lose. It's going to be a fun game [Thursday]."

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


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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 2:54 PM

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

Devils' task figuring out how to sustain momentum

NEWARK, N.J. -- How difficult is it sustaining momentum from game to game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
 
It's not easy, but something the New Jersey Devils will try to continue on Thursday in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center.
 
"It can be hard, and that was a little bit of a challenge for us in the first series [against Florida]," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We'd have one great game and one game where we didn't follow it up. We talked about that [on Wednesday] and we have to try to be even better than we were last game because we have to expect them to have a great game, too."
 
The Flyers will no doubt be seething after being totally outplayed in their own building on Tuesday in a 4-1 loss in Game 2.
 
"We know Philly is going to come out ready to play, and, listening to their comments, they intend to fix issues they felt they didn't do a good enough job in for some areas," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "For us, we not only have to match our level from Tuesday, but find a way to raise it because they'll raise theirs. I know this will get a lot tougher and we'll have to be ready for it."
 
Speaking of preparation and getting ready, DeBoer admitted on Wednesday that he rarely has "fun" as a head coach in the thick of a playoff series.
 
"It's definitely stressful," DeBoer said. "I don't think you enjoy this when you're in the middle of it. You're getting ready for the next game, looking at film, trying to see what areas worked and what didn't. Where you need to improve … my history with any kind of good runs is you don't look back with any kind of enjoyment or appreciation until long after they're done."
 
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was asked if his team entered this best-of-seven series with the Flyers as the underdog.
 
"Games are played on the ice and not in the media or how people perceive the series to be," Brodeur said. "You have to go perform those 60 minutes, maybe more. So regardless what people are saying, we just have to put our head down and keep doing what we're told to do."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 11:42 AM

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

DeBoer: Kovy return could be 'sooner than later'

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils were back at the friendly confines of Prudential Center on Wednesday less than 24 hours after unleashing an all-out offensive assault on Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal.
 
Devils coach Pete DeBoer gave his players a day off the ice and while talk of the big win to even this best-of-seven series 1-1 was fresh on everyone's mind, there was also concern regarding the status of forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
 
Kovalchuk missed Game 2 with what general manager Lou Lamoriello termed a "lower-body injury." Prior to faceoff on Tuesday, Rich Chere of the The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported that two anonymous sources told him Kovalchuk "has been icing a back injury, which got progressively worse in the last few days."
 
Devils coach Pete DeBoer told radio station WFAN 660 AM on Wednesday morning that he doesn't know if Kovalchuk will suit up for Game 3. Kovalchuk is scheduled to meet with doctors today and a decision will be made at some point on Thursday prior to puck drop.
 
"I'm sure you're going to see him again in the series," DeBoer told the station. "It could be sooner than later."
 
Lamoriello told the media on Tuesday morning that Kovalchuk was injured at some point during the middle of their seven-game series win over the Florida Panthers in the conference quarterfinals. He said it got to a point where if he couldn't play at 100 percent, it wouldn't benefit either the player or team for him to be on the ice.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 7:21 PM

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

Report: Kovalchuk may have back injury

Ilya Kovalchuk
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 25 | +/-: -5
PHILADELPHIA -- It's quite possible New Jersey Devils right wing Ilya Kovalchuk may be suffering from a back injury that will sideline him for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal round series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.
 
According to Rich Chere of the The (Newark) Star-Ledger, two anonymous sources told the paper that Kovalchuk "has been icing a back injury, which got progressively worse in the last few days."
 
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told the media on Tuesday morning that Kovalchuk is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Kovalchuk's status for Game 3 will likely be updated on Wednesday when the team returns to New Jersey.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 12:56 PM

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

Devils moving on without Kovalchuk


PHILADELPHIA -- Despite the loss of their leading point-producer during the regular season for at least one game with a lower-body injury, players for the New Jersey Devils appeared upbeat and focused ahead of Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Philadelphia Flyers following Tuesday's morning skate at Wells Fargo Center.
 
The Devils are hoping to even their best-of-seven series after dropping Game 1 4-3 in overtime Sunday.
 
"Playoffs are about injuries and overcoming injuries and using your depth," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "Everyone deals with that stuff. It's nothing we haven't dealt with before with Travis [Zajac] gone for most of the year. So it's business as usual. Someone will have to jump in and take those minutes."
 
It is possible Kovalchuk, who was ruled out of Game 2 by general manager Lou Lamoriello prior to his team taking the ice Tuesday morning, could return for Game 3 when the series moves to Newark.
 
