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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 12:52 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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 Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 12:48 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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 Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 12:01 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 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
Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 11:48 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 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
Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 11:15 AM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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.
Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 7:02 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Hitchcock to alter Blues' lineup for Game 4

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – If the St. Louis Blues can't go through the Los Angeles Kings, they will try to go around them.

Ryan Reaves
Right Wing - STL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 1 | +/-: 0
That's sort of the reason that St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock will tinker with his lineup again in the Western Conference Semifinals. Hitchcock said Saturday that he will insert Ryan Reaves on the fourth line and Ian Cole on defense for Game 4 on Sunday at Staples Center.

Reaves will likely replace B.J. Crombeen, while Cole will come in for Carlo Colaiacovo.

"More size, more speed – keep pulling speed into the lineup and it works," Hitchcock said. [Matt D'Agostini] was good. Obviously, [Chris Stewart] was good. [Reaves] brings more speed, more size and just keep trying to get better. ... We're close. The last game was our best game. Hopefully tomorrow will be even better."
Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 4:53 PM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - Bracket Challenge Blog

Holtby getting plenty of help

Washington goaltender Braden Holtby had to face only 20 shots in the Capitals' 3-2 win in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon. For that, he can thank the other 18 guys in the red sweaters.

While the Rangers managed to get just 20 shots on goal, Holtby's teammates blocked 26 others -- exactly half of New York's total of 52 attempted shots. The Caps did a better job of getting their shots through to the net; Washington attempted just 40 shots, but 26 of them got to Henrik Lundqvist -- and three of them went into the net.

The Rangers blocked just seven shots on Saturday after getting in front of 41 during Game 3. They had blocked 14 in each of the first two games.
Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 3:06 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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.
Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 2:50 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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. 
Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 2:38 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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 "You have to hate them, we play them almost every night. We have to get more emotions involved."

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