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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:40 PM

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

Gudbranson having fun with first playoff experience

NEWARK, N.J. -- Florida Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson admits his experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been better than expected.
 
"I think it's more than what people think," the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Gudbranson told NHL.com. "It looks a lot different on TV than when you're actually playing the game. You see the little hits and the bumps that guys get and in playoffs, and they leave a mark.
 
"In the playoffs, guys are going all out and the passion and intensity out there certainly picks up, so it's been absolutely a lot of fun."
 
Gudbranson, who was taken with the third pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, has yet to register a point through three playoff games, but he tied for third on the team with 10 hits. On top of that, he's been receiving plenty of mentoring from veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski.
 
Jovanovski not only has a locker stall right beside Gudbranson for both home and away games, but the two are also paired together.
 
"I think the biggest thing with him is trying to relate to myself personally, and he did it at the same age that I am now," Gudbranson told The New York Times. "It's nice to be able to relate to someone with so much experience, and he does it for the whole team. He's always there for me whenever I have a question, and he's taught me to become an overall defenseman and to know when and where to be physical while also playing composed."
 
But Jovanovski isn't the only mentor. In the locker room following Florida's 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series on Tuesday, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was explaining to his prized defender when not to engage an opponent and, rather, "skate away."
 
"The season has been great … I've been happy my rookie season and it's been better just because of the guys we have in this room and the success we've had as a team," Gudbranson told NHL.com. "For a team that hasn't been in the playoffs for 10 years, to come out and compete like we have the past three  games to put ourselves in a good position, is fantastic. But we need to keep going here."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:25 PM

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

Jeffrey ready for first taste of playoff action

UPDATE: Jeffrey was made a healthy scratch by coach Dan Bylsma. He chose to dress seven defensemen instead.

PHILADELPHIA -- As he was unstrapping both of his knee braces, Dustin Jeffrey spoke about his level of excitement and anticipation heading into what will could possibly be his first career NHL playoff game.

Jeffrey played in 26 regular-season games, but he was limited this season after having surgery to repair a torn ACL last April. He's good to go now, and the Penguins need him with three forwards suspended.

"It's been an intense series, lots of action both ways with physical stuff and the goals," Jeffrey told NHL.com. "To jump in is pretty exciting."

Jeffrey insisted that he will not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment, the crowd, or the speed of the game.

"One of my biggest attributes is my hockey sense and being able to read plays," he said. "It's going to be fast and physical, but once you get that first shift under your belt you should be able to read the plays."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl



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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:11 PM

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

Night after collapse, Devils back at practice

NEWARK, N.J. -- After suffering an excruciating loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Tuesday, the New Jersey Devils were back on the ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion Wednesday with the hope of restoring some sense of order.
 
The Devils opened a 3-0 lead 6:18 into the first period only to have the Panthers register four unanswered goals en route to a 4-3 triumph. Devils coach Pete DeBoer put the team through a pretty rigorous workout in preparation for Thursday's critical Game 4 at Prudential Center.
 
"I liked practice [Wednesday]," DeBoer said. "We came out in a good frame of mind, we were confident. Now we just need to get a win here [Thursday] night and keep moving forward."
 
The first-year coach said he didn't really need to rehash what transpired Tuesday night.
 
"We talked before playoffs that anytime you go down a playoff road, you will face adverse situations, so you need to expect them," DeBoer said. "You just don't know when, but when they come, you welcome them and handle them properly. We knew we'd be in this spot, eventually, and I think we're prepared for it."
 
DeBoer was asked if his team would be a tad concerned if they were to open a lead at any point in the remainder of the series.
 
"I'll take a 3-0 lead in a game any day," he said. "I don't care how many we've blown. You want to give me three goals, I'll take them. You have to give Florida credit, coming back like we did the other night even though we didn't do it all the way.
 
"There's really no rhyme of reason to these momentum swings," he continued. "That's the way the series is coming down. But the team that can fix those issues the quickest, is probably going to win this series so that's on us to do."
 