Until then, however, the Devils are ready to resume the series without Kovalchuk, who has three goals, six points and a minus-5 rating in eight playoff games.
 
"We're not going to pout all the way until [Game 2] and feel sorry for ourselves because he's not in the lineup," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We've all got to be better now and it'll give some guys an opportunity to take his minutes. The lines will be a little different, so we'll have to make it work."
 
The lines will look significantly different, actually. In addition to moving defenseman Peter Harrold to the fourth line, alongside left wing Ryan Carter and center Stephen Gionta, rookie defenseman Adam Larsson will make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.
 
"I'm excited. I'm glad to get back in and it'll be fun," Larsson said. "To be honest, I didn't think it would ever come. But they told me [Monday] and I was very glad to know I'd be getting this opportunity."
 
Harrold said he played forward during his stint with the Los Angeles Kings.
 
"I played maybe 15 or 20 games at forward with the Kings, so I'm familiar with it," Harrold said. "I'm a natural defenseman, but at the same time, maybe that'll help. I can be more responsible in my own end and that's priority No. 1."
 
Parise said Kovalchuk's lower-body injury must be pretty significant for him to miss any playoff time.
 
"He plays hard and plays a lot, and it could be physically demanding with the amount of ice time he gets," Parise said. "I'm not sure what [the injury] is, but for him to sit out, it must be something that was pretty significant."
 
Harrold agreed with Parise's assessment that the injury must have been pretty bad.
 
"I don't know what it is, but I'm certain that he was in pain," Harrold told NHL.com. "He's one of the tougher men I've ever been around, so I'm certain, whatever it is, it can't be too fun for him."
 
Kovalchuk leads all NHL forwards in average ice time per game during the playoffs (25:09). In fact, he was averaging more ice time in the playoffs than he did in 77 regular-season games (24:26).
 
Kovalchuk refused to speak to the media Monday after the team's public relations department said he was "in therapy."
 
Here are the probable line combinations for Tuesday's game:
 
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Petr Sykora - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - Steve Bernier
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Peter Harrold
 
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 12:54 PM

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

Larsson ready for first chance at playoff hockey

PHILADELPHIA -- New Jersey Devils rookie defenseman Adam Larsson says he's ready.
 
Larsson, drafted with the fourth pick last June by the Devils with the hope of providing a solid transition from defense to offense, will have to showcase that very skill set on Tuesday when New Jersey battles the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Wells Fargo Center.
 
The injury to Ilya Kovalchuk (lower body, day-to-day) has enabled Larsson to get his opportunity. To make room for Larsson along the blue line, Devils coach Pete DeBoer will remove Peter Harrold from defense and put him on the team's fourth line alongside left wing Ryan Carter and center Stephen Gionta.
 
Harrold, 28, had played in just two playoff games as a member of the Los Angeles Kings prior to signing as a free agent by the Devils last August. In eight appearances this year, he has three assists and a plus-2 rating.
 
Larsson has been a healthy scratch for 13 of New Jersey's last 14 games, including the regular season. He'll partner with hard-hitting defenseman Anton Volchenkov. Harrold had averaged 15:11 of ice time along the blue line, but it remains to be seen if DeBoer decides to limit Larsson's.
 
Does Larsson feel he learned a lot by sitting with the assistant coaches and taking in the first eight games of the playoffs?
 
"It's more like what the coaches told me and why I sit out the last few weeks," he said. "All the experience from that, and all the things I worked on now for two or three weeks I hope I will be able to bring to the game [Tuesday]."
 
When asked if he expects a higher intensity level than from the regular season, Larsson smiled.
 
"I don't know … I hope," he said. "I practiced pretty hard during this time and I think that's been good for me."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 12:28 PM

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

Flyers hope rust is gone, seek better start

VOORHEES, N.J. -- With the rust from their seven-day layoff fully scraped away, the Flyers are focused on turning the 40-plus solid minutes they played in Game 1 into a full, 60-minute effort in Game 2 of their conference semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"We're hoping that whatever intensity was missing in the first period, it won't take us as long to get going [in Game 2]," Danny Briere said. "Knowing them, knowing their team a little bit more, knowing what to expect a little bit more, should prepare us better. But we keep talking about our starts and it always seems to be the problem. I'm hoping, once again, that we'll be ready to go."

First periods have been an issue seemingly all season for the Flyers, and it's carried into the playoffs, as they've allowed the first goal four times in seven playoff games.

