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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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