Ilya Kovalchuk, who has one goal and one assist in three games in the series, thought the players were sharp at practice Wednesday morning.
 
"It was good ... a nice and short practice," Kovalchuk said. "We cleaned up what we wanted to and worked on our forecheck a little bit. We'll see tomorrow."
 
Devils forward Dainius Zubrus, who has a goal and one assist in three games, feels the team will respond well, as it has the entire season.
 
"You reach certain points where you lose two in a row and it happens throughout the season, but I don't want to say, we've been there, because this is the playoffs and it's a little different," Zubrus told NHL.com. "But we can respond ... we have done it. It's not the situation we want to be in after winning the first game but this is how it is.
 
"There are things we can do better and clean up and, saying that, the belief is still there," he continued. "[Thursday] is a huge game because we don't want to go down and then go on the road."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:00 PM

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

Tangradi among fill-ins hoping to seize opportunity

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins forward Eric Tangradi was born in Philadelphia and is now staring at an opportunity to play a crucial playoff game in his hometown. Tangradi, who will likely draw into Pittsburgh's lineup for Game 4 Wednesday, is looking to seize the moment and prove he belongs in big-time NHL games with the hope of helping his team stave off a sweep.

The Flyers lead the Penguins 3-0.

"The playoffs are such a big stage for any player," said Tangradi, who got into one playoff game last postseason but only 24 regular-season games this season. "Sometimes this season things may not have gone how I hoped, but at this stage and with this opportunity I could really elevate my expectations from everyone."

While Penguins coach Dan Bylsma did not confirm his lineup, it's possible that Tangradi will play along with Dustin Jeffrey and Joe Vitale for suspended players James Neal, Arron Asham and Craig Adams. Rookie defenseman Simon Despres will replace Paul Martin, who is out with an undisclosed injury.

The four players that could be coming into the lineup have a combined three games of playoff experience. The four guys leaving the lineup have a combined 200 games of playoff experience.

There's also a question about defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who did not participate in the morning skate. Michalek did practice Tuesday in Pittsburgh. If he can't play, the Penguins will have to use Brian Strait, who has been a healthy scratch for the first three games of the series.

"Last year I was able to get into a (playoff) game and have a little experience, but nothing will compare to getting in a game back in your hometown in a crucial series when there are 20-plus guys in this room that are really trying to give it all they got 20 minutes at a time," Tangradi said. "It's definitely a big stage, but I've been on big stages before and I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

Since the Penguins have dealt with adversity from injuries to key players such as Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang pretty much all season, Bylsma said it almost gives the team an odd sense of normalcy having to replace at least four veterans with four young players even in such a critical game.

"Part of the obstacles this team has faced and dealt with repeatedly is that type of thing," Bylsma said. "So, to see a lineup on the board today of Adams, Asham and Neal not playing almost gives our team a sense of normalcy and resiliency about how we're going to come out and play tonight."

Regardless of who is in the lineup, Bylsma said the mindset does not change going into Game 4.

"I know the group of guys in there, every one of them plan on going out and winning our first game tonight here in Philly," he said. "I think we're ready to be at our best."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 1:51 PM

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

Likely lineup for Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers had nearly every healthy player on the ice for practice Wednesday, but did not skate in line combinations. But after winning the first three games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, it's doubtful there will be any lineup changes going into Game 4 Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

So here is what the Flyers likely will have in the lineup for Game 4:

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

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Pavel Kubina - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 1:50 PM

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

Flyers non-plussed by Pittsburgh suspensions

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Flyers are clear their game plan isn't going to change one bit, no matter which players the Penguins have in the lineup for Game 4 on Wednesday.

In the wake of suspensions to forwards Craig Adams (one game), James Neal (one game) and Arron Asham (four games), all announced Tuesday, the Flyers said neither the term of the suspensionsnor the resulting rosetr makeover for the Penguins, will make a difference to them.