"We weren't happy with the way we started Game 1, [but] that's past us," Kimmo Timonen said. "Now we can only focus on Game 2 and make sure we get a better start. They really came at us in the first period and they … if you look at their game they usually do that in the first period, they really start well in the first period. We've got to be ready today. Sometimes you can lose a game in the first period, and we don't want to do that."

Coach Peter Laviolette said a better start once again has been the message to his team, but he can only hope that's what happens when the puck drops Tuesday.

"The start obviously we talked about and we have to be better in that regard," he said. "Nobody's happy with that. I don't have a crystal ball, but certainly that's the intention, to go out and play a complete 60-minute game."

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


 


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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 11:56 AM

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

Flyers say Kovalchuk's absence changes nothing

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers remember quite well what happened the last time the opposition lost a key offensive piece -- or at least, they'd like to forget.

So they know that just because Ilya Kovalchuk won't be in the lineup for the New Jersey Devils in Game 2 of the teams' Eastern Conference Semifinal series Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC), they can't allow anything to change in the way they approach the game.

"It seems that you always have different guys stepping up," Danny Briere said, "and even more when you have a star player out of the lineup, everyone can rally around that. So that's just as dangerous. We saw it in the first round. James Neal was suspended for that one game, and what was the score of that game?"

That was Game 4, when the Penguins routed the Flyers 10-3.

"That's why it's dangerous," Briere said. "We can't look at it that way [like it's easier now]. We have to play the same way whether he's in or out of the lineup."

Kimmo Timonen said it doesn't really matter who is in the Devils' lineup, because he and his teammates have to focus on what they're doing, rather than what the opposition is doing.

"The focus should be on us, not them," he said. "They're a good team anyway. If he's in or out, it doesn't matter to us. We have to focus on our game and make sure we play our game and we do our job."

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



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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 10:50 AM

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

Projected Game 2 lineup for Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- It was almost full attendance for the Philadelphia Flyers at their morning skate Tuesday, as the team got ready for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

The only player missing was forward James van Riemsdyk, who played a major role in the Flyers' win in Game 1, with a goal, three shots on net and a screen on Devils goalie Martin Brodeur that allowed Danny Briere's game-winning goal to get through.

It was van Riemsdyk's third game back after missing nearly seven weeks with a broken foot, but a Flyers official told NHL.com that van Riemsdyk will be in the lineup when the puck drops.

Zac Rinaldo skated in van Riemsdyk's usual spot at the morning skate, but here's how the lineup likely will look when the game starts:

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

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Matt Carle - Kimmo Timonen
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Pavel Kubina and Andrej Meszaros skated as a fourth defense pair, but neither likely will play -- Meszaros is still working his way back after back surgery in March, while Kubina will be a healthy scratch.

Rinaldo and Jody Shelley also will be healthy scratches.

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

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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 4:40 PM

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

Harrold's play has kept Larsson on sidelines

NEWARK, N.J. -- Do the New Jersey Devils need another player along the blue line capable of carrying the puck and exploding off the transition in their Eastern Conference Semifinal round series against the high-powered Philadelphia Flyers?
 
Rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who was drafted fourth last June with the potential of providing that very skill set, could be that guy. The thing is, the only player Larsson could replace at this stage is a healthy Peter Harrold. And head coach Pete DeBoer has been extremely impressed with Harrold's poise and consistency.
 
"He's come in after playing in the minors the entire year and really given us some real solid minutes back there," DeBoer said of Harrold. "He's good defensively, can skate the puck out of trouble and add on the offensive side. He's a low-maintenance guy and you can tell he has some veteran savvy to him; you can tell he's played NHL playoff games before."
 
Harrold, 28, had played in just two playoff games as a member of the Los Angeles Kings prior to signing as a free agent by the Devils last August. In eight playoff games this year, he has three assists and a plus-2 rating.
 
But the key part of DeBoer's analysis on Harrold is the fact he considers him "a low-maintenance guy." If Larsson were inserted into the lineup, the coaching staff would have to monitor his minutes and also determine the ideal points in the game when he would be put on the ice.
 
Larsson has been a healthy scratch for 13 of New Jersey's last 14 games, including the regular season.
 
Harrold, paired mostly with Anton Volchenkov, has averaged 15:11 in ice time during the playoffs. He amassed a season-high 19:18 during the team's double-overtime win against Florida in Game 7 last Thursday.
 
DeBoer gave his team the day off on Monday. Forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who didn't register a shot on goal against the Flyers on Sunday, was unavailable for comment as he was receiving therapeutic treatment prior to boarding the team bus to Philadelphia in the afternoon. It has been rumored that Kovalchuk has been playing hurt in the playoffs.
 
"I think that it's not for a lack of effort with Kovy," DeBoer said. "Great players go through stretches where things aren't working well, and then where they are. You just have to work through it."
 
Here were the line combinations for the Devils during Sunday's game:
 
Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Alexei Ponikarovsky
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
David Clarkson - Adam Henrique - Petr Sykora
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 4:12 PM

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

Devils get day to regroup before going for series tie

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer decided to give his club a complete day off on Monday following their Game 1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in their Eastern Conference Semifinal game on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center.
 
DeBoer informed the media on Monday afternoon at AmeriHealth Pavilion that he is undecided on whether he will stick with the same line combinations he had for Sunday's game against the Flyers.
 
"I'm going to sleep on the line changes," DeBoer said. "I liked some of them. Some of them weren't as effective. It's juggling to try and get four lines that are really contributing in a positive direction and we weren't there [Sunday]."
 
The Devils, who dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Flyers, will look to even this best-of-seven series on Tuesday in Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, CBC).
 
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who made 32 saves in Game 1, said there were a lot of positives to take out of the loss -- the most important being the team never quit.
 
"We showed a lot of character," Brodeur said. "It could have been easy after that power-play goal [by Claude Giroux that gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead early in the third period]. We allowed another power play right after, we killed it, and we stuck with it. There's a lot of good things besides winning. I thought we did a good job. We got to be happy, refocus and try to win a game in this building now."
 
Devils captain Zach Parise, who had a goal, assist, three hits and two blocked shots in the game, said his team needs to be faster on the puck.
 
"We need to make better plays through the neutral zone and put the puck in the right spot to allow us to forecheck," Parise told reporters on Monday afternoon before his team bused to Philadelphia. "We turned the puck over too much, and they have a good transition. We made it a lot harder on ourselves."
 
The Devils had six giveaways in the game, as compared to 13 by the Flyers.
 
"We're not going in with mindset of losing that game [Tuesday]," Brodeur said. "They're a confident bunch of guys. They took down the best in the League and played us pretty well in the second and third period [in Game 1]. They feel good about themselves, so we'll have to find a way to put a little doubt in the way they play the game."
 
Parise knows just how infectious confidence can be this time in the season.
 
"I'm sure they're not lacking in the goal-scoring confidence after their first-round series," Parise said. "You can tell they play systems well, and when a team is confident, they play loose. You can tell they're playing like that right now."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 3:28 PM

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

Jagr's playoff beard talk of Flyers locker room


VOORHEES, N.J. -- When Jaromir Jagr was a young scoring star with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he earned the nickname "Mario Jr," as a credit to his teammate, Mario Lemieux, and as an anagram for his first name.

Now in the latter stages of his career, Jagr might have a new nickname -- Patches.

Now a grizzled, 40-year-old veteran, Jagr is growing a playoff beard -- of sorts.

"Just wanted to shave all the gray [hair] and that's what happened," Jagr said of a beard that appears sporadically around the lower half of his face. "I don't want to dye it."

"Patches," Danny Briere told NHL.com. "It looked like patches. I don't know what's going on there. I don't talk to him about it."
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 3:25 PM

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

Briere once again 'Mr Clutch' for Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- A day after scoring the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Flyers' Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils, a few interesting statistics emerged regarding Daniel Briere.

Among them was it was his 36th playoff goal in six seasons in Philadelphia. As a comparison, the Sabres, Briere's former team, as a whole have scored just 33 goals in that same time span.

Briere told NHL.com he didn't put a whole lot of stock in that number, however impressive it may be.

"It's a fluky thing and it's I think the proof of whenever you have a good team around you, good teammates around you, a lot of good things will happen," he said. "I've been fortunate to be around good teams that have had long playoff runs. That's mainly the reason why."

Briere's two goals Sunday were his sixth and seventh of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, tying him with teammate Claude Giroux for the League lead. He now has 106 points in 104 career playoff games, including 69 points in 64 games with the Flyers.

"He's a great player," linemate Jakub Voracek said. "Everyone knows that since the playoffs started he's lighting it up and that's exactly what he's doing right now. He's been clutch in a lot of games."

Briere said one reason he's able to perform at such a high level in the playoffs is because he treats every game like it could be his last.