"It is what it is," Danny Briere said. "I can't change anything about that. Peter [Laviolette, coach] told us that suspension or not, it would be irrelevant to the game and I truly believe that. These guys have their backs to the walls so I expect them to play with a lot of desperation and that's why we have to be ready and leave it out all there tonight if we want to clinch."

"[NHL Vice President of Player Safety] Brendan Shanahan, I think, did a good job," forward Scott Hartnell said. "For us it really makes no difference who they put in there. We have to play the same way, have to have a good start. It's not like they're going to roll over and die just because of what happened. Whoever they put in there we have to do a job against the top guys and be disciplined."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 1:42 PM

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

Penguins continue to rally behind their goaltender

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said Wednesday morning that anybody pointing a finger at goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and blaming him for Pittsburgh's problems against the Flyers through three games in the series is dead wrong to do so.

"People that point the finger at him are probably the people that whenever he's playing well are like, 'Oh, I knew he'd play well,'" Orpik said. "It's always the so-called experts that have all the answers. You can't control what other people say about you. He knows he has the belief of the guys in this room. That's always easy, finding a guy to point the finger to. There are 20 guys in this and we haven't played well in front of him."

Orpik added that nobody in the Penguins dressing room is upset with Fleury, who has a 6.34 goals-against-average and .798 save percentage in the series. Fleury was pulled after the second period of Game 3.

"I don't know who he is taking heat from. He is not taking heat from anyone in here because we all know we haven't played well," Orpik said. "He probably hasn't played his best. I haven't played my best. Nobody in this room has played their best."

Defenseman Kris Letang also defended Fleury and said he expects him to be at his best in Game 4 Wednesday.

"It's a tough spot for Flower, especially when we're not playing well," Letang said. "But I think he's going to bounce (back) pretty well. He's a great competitor. I'm confident in him."

Both Orpik and Letang said the key for the Penguins in Game 4 is for everyone to be at their best individually.

"If that's the case it'll add up to us giving ourselves a chance to win," Orpik said. "You can't guarantee how the outcome is going to be, but you can control your effort and execution. You try to be at your personal best and hopefully it adds up to a good opportunity to win the game."

The Penguins are confident that they can give themselves that opportunity mostly because they feel as though they beat themselves in the first three games with undisciplined play and uncharacteristic mistakes.

"If you played really well for three games and you were down 3-0 I don't think you'd be as optimistic," Orpik said. "Maybe we're idiots looking at a situation like that, but that's how we believe in this room. We'll see where it takes us tonight.

"Hockey is a weird game. You can outshoot a team 50-10 and their goalie can stand on his head," he continued. "The only thing you control is your effort, your execution and how you play. The officiating and how they play, you can't control that, but you try to make it tough on them. We haven't played well for three games and we all know that. It's just up to us to move forward here and play as best we can."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 1:32 PM

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

Flyers scoring even without Hartnell chipping in

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Flyers' 20 goals have been scored by nine different forwards. The only three forwards to play in the series and not score are Eric Wellwood, Zac Rinaldo and Scott Hartnell -- the team's leading goal-scorer in the regular season.

Hartnell had a career-best 37 goals in the regular-season -- the sixth-most in the League -- but he hasn't found the back of the net in the first three games.

Adding more incentive for Hartnell to score is the fact that Wednesday is his 30th birthday.

"Everyone would like to score on their birthday," Hartnell said. "I had some chances, hit the post last game in the last game. Not too, too worried about it."

No one else in the Flyers' locker room is, either.

"I think Scott's done a good job in the series," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I'm sure at some point you'll see him crack the score sheet, but right now we think he's playing a physical game and getting to those areas."

"Scotty doesn't have to score goals to be good for our team," linemate Claude Giroux added. "He's been in their face, he's been hitting, he's been winning battles. He's playing great right now. I know the score sheet doesn't show any goals, but he's doing a lot of good things for us."

The players believe the fact that their leading goal-scorer hasn't scored and yet they're up 3-0 in the series is a testament to their scoring depth.