"My first six or seven years in the League I had only played six playoff games," he told NHL.com. "As a kid growing up you always dream of scoring the big goals and playing in those high-intensity games where there's no tomorrow. And now I have that chance. I don't know how long it's going to last. This could be my last run, I don't know. I was thinking the same thing a couple years ago. Just had the same mindset, the same mentality -- it could be my last playoff run. I don't know how long it's going to last but I try to enjoy it as much as possible while it's here."

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

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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 3:16 PM

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

Devils and Flyers lineups for Game 1

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- It appears as though New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer and Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will do a little line shuffling for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center.
 
On Saturday, DeBoer moved Alexei Ponikarovsky from third-line duty to the top line alongside center Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk; Zach Parise from the first line to the second with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus; and Petr Sykora from the second to third line with center Adam Henrique and David Clarkson.
 
During Flyers practice on Saturday, Laviolette broke up the productive trio of Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, giving Briere a new pair of wingers -- James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek. Schenn moved from left wing to center, where he was flanked by Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds.
 
The Flyers will also have Nicklas Grossmann returning to the lineup for the first time in three games after he sat out Games 5 and 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for both teams on Sunday:
 
FLYERS

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
James van Riemsdyk - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood
 
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson
 
Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky
 
DEVILS
 
Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Alexei Ponikarovsky
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
David Clarkson - Adam Henrique - Petr Sykora
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 1:19 PM

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

Flyers hope week off did them some good

PHILADELPHIA -- After a week away from the intensity of a Stanley Cup Playoff game, the Philadelphia Flyers will return to the ice Sunday against the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

During their seven-day layoff, the Flyers practiced all but one day, as coach Peter Laviolette did his best to keep his team active.

"We tried to work on things we needed to work on," Laviolette told NHL.com. "Spend a lot of time on the power play, systems, skating. We didn't take any days off; we just kept pushing forward. We got a little bit healthier. We're hoping that we can take the rest and the time that we had off and put it to good use and be ready at the start of the hockey game."

Whether that health extends to defenseman Nicklas Grossmann remains to be seen. Grossmann sat out Games 5 and 6 of the first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with an upper-body injury that one teammate called a concussion. However, Grossmann skated with the full group at practice Friday and Saturday, and went through drills with Braydon Coburn, his regular defense partner.

Laviolette, as is his rule, refused to address injury or lineup questions. If Grossmann does play, it's believed Pavel Kubina would be a healthy scratch, with rookie Erik Gustafsson, who had a goal and a team-high seven blocked shots in Game 6 against the Pens, staying in.

With the early start time here at Wells Fargo Center, the team did not have a morning skate. Here is the way the Flyers' lines looked at practice Saturday; whether those lines and pairings carry into the game, however, won't be known until the puck drops

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

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Forwards Zac Rinaldo and Jody Shelley will be healthy scratches. If Grossmann can't play, Pavel Kubina would return to the lineup. Kubina was a healthy scratch in Game 1 against the Penguins. He returned to the lineup for the final five games after Marc-Andre Bourdon was injured, but averaged just 10:35 of ice time per game, the fewest of any Philadelphia blueliner.

In four games against the Devils in the regular season, Bryzgalov was 3-0-0 with a 0.29 goals-against average and .987 save percentage -- he allowed one goal on 76 shots.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 1:16 PM

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

DeBoer not revealing lineup combinations

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer refused to show his hand two hours before faceoff in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
 
DeBoer switched his top three lines around during the team's Saturday practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion in Newark, N.J., in preparation for the Flyers but would not reveal to the media during his post-game availability whether or not those combinations would stick.

The coach promoted Alexei Ponikarovsky from third-line duty to the top line alongside center Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk; Zach Parise from the first line to the second with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus; and Petr Sykora from the second to third line with center Adam Henrique and David Clarkson.
 
"We're going to get through warm-ups and see how everyone feels and then make some decisions," DeBoer said. "I feel comfortable and think our group feels comfortable with where we're at, and we're excited to start."
 
When asked if his team is dealing with health issues, DeBoer smiled.
 
"You're always dealing with health issues this time of year," he said. "This will be a totally different series [than against Florida]. I know that we're familiar with each other and each knows the strengths and weaknesses. For me, that team with the most composure and smarts will win."
 
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 10:37 AM

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

Bryzgalov looms as a challenge for Devils

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has owned the New Jersey Devils in three regular-season meetings this season.
 
In fact, he's allowed just one goal on 76 shots.
 
Is that a concern for Devils coach Pete DeBoer?
 
"This is a whole different [time] of year, so regular season stats don't mean a heck of a lot," DeBoer said. "There's a different type of pressure, so I don't put a whole lot of stock in what happened in the regular season."
 
The hockey world will find out if Bryzgalov really does have the Devils number Sunday afternoon when the teams face off in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series here at Wells Fargo Center (3 p.m., NBC, CBC, RDS).
 
Bryzgalov finished 3-0-0 against the Devils in the regular season with a ridiculous 0.29 goals-against average, two shutuouts, and .987 save percentage. The Flyers consider that reassuring.
 
The Devils' players consider it a challenge they'll have to overcome.
 
"He's a big goalie and covers a lot of net with his butterfly style, so we have to create traffic and score that way," Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "He's great but we must find a way to score. It'll be interesting because we have the best goalie of all time … we'll see."
 
The only Devil to score on Bryzgalov this season was Alexei Ponikarovsky in a 4-1 loss on Jan. 21 in Newark, N.J. For his career, Bryzgalov is 4-1-0 with a 1.28 GAA and .950 save percentage; his only loss coming as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.
 
"I haven't seen him play too much over his career since he was out West," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "I know he's been up and down, but we also know he can put some good games together and when [they] counted, he played well. We'll have to be conscious of him to make his life hard in net."
 
Despite leading the Flyers to a six-game series victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round, Bryzgalov sported a hefty 3.89 GAA and unimpressive .871 save percentage.
 
Kovalchuk feels those statistics may be deceiving since the Penguins did lead the League with 3.33 goals-per game during the regular season.
 
"He's in his first season in Philly … it's different than Phoenix where there wasn't as much pressure and focus," Kovalchuk said. "I don't think he played that bad against Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has a great offense and people there know how score goals; we have to do the same thing."
 
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 5:00 PM

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

Devils' Salvador ready for Game 1 vs. Flyers

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador on Saturday showed no lingering effects of a nasty slash he took from Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg in the early stages of the first overtime on Thursday in Game 7 of their opening-round series.

Salvador took a hard slash on his arm from Versteeg 3:21 into the first OT and missed a few shifts after losing the feeling in his hand. He did return and finished the game with 27:29 of ice time while a plus-1 rating in a 3-2 triumph.

"I've blocked out [the slash]," Salvador told NHL.com. "That's the least of my concerns right now."

His primary concern is helping the Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC).

What does Salvador, who has three assists and a plus-4 rating in seven playoff games, expect?

"I don't think I'm looking at this series being any more physical than it normally is against the Flyers," he said. "When we play against the Flyers, it's hard-hitting. I don't expect anything less. Both teams will be ready."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 4:55 PM

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

Devils ready for Flyers' skill and strength

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Devils captain Zach Parise agreed.

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

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

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

Here were the line combinations on Saturday:

Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Alexei Ponikarovsky

Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus

David Clarkson - Adam Henrique - Petr Sykora

Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold/Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur

Johan Hedberg

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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 4:48 PM

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

Devils adjust lines at practice

NEWARK, N.J. -- An effective forecheck and undeniable compete level ultimately proved to be the difference for the New Jersey Devils in their opening-round triumph against the Florida Panthers in seven hard-fought games.
 
So what will be the game plan against the bigger Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series slated to begin at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC)?
 
For starters, how about a few line adjustments.
 
The Devils returned to practice on Saturday and coach Pete DeBoer conducted a one hour-plus workout in preparation for the Flyers.
 
DeBoer opened some eyes when he had top-line center Travis Zajac between Alexei Ponikarovsky and Ilya Kovalchuk, and second-line center Patrik Elias between Zach Parise and Dainius Zubrus -- Ponikarovsky and Parise were basically flipped. Petr Sykora, who was a staple on the Elias line most of the season, was placed on a line with center Adam Henrique and David Clarkson.
 
"Any kind of change is refreshing and it gives players around them a different jump and different look," DeBoer said after practice. "It doesn't mean we will make a change; we've won a lot of games here over last month with the lines we've had. No decisions have been made yet but any change usually gets a positive reaction, one way or another."
 
Henrique was the overtime hero in Game 7. The rookie connected for his second goal of the game 3:47 into the fifth period to end New Jersey's longest overtime playoff game since 2003.
 
Ponikarovsky was asked about the shuffling and being placed on the top line with Kovalchuk and Zajac.
 
"If they stay that way, it won't change my game," he said. "I know what I have to do and I'll just fit in with Trav and Kovy. We played one game against Pittsburgh back in the regular season and had some success, so that's what they're trying right now."
 