"It doesn't matter who scores the goals," Jakub Voracek told NHL.com. "All four lines can score the goals and that's what we're doing right now, and that's why we're scoring so many goals."

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



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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 1:18 PM

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

Pens get last chance to put complete game together

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins captain Sidney Crosby might end up saying something to motivate his team in the dressing room prior to Game 4 against the Flyers, but he's not so sure he has to.

Pittsburgh is in a 0-3 hole with the possibility of being swept Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center.

"I don't think there is really anything that needs to be said," Crosby said after what will be the Penguins last morning skate of the season if they don't stave off elimination. "We've had a couple of days to digest everything. We've talked as a group about what we need to do better and where our game is, that kind of thing. Now we have to go out and play."

They'll be playing without three forwards. James Neal, Arron Asham and Craig Adams were all suspended late Tuesday by the NHL's Department of Player Safety.

Neal is clearly the biggest loss. He is tied with Crosby for the team lead with five points in the series and he is coming off a regular season in which he scored 40 goals and had 81 points.

"He's a big part of our offense, but we have a lot of depth," Crosby said. "That's something we prided ourselves on all year and we're more than capable."

Dustin Jeffrey, Joe Vitale and Eric Tangradi could all draw into the lineup for the suspended players. Between them they have a combined three games of playoff experience, with Vitale getting two in this series and Tangradi playing in a game last postseason against Tampa Bay.

"I don't think you really need to tell them anything," Crosby said. "They've watched the games and know what to expect. They've been involved in all the meetings and everything we've discussed. Whoever is coming in, their role doesn't change. They have to do it to the best of their abilities. That's really the same situation everyone else is in."

The situation looks grim, but Crosby said he has faith that his team will find a way out of the 0-3 hole.

"We know we're capable of it," he said. "Whether it's a good or bad thing, we haven't put a full game together yet. Knowing that should give us confidence that we're quite capable of winning a hockey game and playing the right way. Our focus is more on just playing the right way and we like the chances that we'll get the right result."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 12:44 PM

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

Penguins won't have Martin in lineup for Game 4

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma announced after the morning skate Wednesday that defenseman Paul Martin will not play in Game 4 against the Flyers because of an undisclosed injury.

Bylsma said the rest of the Penguins lineup will be a game-time decision, but he referred to rookie defenseman Simon Despres as having an opportunity Wednesday night.

"I think you're going to see Simon step up in a big way," Bylsma said.

Zbynek Michalek also did not skate Wednesday morning, but there was no reason given for that and his status for Game 4 is up in the air. If he can't play, Brian Strait will be in the lineup. He has been a healthy scratch for the first three games.

Dustin Jeffrey, Eric Tangradi and Joe Vitale all will likely play for suspended players James Neal, Arron Asham and Craig Adams. Vitale played in Games 1 and 2 before being benched for Game 3 in favor of Richard Park. Tangradi played one game in the playoffs last season while Jeffrey will be making his playoff debut.

In the regular season, Jeffrey had six points in 26 games and Tangradi had two points in 24 games. Despres had four points in 18 games.

"It's guys that have played for us and been in roles for us," Bylsma said. "It's a big game, obviously a huge game for them to get dropped into, but they know exactly what to do and what is expected, where they fit in and they've done that for us before."

Here is what the Penguins forward lines looked like in the morning skate:

Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Dustin Jeffrey - Joe Vitale - Richard Park

The Penguins rotated their defensemen and since it is unclear if Michalek will play it's too difficult to determine the pairings.
 
Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start in net after being pulled following the second period of Game 3. Fleury has allowed 17 goals on 84 shots in this series and has a 6.34 goals-against average and .798 save percentage.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Quote of the Day

Great players need great players to play with. That's why we'll have a training camp and we'll find who the best two guys are suited to play with Stamkos.

— Tampa Bay Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on Steven Stamkos' potential linemates for the 2014-15 season