The only trio that remained intact from the Florida series was the fourth line of Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. That's not too surprising considering the trio accounted for five goals and nine points in seven games.
 
"We scored well 5-on-5 against Florida but there's always room for improvements," DeBoer said. "I thought our fourth line generated a lot of offense, and the top two lines were a little sporadic. We're going to try different things throughout this series."
 
DeBoer was also asked if rookie defenseman Adam Larsson could make his playoff debut in this series. Larsson has been a healthy scratch for 12 of the team's last 13 games, including all seven of the opening round.
 
"I would guess so," DeBoer said of the team's top pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. "We've only got seven defensemen here and you rarely get through series without some types of bumps and bruises, so I wouldn't doubt that he would play."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 3:03 PM

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

Flyers get a special visitor at practice


VOORHEES, N.J. -- With his team in town to play the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster couldn't pass up a chance to visit a few friends on the Flyers.

Dempster and Flyers center Danny Briere have been friends for a number of years, having been introduced by Todd Simpson, a teammate of Briere's when he played with the Phoenix Coyotes.

"Any chance during the season I get to watch a buddy of mine practice, it's exciting for me," Dempster said. "I'm a big hockey fan. It's fun to see these guys prepare for a big game [Sunday]."

Dempster, who turns 35 next week, was born in Sechelt, B.C., about two hours northwest of Vancouver.

"I was a Canucks fan, and my team in the East was the Flyers," he said. "I was a big Pelle Lindbergh fan. I don't know why, but I took to the goalies. Just remember watching him and watching the Flyers in the late 80s with [Ron] Hextall and stuff like that. Lots of good memories."

Dempster's time on the ice is limited to the offseason, but he said he's keeping track of the playoffs.

"Any time I can get to a hockey game it's awesome," he said. "To be able to get out there and watch a game, it's something I admire, never having the skill to do it. I kind of skate like Happy Gilmore. It's nice to sit there and watch these guys. I have so much admiration for what they can do on the ice."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 2:50 PM

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

New look for two lines

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Whether he was trying out a new line or just trying to give the New Jersey Devils something to think about ahead of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC), Flyers coach Peter Laviolette switched around a pair of lines at practice Saturday.

He broke up the productive trio of Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, giving Briere a new pair of wingers -- James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek. Schenn moved from left wing to center, where he was flanked by Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds.

Laviolette refused to comment on any line combinations, and even his players weren't sure what the plan for Sunday was.

"We'll see how it shakes out [Sunday]," van Riemsdyk said.

Briere told NHL.com recently how much he enjoys playing with Schenn because of their on-ice similarities, but said playing with van Riemsdyk and Voracek is also good.

"It doesn't really matter," he said. "I've played with pretty much everybody all year. long. For me it's not a big change."

Van Riemsdyk, who was held without a point or a shot in two games in the first round against the Penguins -- his first two since breaking his foot March 1 -- said nothing changes his approach to the game, no matter who his linemates are.

"I've played with pretty much everyone in the room here so you know what to expect a little bit playing with guys," he said. "You just do what you do best and hopefully it works well together."

The Flyers' other two lines remained the same as they were in the final two games of the Pittsburgh series -- Claude Giroux centering Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr, and Sean Couturier between Maxime Talbot and Eric Wellwood.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 2:31 PM

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

Grossmann unsure of Game 1 availability

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Saturday marked the second straight day Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann practiced with the full group, but his status for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC) remains unknown.

Grossmann hasn't played since leaving Game 4 of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period. In that game he sustained what the team is calling an upper-body injury but which at least one teammate called a concussion.

Grossmann skated Saturday with his usual defense partner, Braydon Coburn, and took part in all the drills.

"Nick's looked good," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's moving up and down the ice well."

Grossmann said it felt good to be back with the team, but said he's unsure if he'll be ready to play Sunday.

"I don't know at this point, we'll see," he told reporters. "It feels good to be on the ice. I haven't talked to the doctors yet. I don't want to make any conclusions yet. I feel better every day and try to take it a day at a time."

If Grossmann is able to play, it's likely veteran Pavel Kubina will be a healthy scratch. Kubina on Saturday was paired with Andrej Meszaros, who likely won't be available until the middle of the series at the earliest as he recovers from back surgery last month. Kubina sat out Game 1 of the first round but played the final five games after an injury to Marc-Andre Bourdon; however, he averaged just 10:33 per game of ice time, fewest among Philadelphia defenders.

Other defense pairings featured Matt Carle and Kimmo Timonen, and Andreas Lilja with Erik Gustafsson.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 11:21 AM

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

Flyers juggle a pair of lines

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers have taken the ice for their final practice before their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the New Jersey Devils starts Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).

The look was a bit different, as coach Peter Laviolette juggled two of his lines, splitting up the highly productive Danny Briere line. Briere was with James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek, while Brayden Schenn shifted back to the middle, flanked by Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read.

Whether those groups stay together for Game 1, however, remains to be seen.

The Flyers also had all eight defensemen on the ice, all wearing the same color jersey. Whether that means Nicklas Grossmann (upper-body injury) and/or Andrej Meszaros (back surgery) are ready for Game 1 remains unknown.

Here is how the rest of the Flyers' lineup looked in practice Saturday:

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

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson

Jody Shelley and Zac Rinaldo skated as extra forwards. Andrej Meszaros and Pavel Kubina were the fourth defense pair.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 1:48 PM

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

Hart not the trophy Giroux is concerned about

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Claude Giroux cracked a smile as a reporter asked how he felt about not being one of the three finalists for the Hart Trophy.

"The Hart Trophy?" Giroux said. "Which one is that?"

MVP, of course.

"Kidding, kidding," Giroux said, smiling bigger now.

So, how does he feel about not being a finalist despite finishing third in the League with 93 points and second with 65 assists?

"I didn't see the news, but at the end of the day that's not the trophy I want," he said. "It's done. It's something I don't really control."

Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos were named the finalists Friday. The Professional Hockey Writers' Association votes on the award.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was in no mood to deal with a question pertaining to the regular season. Like Giroux, he said he hadn't seen the list of finalists, either.

"If you're asking me what I think of Claude Giroux, I think he's a terrific player in this League," he said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 12:49 PM

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

Grossmann's status for Game 1 still unknown

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Despite practicing the last two days in a regular, contact jersey, Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann has not been cleared by team doctors to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Devils.

Grossman, who sustained an upper-body injury that at least one teammate called a concussion in Game 4 of the first-round series against the Penguins, still hopes he gets his clearance prior to the series opener on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).

"We'll see (Saturday)," Grossmann told NHL.com following practice Friday. "I still have to talk to the doctors and all that. Everything is up in the air, so I don't even know."

Grossmann added that for now he's just happy to be back on the ice with the team. As for his odds of playing in Game 1, he wasn't saying.
 
"It's tough to say how I feel. I don't even know what is normal," Grossmann said. "It's just nice to be on the ice and skate. That's a good feeling. I just take it a day at a time, try to stay positive and go from there."

Fellow defenseman Andrej Meszaros continues to skate and work his way back from mid-March back surgery, but he doesn't appear close to playing yet.

Forward Maxime Talbot, who took a puck to the face in practice Thursday, said he is fine. He has a chipped tooth and a swollen and cut lip, but he participated in the full practice Friday.

"Matty Carle shot it; good thing it was him -- a muffin," Talbot joked. "Actually, Eric Wellwood tipped it, so that's his fault. He's a rookie. I'm going to get him back."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 2:53 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils enjoy first series win since 2007

Five years without winning a playoff series is a long time for a franchise that's as accustomed to success as the New Jersey Devils. That's why they hope ending their postseason drought with a first-round win against Florida is a harbinger of good things to come.

The Devils got past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007 by outlasting Florida 3-2 in double overtime on Thursday night to win Game 7 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Now it's on to Philadelphia and a rematch with the team that wiped them out in five games in the opening round two years ago.

"Winning a playoff series goes a long way," said goaltender Martin Brodeur, who made 43 saves and is now 6-4 in 10 career Game 7 starts. "I think for people it's just a confidence and sometimes you need adversity. …The first round, I think when you haven't been in the playoffs, especially the year before and it's been struggling getting out of the first round, when you get through that it feels good for a day and then after that we've got to face the Flyers."

By the time the game ended at 12:17 a.m. ET, Thursday night had turned into Friday morning -- marking the 20th anniversary of Brodeur's first NHL playoff game, on April 27, 1992 against the Rangers.

The win means that the NHL's winningest regular-season goaltender will get to spend his 40th birthday doing what he does best -- the Devils will host Philadelphia in Game 4 a week from Sunday.

With 43 saves, including a handful of series-savers, Brodeur looked as sharp as ever.

"He was outstanding, especially in the first overtime and late in the third period," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "He was our best player tonight and he had to be or we don't win."

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Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis