Updates on Laperriere, Carter and Gagne
04.25.2010 / 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren confirmed Saturday that Ian Laperriere will not need surgery after taking a slap shot to the face that required between 60-70 stitches over his right eye during his team's series-clinching Game 5 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
In fact, according to Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Laperriere should be ready for his team's Eastern Conference Semifinal-Round series later this week.
Holmgren told reporters that Laperriere suffered a non-displaced fracture of the orbital bone that didn't require surgery.
"I think hell would freeze over before he doesn't play," Holmgren told Carchidi. He went on to say that Laperriere looked "a lot better (Saturday than on Friday) -- other than (his eye) being very colorful."
The Flyers were holding a three-goal lead and in the midst of killing a Devils power-play in the third period when Laperriere decided to step in front of a slap shot by defenseman Paul Martin. By the time he realized he had slid too early, the puck slammed into his forehead at top speed, opening up his face to the point where a trail of blood followed him as he skated blindly on the ice before getting medical attention.
"When I grabbed (athletic trainer) Jimmy (McCrossin), I asked him if my eye was still there," Laperriere told reporters after taking between 60-70 stitches along his right eyebrow. "He said 'Yeah, there's was just so much blood.' I was a little bit in panic mode, I couldn't see out of my right eye. It's one thing to say it, but when you don't see anything, you kind of panic. But after laying on the medical table for two minutes once I got inside, I started to see shadows and then everything came back to normal."
It marked the second time in six months that Laperriere had taken a shot to the face. It was during a penalty-killing situation in November against the Buffalo Sabres that a Jason Pominville slap shot to the mouth resulted in 70 stitches and seven lost teeth. It would be one of 74 blocks on the season for Laperriere.
He blocked six shots in five playoff games against the Devils.
Laperriere will be re-evaluated on Monday. The veteran forward told the media that Thursday's game would be the last time he'd enter a hockey game without wearing a protective shield.
Additionally, Holmgren admitted that the right foot surgeries performed on forwards Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne were successful. Dr. Steven Raikin performed the surgeries on Gagne and Carter on Friday at the Riverview Surgery Center at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia.
Gagne will have an MRI in two weeks and could be back on the ice in three weeks. Holmgren told Chuck Gormley of the Camden Courier-Post that Carter's injury will likely sideline him the remainder of the playoffs.
Following his second goal in Game 4 in Philadelphia, Carter skated gingerly back to the players' bench in obvious pain after taking an initial shot off his right skate from Chris Pronger in the third period. Gagne was hit twice in the right foot on shots by Devils' fowards Ilya Kovalchuk and Brian Rolston in separate instances over the course of the game. After stepping in front of Rolston's blast midway through the second period, he was taken to the locker room and didn't return.
--Mike G. Morreale
Flyers advance; Devils bewildered
04.23.2010 / 6:07 p.m. (ET)
This blog entry will close out the quarterfinal round matchup between the Flyers and Devils following Philadelphia's series-clinching 3-0 victory in Game 5 on April 22 at Prudential Center.
There seems to be this notion that the Flyers will get stomped whichever team they're matched up against in the Eastern Conference semifinals. I'd be surprised if that happens.
The thing I'm most impressed with and, to be perfectly honest, am stunned over, is how united the Flyers locker room seemed to be during their series with the Devils. I mean, it was only a few months ago when it seemed to be a locker room divided. That's not the case anymore. Here's another thing to ponder as the orange and black await their next opponent. The Flyers' defense is as strong as it's been since the days of Mark Howe and Brad McCrimmon. The pairing of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle and Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn were lights out against the Devils top six.
Get this. Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner combined for 4 goals and 17 points in five games against the Flyers. The Devils power-play finished a miserable 13th in the playoffs, connecting four times on 32 chances (12.5 percent).
I hit the Devils locker room first following Game 5 and while there was obvious disappointment in the faces of each player, they all seemed to agree on one thing. The Flyers basically beat them in every aspect of the game -- Brodeur said it, Elias said it and Langenbrunner said it.
Over in the Flyers locker room, there was confidence, but nothing too extreme. The Flyers will roll four lines and they'll have no choice since coach Peter Laviolette always has his players in high gear.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed the coverage of the this series at NHL.com. There's more to come so stay tuned.
In case you missed some features this morning, here are the links:
Flyers close out Devils in five games.
Flyers forward Ian Laperriere is a hockey warrior.
Flyers goalie Brian Boucher is on his game.
Devils head home early for third year in a row.
--Mike G. Morreale
Kovy guarantees victory; Pronger snarls
04.22.2010 / 6:05 p.m. (ET)
When asked if he was thinking about the fact this could be his final game wearing a Devils' sweater on Wednesday, Ilya Kovalchuk told Rich Chere of the The Star-Ledger, "No. Because we're going to win (Thursday)."
Flyers captain Mike Richards and alternate Chris Pronger were told of Kovalchuk's bold statement following their brisk afternoon skate on Thursday in preparation for Game 5 at Prudential Center.
Richards: "He's entitled to say whatever he wants. He's an incredible player with incredible skill. The only thing I'm going to guarantee is that' we're coming in to play hard and want to have our best game of the series."
Pronger: "He could say whatever he wants. Talk is cheap."
By the way, Pronger was in rare form with the media on Thursday. When one Philadelphia-area reporter told Pronger that the feeling in the locker room was as if the team was down 3-1 instead of up 3-1 in the series when given the news that Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter would be lost to injury, Pronger snarled.
"Were you in the locker room?" Pronger asked. "I didn't see it. I didn't get that sense, but I guess that's why you do what you do and I do what I do. I didn't get that sense on the bus and didn't get it after the game. Maybe you're reading something into it that I'm not, but I didn't get that feeling at all."
--Mike G. Morreale
Losing players to injury nothing new to Pronger
04.22.2010 / 5:40 p.m. (ET)
Losing key players during the Stanley Cup Playoffs is nothing new to Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger.
When he won the Cup in Anaheim in 2007, Pronger admitted the team persevered despite the loss of several key components on the roster throughout the postseason.
"In our first series, we didn't have (goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere) Jiggy, (defenseman) Francois Beauchemin broke his jaw and missed Game 4 and Chris Kunitz broke his hand and was in and out of the lineup," Pronger said. "Look at any of the teams that have either won in the past or done well in the playoffs, all have probably had key guys go down but someone had to step up when given the opportunity."
That's what Pronger expects when the Flyers battle the Devils with a chance to close out the series in Game 5 on Thursday at Prudential Center. Philadelphia will be without forwards Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter for the remainder of this series for sure.
"You have to roll with the punches and take what you're given," he said. "With the amount of adversity we've had to face this year, this is just another in a long line of things that have happened from the goalies on down. We've had guys get called up and play well before so I'm hoping this is no different."
--Mike G. Morreale
There is no tomorrow for the Devils
04.22.2010 / 3:05 p.m. (ET)
This is it Devils' fans. If there's ever a night when your team needed you most, Thursday's Game 5 would be it.
After finishing tops in the Atlantic Division to lock down the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the Devils season hinges on whether or not they can string together three straight victories against the Philadelphia Flyers to overcome a 3-1 series deficit.
It won't be easy, even if the Flyers have two critical parts of the offensive lineup on the shelf in Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne. Why? Well, the Devils haven't won three straight in four months. It was Dec. 12 through Dec. 21 when New Jersey put together a five-game winning skein -- the last time the club won three-or-more in succession.
Obviously, with their season on the line, players and coaches know now's the time to leave everything on the ice beginning Thursday in Game 5 at The Pru.
Coach Jacques Lemaire: "At this time, the players only have one thing in mind. It is to come out with their best game for 60 minutes and nothing else. Never mind who plays on the other side and who doesn't play. You have to focus on what they do well and nothing else."
Zach Parise: "We need more consistency in our game. We had a great first period (on Tuesday) and then let off and waited for them to respond and before you knew, it was too late to get back into it. We have to stay the same way for a full game. That team is too good to relax out there."
Mike Mottau: "We have a solid character group in here and now's the time for that to come through. Sure, we're good teammates and good hockey players, but the overall character will show tonight. Our backs are against the wall and that's when true character shows, when things are more difficult."
Ilya Kovalchuk: "I think we're good enough to win, especially on our home ice in front of our fans, who deserve to see more playoff hockey. So we're all a real confident group in here and I think we can do it."
Martin Brodeur: "We've done stuff that has made these guys a better team and we have to try to change that and put a doubt in their mind. We need to dominate a game and do the right things, push the envelope to force them back to their place to try to close us off. Last year, we had two cracks at it (to eliminate Carolina) and didn't get it done. We have to make it right for us. We have the firepower offensively to overcome a lot of different things that maybe lack in our game. I think if we put it together, we're able to score a lot of goals. We're going to give up chances just by the way we play to get on the board and get on the board often. We can't dissect their game. We have to be ourselves and not anything else."
--Mike G. Morreale
The latest on Flyers' Carter, Gagne
04.22.2010 / 8:35 AM ET
Here's the latest regarding the injuries to Philadelphia forwards Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter.
Dr. Steven Raikin will perform foot surgery on both players Friday at the Riverview Surgery Center at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia to repair fractures sustained in Tuesday's 4-1 victory in Game 4 that gave the Flyers a commanding 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round. That said, it would be to the Flyers best interest to close out the series Thursday at Prudential Center since it would provide an extra week of rest for Gagne. The conference semifinal would not begin until April 29 at the earliest.
Gagne will have two screws surgically inserted in his right big toe and is likely to miss three weeks. Carter, who will remain on crutches for six weeks, will have a plate inserted on the shaft of the metatarsal of his second toe and is out indefinitely.
The Flyers lost both Gagne and Carter for parts of the regular season, but never both at the same time during the 82-game regular season.
Thanks to the intrepid work of NHL.com's Greg Inglis, I'm able to provide you with a breakdown of how Philly fared without each of their top guns in the lineup this season:
Without Gagne (Oct. 27 through Nov. 17): 10-13-1, 2.5 goals/game
Without Carter (Mar. 23 through Apr. 6): 3-4-1, 2.4 goals/game
Both in the lineup: 28-18-4, 3.0 goals/game
The Flyers' goals/game avg. for the regular season was 2.8.
Said Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren: "We haven't used injuries as an excuse all year. We certainly aren't going to start now."
In the last game before Carter returned to the lineup (he missed the final 8 games of the regular season with a fractured left foot), these were the lines Flyers coach Peter Laviolette had matched up:
van Riemsdyk – Richards – Giroux
Gagne – Briere – Leino
Hartnell – Powe – Asham
Carcillo – Laperriere – Betts
While those lines don't help that much since Gagne is also out of the lineup now, what it does show is Laviolette's faith in Briere to play center. Beyond that, though, it's all speculation.
--Mike G. Morreale
Devils one loss away from third straight first-round ouster
04.21.2010 / 9:00 a.m. (ET)
Frustration. Disbelief. It was all there. All on the faces of players representing the New Jersey Devils inside the post-game locker room on Tuesday following their 4-1 loss to the Flyers that has suddenly put them one loss from another early-round exit.
After spotting the Devils a 1-0 lead, the Flyers came out, well, with vengeance in the second and third periods to take the momentum and energy right out of the Devils. And it made no difference that New Jersey had just played, perhaps, its best period of hockey in the opening 20 minutes.
It was a rather hectic night but here's a summary of the post-game highlights (or lowlights if you happen to be a Devils' fan). The Flyers can eliminate the Devils in Game 5 on Thursday at Prudential Center.
* Brian Boucher is one win away from atoning for 2000 Eastern Conference Final debacle. I've read in some outlets that the Devils just haven't gotten enough quality scoring chances on Boucher, making it easy for him. I disagree to some extent. First of all, wasn't goaltending supposed to be the Flyers' Achilles Heel this postseason? Wasn't Brian Boucher supposed to implode as almost everyone predicted? So now that he's allowed just eight goals in four games, how can the Flyers success be related to goaltending? That's bull.
Boucher is on the top of his game right now, he made several big stops in the opening period when Ilya Kovalchuk was a man possessed. He played a big role in stuffing the Devils' power-play (1-for-8) once again -- the Devils generated 10 shots with the man advantage and could only muster one goal on Boucher. Yes, the Flyers defensemen are winning the one-on-battles in the corners and in the slot right now, but Boucher is also making it easier on them and himself by controlling rebounds and remaining as poised as a goalie could be. Give the man his due.
"He's controlling rebounds and I felt he's in good position on shots," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "You could see tonight, a couple shots from side to side and he transferred well and he was square to the shooter and he's been doing that. Every time there was a shot, he controls the puck and he's covering the low part of the ice very well."
* Devils need to do a little soul-searching. And in short order!
* I'll have an update on Simon Gagne this afternoon following an optional skate at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. Gagne left the game with 7:51 left in the second period when he was hit in the ankle by a Brian Rolston slap shot.
* Jeff Carter scored twice and Danny Briere once in Game 4. They entered the game goal-less in these playoffs after combining for 59 during the regular season.
* Devils goalie Martin Brodeur made an unbelievable save on Gagne in the second and the Devils just couldn't carry any momentum off of it. Click on the link to check out NHL.com's 'Shifts of the night' for the scoop.
"Usually when there's a huge save or penalty-kill that could turn out to be important in the game, guys will raise their game," Lemaire said. "You usually see the team bounce back and take control, but there's not a lot of control on either side. There's a lot of up and down play. Momentarily, they were in our zone and then we're in their zone. But we're not getting quality chances, that's the problem I see."
--Mike G. Morreale
Flyers are surprising Devils' Martin Brodeur
04.20.2010 / 5:01 p.m. (ET)
There's something different about the Philadelphia Flyers these days and Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was willing to discuss it with reporters following his team's practice at Wachovia Center this afternoon.
"We thought they'd be a lot more physical than they have been," Brodeur admitted. "They're playing within their means, as far as not getting out of position, not giving us 2-on-1 breakouts. I haven't seen much of that from them. So far, most of their goals are on going to the net, tips and screens. Usually when we play them, they're running around a little bit but they look a lot more composed in the way they play and that has surprised us. We thought it would be a lot more physical than it is."
--Mike G. Morreale
Gagne now longest tenured athlete in Philadelphia
04.20.2010 / 4:30 p.m. (ET)
When former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was traded to Washington earlier this month, Flyers wing Simon Gagne suddenly became the longest tenured athlete in the City of Brotherly Love among the major sports franchises.
Gagne, drafted by the Flyers 22nd overall in 1998, is in his 10th season with the club. McNabb, who was drafted second overall by the Eagles in '99, spent 11 seasons with the Eagles before his trade to the Redskins.
"It's fun to be part of one organization since you've been drafted," Gagne told NHL.com. "It's something that's hard to do now in our business with the salary cap. Maybe I'm proud of it, but it's fun."
"Gags", as he is affectionately called by teammates, finished the regular season with 11 goals and 18 points over the final 27 games and had 16 goals and 35 points in 49 contests since returning from injury on Dec. 19. Gagne is still waiting for that first playoff goal against the Devils, but with the way he's been performing on a line with Mike Richards and Daniel Carcillo, it's only a matter of time before he lights the lamp.
I caught up with Gagne to discuss his time in Philadelphia.
"I've been here since 1999 and it's a great place to play hockey," he said. "It's a great sports town and I don't see myself playing for a team without any hockey atmosphere. You need that as a hockey player and Philly is the perfect place for a guy like me. Going back home (to Quebec), hockey is the No. 1 sport and coming here it's been almost the same.
"It's not only about hockey but outside of hockey, it's a great place to live," Gagne continued. "I live here in the suburbs of South Jersey and it's great. I'm not too far from family to go back home and then come back. It's a perfect situation and that's what I like about Philly. It's almost my first home now."
--Mike G. Morreale
Light reading while awaiting Game 4
04.20.2010 / 4:15 p.m. (ET)
Before settling down with a favorite beverage in hand to enjoy Game 4 at Wachovia Center on Tuesday, perhaps it's as good a time as any to catch up on a few stories related to the Devils-Flyers series that have been posted on NHL.com.
Both teams held practice Tuesday morning at Wachovia Center. I caught up with Devils' forward Ilya Kovalchuk and asked him if the transition coming over from Atlanta has been a tough one.
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur earned his ninth nomination as a Vezina Trophy finalist. I spoke to MSG Network hockey analyst and former goalie Chico Resch and got his insight into Brodeur's nomination.
A story on Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and his coaching philosophy is also up on the site.
"If I remember, before the Olympics, we were playing our best hockey," Flyers forward Simon Gagne said. "You could tell guys kind of trusted the system a lot and understood if you do it, you going to see good stuff happening. At that point, I think guys began to understand the system that Peter tried incorporate. After the Olympics, we came out flat but now we're right where we were. It's the type of hockey you want to play, using your speed and following the system and, by doing that, we're a tough team to beat now."
--Mike G. Morreale
Flyers captain takes Laperriere's verbal jab in stride
04.19.2010 / 10:35 p.m. (ET)
Ok, in case you missed it, let me fill you in on the gossip brewing from Flyers camp.
Following the Flyers 3-2 overtime victory over the Devils in Game 3 on Sunday, Ian Laperriere lauded the performance of captain Mike Richards. But, in addition to praising the captain, Laperriere also threw a playful verbal jab at Richards that certainly aroused the curiosity of the 4-5 reporters who happened to be listening.
"I'm the oldest on this team and I get goose bumps when I see (Richards) hit," Laperriere said. "He's got the worst body on the team. He might not be flashy like Crosby on the other side of the state, but he's as effective."
Whoa, hold on Ian. What do you mean "worst body?" Can you define that?
"Well (smiling), he's built like my 8-year-old son." Ouch!
Following the Flyers afternoon skate on Monday, Richards was asked if he had heard Laperriere's sly comment. Of course he did.
His response ...
"I told him last night that when I was 16-years-old I was told never bench press a puck into the net, so I guess there's no need to worry about that too much," Richards retorted.
--Mike G. Morreale
Critiquing Kovalchuk; Langenbrunner's struggles
04.19.2010 / 9:50 p.m. (ET)
The Devils held an optional skate at Wachovia Center this afternoon and then a media conference call with coach Jacques Lemaire and players Jamie Langenbrunner, Patrik Elias, Zach Parise and Vezina Trophy nominee Martin Brodeur.
Lemaire admitted some disappointment on the call over how some players were more concerned with their individual success versus team success. In particular, Lemaire has really struggled in finding complements for power forward Ilya Kovalchuk -- who registered no shots and averaged a series-high 1:11 per shift in Game 3, 23 seconds longer than the next highest player on the Devils' roster.
"The whole line (that Kovalchuk played on) didn't get a lot of shots, they didn't create a lot," Lemaire said. "They work more individually at times because probably the fact they're not getting any points and they want to get points. It's not the proper way to work and when you're looking at your top players, we always say your top players have to be the best players on the ice. But I want to be patient with (Kovalchuk). It's not because of lack of work. As you guys witness and see, he puts in a lot of effort and work."
Langenbrunner, who has played alongside Kovalchuk on occasion, was also asked about the newest Devil.
"Kovy has been doing what he does," Langenbrunner said. "He creates stuff and is a very good offensive player. I'd point the finger more at myself and the guys who have been around before who know they're supposed to be doing the little things that create the wins. Kovy's a finisher and great goal scorer and a guy who provides a lot of energy when he plays. I think pointing the finger at him would be wrong."
Read into that as much as you want, but Langenbrunner is a standup guy. Still, the captain of the Devils has struggled this series. He's notched just 1 assist and zero goals on 7 shots through three games.
"I think having success or not having success plays a factor," Langenbrunner said. "When you're confident and believing in yourself, good things happen and you're making decisions and not thinking so much. If there's doubt, you're thinking out there and may be a step late in making a decision. You just have to look past all those things and just play hard to help the team."
--Mike G. Morreale
Kovalchuk held shot-less
04.19.2010 / 9:10 a.m. (ET)
So three days after Washington captain Alex Ovechkin was held without a shot on goal in a loss to the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk was also held to nothing in a loss to the Flyers in Game 3 on Sunday.
Kovalchuk did assist both of Brian Rolston's power-play goals in the game, but when you consider "Kovy" was on the ice for 27:30, it's a pretty remarkable effort by the Flyers to hold him to zero. He had two shots miss the net and another blocked.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, owning the last line change as the host team, made certain either Chris Pronger or Kimmo Timonen were on the ice whenever Kovy stepped on. He also had the combo of Pronger and Timonen on the ice whenever Zach Parise hopped over the boards. Parise, incidentally, was held to his lowest shot total of the series on Sunday with two.
"They always put their top (defensemen) out there," Kovalchuk said. "I need to find room for me and my linemates."
"We'll look at his game and we'll sit down and see what we can do," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said.
Flyers captain Mike Richards thought Parise was his usual, active self despite the fact he didn't notch a point.
"He's buzzing around everywhere; he's such a fast skater and (Sunday) he did a great job of drawing people to him," Richards said.
--Mike G. Morreale
Expect Martin Skoula back on defense for Game 4
04.19.2010 / 8:45 a.m. (ET)
Devils rookie defenseman Mark Fraser was making his first appearance in a Stanley Cup Playoff game on Sunday and it showed. He was inserted into the lineup by coach Jacques Lemaire in favor of a struggling Martin Skoula, but the change didn't help.
Fraser's costly turnover to the not-so-physically-intimidating Simon Gagne 1:15 into the second led to the Mike Richards goal that gave the Flyers their first lead of the game, 2-1. Fraser earned just 5:52 of ice time on 8 shifts. He didn't play a single shift in the third period or overtime.
Following Game 3, Lemaire admitted that Skoula would return to the lineup on Tuesday for Game 4 at Wachovia Center.
"We all thought that he was ready because he sat for a long time and then we used him in a game (in the regular season) and he was really good," Lemaire said. "We felt that we could get that type of game from him and we didn't."
Said the rookie defender: "I didn't struggle. It was more of just that I didn't get a comfortable feeling at such a high and intense pace. Every situation is just magnifying it."
--Mike G. Morreale
Overtime and out
04.19.2010 / 2:00 a.m. (ET)
My goodness! Is there anything more compelling than overtime hockey?
What a show the Flyers and Devils put on for 63 minutes, 35 seconds on Sunday in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal showdown at Wachovia Center in Philly.
As is usually the case this time of year, the hero hasn't really been known for his goal-scoring exploits but the Flyers will certainly take. Dan Carcillo scored just his second playoff goal in eight career playoff games. The fact the Flyers and their fans were able to celebrate this victory in a game where Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was playing incredibly strong, certainly bodes well for their psyche.
All the Carcillo talk aside, one of the most intriguing quotes of the night was when checking-forward Ian Laperriere discussed the contagious energy and enthusiasm displayed by captain Mike Richards.
How about this:
"I'm the oldest on this team and I get goose bumps when I see him hit and get his body out there and hit everybody," Laperriere said. "He's got the worst body on the team but is one of those all-around players. He might not be flashy like (Sidney) Crosby on the other side of the state, but he's as effective or even more."
The line of Simon Gagne, Richards and Carcillo had their best effort of the series and it not only showed with the win, but on the stat sheet. Gagne had 5 hits and 4 shots, Richards 3 hits, 2 points and Carcillo 2 hits and the game-winning goal. Keep in mind, Carcillo saw just 7:11 of ice time in the game. Danny Briere and Jeff Carter were also extremely active throughout with a game-high 6 shots apiece.
--Mike G. Morreale
Flyers' Michael Leighton making strides
04.18.2010 / 1:55 p.m. (ET)
There was a familiar face in goal on Sunday morning when the Flyers held an optional skate at Wachovia Center in preparation for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round series with the New Jersey Devils.
Michael Leighton, who missed the final 13 games of the regular season and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future this postseason with a high ankle sprain, was on the ice turning away shots taken by Ville Leino. Flyers goaltending coach Jeff Reese was monitoring the session.
I caught up with Leighton following practice and asked about his recovery.
"I'm getting better each day," he said. "Getting better each day is my goal. I'm really not sure when I'll return; I'm taking it day-by-day. At least I'm on the ice doing stuff right now, so that's a step in the right direction."
With the play of Brian Boucher down the stretch in the regular season and in the playoffs, Philadelphia appears to be in pretty good shape in the absence of Ray Emery and Leighton.
"He's a lot more comfortable in the net and he came up with some big games at the end of the season to get us in the playoffs," Leighton said of Boucher. "We have to play a little better defensively; we're giving up a lot of opportunities. They're a good offensive team."
Reese feels Leighton is making progress but admitted it's going to be long road back.
"Mike's coming along -- he's been on the ice a little bit now but it's a tough injury," Reese told NHL.com. "That high ankle sprain is especially tough for a goalie. I think you're probably better off breaking it because there's a lot of scar tissue in there. But he's eager to get back and he wants to be on the ice and wants to get some shots.
"But it'll take some time," Reese added. "Right now, the focus is on Brian (Boucher). Brian's our guy so hopefully he can continue to play the way he's playing."
--Mike G. Morreale
Devils-Flyers off day news and notes
04.17.2010 / 10:26 p.m. (ET)
Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner did not participate in the afternoon skate at Prudential Center on Saturday.
Langenbrunner admitted he was just "mending some bumps and bruises."
"I'm physically OK, just mending a few bumps and bruises and taking a full day of rest, no big deal," Langenbrunner told reporters Saturday afternoon. Langenbrunner was extremely active on Friday, notching 3 hits and 3 takeaways, one assist and a plus-1 rating in 20:22 of playing time.
One of the big stories of the afternoon was the fact many of the Devils' players were given the option to return home on Thursday and sleep in their own beds instead of at a nearby hotel on the night before a playoff game. It marked the first time in his 16 seasons in New Jersey that goalie Martin Brodeur slept in his own bed on the eve of a postseason contest. That story here.
I also spoke to Colin White regarding his first playoff goal in 10 years.
In other news on the Devils front, I caught up with rookie Matt Corrente following Game 2 and he was pretty excited to be given an opportunity to play in his first Stanley Cup Playoff game. Corrente saw 5:14 of ice time and took eight shifts.
"It was awesome, a real high intensity," Corrente said. "No one wanted to give up an inch and everyone wants to win in the playoffs. Fortunately, we came out on top."
The Flyers, meanwhile, held practice at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. According to CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio, fans can expect one lineup change -- defenseman Lukas Krajicek will replace Oskars Bartulis along the blue line.
Panaccio anticipates Krajicek to be paired with either Kimmo Timonen or Ryan Parent. Krajicek, who signed as a free agent in February, is more familiar with Timonen. Krajicek had played in Game 1 but was a healthy scratch for Game 2.
I had a great conversation with Flyer defensive-forwards Ian Laperriere and Blair Betts regarding their shot blocking and penalty-killing ability.
--Mike G. Morreale
Devils get physical; get even
04.17.2010 / 8:23 a.m. (ET)
Take this to the bank hockey fans: The emotional roller coaster that was Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round series between the Flyers and Devils is here to stay for the duration.
You could sense it with each shift. You could sense is listening to the players and coaches of each side following New Jersey's 5-3 triumph on Friday that evened this best-of-7 at one apiece. It was really a fun game to witness at Prudential Center. Maybe that's because NHL.com's own Shawn Roarke rambled into Newark in his nifty Honda Crosstour to join me. Heck, the guy is like a Mayor -- everyone strolls up to him to ask questions about his 8-day venture.
We were both into the game though, arguing with each other. He's the veteran but I still feel I made more sense. He disagrees -- go figure!
It was a game of firsts for New Jersey.
Not only was it their first victory of the series, but Ilya Kovalchuk's first postseason win in six career playoff games, Colin White's first playoff goal since scoring the winner in a 1-0 decision over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 2 of the ECS on April 29, 2000, and head coach Jacques Lemaire's first playoff victory in two seasons.
What did the Devils do better in Game 2?
"Definitely the penalty-kill," Lemaire said. "We had seven penalties. I think we did a pretty good job considering they scored on a two-man advantage (actually a 4-on-3). We scored on the power play and one shorthanded. I think the guys battled well. We got too many penalties at different times. The whole game, when you look at it. These types of games will happen."
So now it's on to Game 3 at Wachovia Center on Sunday (6 p.m. ET). Better batten down the hatches as the Flyers break out Kate Smith and Lauren Hart for 'God Bless America'!
--Mike G. Morreale
Can Boucher repeat Game 1 heroics?
04.16.2010 / 6:12 p.m. (ET)
So after one game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Flyers goalie Brian Boucher has allowed just one goal while boasting a .958 save percentage.
It's as close to perfect as you can get. Boucher posted his first NHL playoff victory since May 20, 2000, on Wednesday in Game 1 of this best-of-7 series against Martin Brodeur and the Devils set to resume Friday at Prudential Center. His gap between playoff victories of 9 years, 329 days, is the third-longest in playoff history.
The all-time leader in that category, by the way, is "Sugar" Jim Henry, who went 10 years and 1 day between playoff wins in 1942 and 1952, while Sean Burke had wins 9 years, 347 days apart (1988 to 1998) to come in at second.
The question is, can Boucher duplicate his effort against what is sure to be an even more aggressive, inspired and desperate hockey team in the Devils.
"Brian gave us an opportunity to get into the playoffs and we need to play better in front of him," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We were a little inconsistent on the puck in the offensive zone, but defensively we weren't bad and the saves we needed from him we got. Brian has a lot of confidence right now and that confidence has carried over to the team."
While Laviolette has all the confidence in the world in Boucher, he still would like to see his unit buckle down when Ilya Kovalchuk is standing uncontested in the slot ready to fire.
"Kovy is one of the guys you wouldn't want having the puck at the top of circles in the offensive zone without a defender on him," said Laviolette when asked if Boucher's first-period glove save on Kovalchuk impressed him. "Boosh was out and looked sharp on that one."
--Mike G. Morreale
Laviolette "enjoys the ride" of the Stanley Cup Playoffs
04.16.2010 / 2:47 p.m. (ET)
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was asked this morning what he enjoyed most about the Stanley Cup Playoffs. At first, Laviolette had nothing to offer but after some prodding, he finally obliged.
"What I enjoy most about the playoffs is the ride," said Laviolette, who led the Carolina Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup. "Watching a group of guys trying to find success and when pressure is ramped up, trying to be successful round-to-round. I haven't thought about it too much."
When asked if he enjoys matching wits against the opposing coach, Laviolette laughed and said, "Me against Jacques (Lemaire)? That's something I haven't thought about for one second.
"But speaking from past experience, it's all about watching those players enjoy success."
--Mike G. Morreale
Kovalchuk: Ovi will rebound!
04.16.2010 / 2:33 p.m. (ET)
Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk admits he's not a big fan of watching hockey games on television. Still, he was aware that the Montreal Canadiens held his fellow Russian countryman and Washington captain, Alex Ovechkin, shot-less for only the second time this season on Thursday.
Ovechkin, who led the League with 368 shots in the regular season, was also held pointless for the third time this season by the Canadiens. The last time Ovechkin was held without a shot, though, was Jan. 19 against Detroit.
"He didn't get shot but I think he got like 15 attempts -- they block all of them," Kovalchuk said. "You can't play perfect every game. He's a great player and we all know that. He'll get his share of shots on goal."
--Mike G. Morreale
Parent in Game 2 lineup
4.16.2010 / 1:05 p.m. (ET)
Parent will be making his first appearance in this series and his 11th in the Stanley Cup Playoffs overall. Parent made his Playoff debut in 2008 to help the Flyers reach the Eastern Conference Final against Pittsburgh.
Laviolette didn't tip his hand as to who Parent would replace in the lineup following his team's morning skate on Friday. The Philadelphia media on hand seem to think that 27-year-old defenseman Lukas Krajicek will be the odd man out for Game 2. Parent could also replace Oskars Bartulis, although the rookie defender wasn't told of any change following the Flyers' skate. Bartulis took a four-minute double minor penalty for high sticking in Game 1 early in the third period.
Parent, a 23-year-old native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, played in 20 of the Flyers' final 22 games after having a herniated disk removed from his back in January.
-- Mike G. MorrealeBrodeur: "We must play better"; Focused Flyers
04.15.2010 / 8:04 p.m. (ET)
The Devils and Flyers went through a brisk workout this afternoon in preparation for Game 2 at Prudential Center on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
The Flyers took the ice at 1 p.m. and the Devils at 3 p.m. Flyers goalie Brian Boucher and defenseman Chris Pronger did not skate with the team Thursday for some well-earned rest. Pronger, if you haven't already heard, logged 30:01 of ice time and had 3 blocked shots in Game 1. For the Devils, wing Andrew Peters, who suffered an eye injury in a fight with the Rangers' Jody Shelley on March 25, practiced with the full team for the first time since that incident.
The media had their time with the boys after each respective session, as is customary. Here are a couple features off those rap sessions:
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire looks for his power-play to keep it simple
The Devils top PP unit during Thursday's practice was Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ilya Kovalchuk (at point) and Paul Martin (at point).
Flyers rookie LW James van Riemsdyk enjoys atmosphere of Cup Playoffs
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who allowed two goals on 14 shots in the series opener on Wednesday, was asked if he heard the booing from the fans in the third period.
"It goes with the expectations," Brodeur said. "They'll be pretty patient but we have to do some things that will allow them appreciate our effort. What we're doing on the ice is important."
Devils alternate captain Patrik Elias feels New Jersey has gotten over the Game 1 setback.
"I think (getting over a loss) depends on how you play and the way you lose it," Elias said. "I thought we played well for 40 minutes. The first 10 minutes of the second we kind of lost that momentum and didn't initiate. But then in the third, one line after another, we had opportunities."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette did say after the game that his team's play in the second period proved to be a turning point. Despite the fact the Flyers entered the series as the seventh seed and the Devils, second, Flyers forward Blair Betts said the team doesn't feel like underdogs.
"We don't feel like there's pressure," Betts said. "We'd like to have home-ice advantage and I guess with the win we do now, but I think anytime you can relieve some of the pressure, relax and be calm (on the road), go out there and play, it's definitely a bonus."
"It's huge to get that Game 1 but we not have to focus on the next game and not worry about the series," Flyers captain Mike Richards said. "They are going to come out even harder on Friday; we have to do a better job of responding to that."
--Mike G. Morreale
Kovy's birthday; reaction to Anderson firing
04.15.2010 / 7:04 p.m. (ET)
Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk might score a goal at some point in this best-of-7 series with the Flyers, but he won't score on his birthday.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Russian turned 27 on Thursday. His birthday wish -- a Game 2 victory of course.
I asked Kovalchuk about his former coach in Atlanta, John Anderson. Anderson was released by the Thrashers on Wednesday, along with assistant coaches Randy Cunneyworth, Todd Nelson and Steve Weeks. Kovalchuk played under Anderson for a season-and-a-half before being dealt to the Devils in February.
"He's a good coach and was a great player -- he scored almost 300 NHL goals (282) -- but it was tough adjustment for him from the American Hockey League when he was coaching Chicago," Kovalchuk told me. "They had a great team with a lot of veteran guys and we got little different. Maybe he should be tougher on some young guys, but I'm sure he'll be somewhere else really soon because he knows what he's doing."
Devils defenseman Anssi Salmela, who also came over in the Kovalchuk deal, agrees.
"He was a players' coach," Salmela said of Anderson. "Different players need different styles. Some players feel pressure and young players need that pressure. But they came around in the end of the season. He'll coach somewhere, don't see why he couldn't."
--Mike G. Morreale
Little things mean a lot
04.15.2010 / 10:25 a.m. (ET)
For years, it always seemed the Devils had the Flyers number. And it wasn't just in the regular season but the postseason.
What Flyer fan wouldn't forget Claude Lemieux's long-distant blue-line rocket that beat Ron Hextall blocker side to silence the Spectrum and give New Jersey a 3-2 series lead in 1995 on the way to a six-game extermination. Yeah, the Devils would win the Cup that year too.
It would happen again in 2000, when a young Brian Boucher was between the pipes for the Flyers. To add insult to injury, the Devils would post one of the greatest comebacks in a conference final when Patrik Elias scored his second of the game with 2:32 left in regulation of Game 7 in Philly. It was a series the Flyers led, 3-1. That seventh game was also the infamous 'hit' that eventual Conn Smythe Trophy-winning defenseman Scott Stevens would put on Eric Lindros.
Let's face it, the Devils had the Cheesestakes right where they wanted them.
But, very quietly, the Flyers eliminated the Devils in the conference quarterfinal round in 2004 in five quick games. Quiet because the Flyers would eventually be eliminated by the new kids on the block that year, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in seven game in the conference final. The Lightning would celebrate the Cup that season.
But the Flyers have had the Devils number this year -- winning five of the six matchups in the regular season and now, Game 1 of their best-of-7 quarterfinal round series. Is it too ridiculous to think that, after just one game in this series, the winning mystique New Jersey had commanded over Philadelphia for so long is fading?
Trouble is, I can't put my finger on what it might be. Maybe it's just what a few of the Flyers' players told me following practice on Wednesday. They get up for these games against the Devils; they know what they're up against and they know what's coming.
The question is, how? The Devils added one dynamic forward prior to the trade deadline in Ilya Kovalchuk and a pretty good defensive-defenseman in Martin Skoula. But it seems as though lady-luck has been with the Flyers this season when New Jersey happens to be the opposition. Just as lady-luck was with the Devils against the Penguins in the regular season -- New Jersey won all six games.
How do I know this? Well, when was the last time a Flyers defenseman was parked right in front of Martin Brodeur and actually tipped home a shot that deflected off the Devils' goalie into the net. This wasn't no ordinary defenseman either -- it was hulking Chris Pronger.
Then, Ian Laperriere does his best Ice Capades' impression on the way to dishing a behind-the-back pass to Mike Richards on the opposite wing. In 1995 or 2000, that play would have probably resulted in a quick transition and goal in the other direction. But Richards caught up to the pass and absolutely destroyed the puck to beat Brodeur on the long side.
The Devils can certainly turn this series around, however. For starters, the power-play needs to get better. The fact the team finished 0-for-5 with the man advantage on Wednesday in a 2-1 Game 1 loss won't sit well with anyone in the New Jersey locker room. I expect an even more determined team for Game 2. But the Flyers aren't just going to throw out the white flags, either.
Truth is, little things add up. And the little things have certainly been going in the Flyers favor against the Devils this season. Let's see if it continues in this series.
--Mike G. Morreale
Pandolfo playoff streak to end; Tough Devils
04.14.2010 / 6:31 p.m. (ET)
Devils left wing Jay Pandolfo will see his streak of 123 consecutive playoff games come to a end on Wednesday when New Jersey plays host to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Pandolfo, a member of New Jersey's 2000 and '03 Stanley Cup teams, and Andrew Peters, Vladimir Zharkov and Anssi Salmela didn't participate with the full team at the morning skate but came out later prior to the Flyers taking the ice for their turn.
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and Matt Corrente, who was skating at forward, were on the ice with the full team. Devils coach Jacques Lemaire was asked about Pandolfo.
"What we will do every morning skate is we will have 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders and the guys that will play will be among that group,"s Lemaire said. "The other guys, because it's really hard to go in practice with five lines and more, it's hard to get the guys a good rhythm and get some momentum in practices. This is the reason why we did this."
It's rather obvious Lemaire is hoping to add some toughness to the lineup against the always physical Flyers. In fact, when asked if his team has the muscle to neutralize the Flyers, Lemaire didn't hesitate.
"Definitely," he said. "You know what we have in this room. We have good character and guys who battle when they have to battle. We have scorers and good defensive players and we have tough guys."
--Mike G. Morreale
Devils/Flyers Fan fests are set
04.14.2010 / 3:54 p.m. (ET)
The Devils and Flyers are offering their fans a chance to get together and root on their teams this week.
For Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-7 series between the Atlantic Division rivals, the Devils will hold a pre-game Fan Fest in Championship Plaza beginning two and a half hours before the games.
The celebrations will include a two-story beer garden, appearances by the N.J. Devil team mascot and the Devils Dancers, as well as an outdoor synthetic ice rink with free skate rental. The Devils will also be giving Devils' Army t-shirts to all fans in attendance on Wednesday, courtesy of Holy Name Medical Center. Fans attending Friday's Game 2 will receive Red Alert rally towels courtesy Panasonic.
In fact, Devils Chairman and Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek will handing out playoff t-shirts at Newark Penn Station at 6 p.m. prior to Game 1. So get there early!
Meanwhile, diehard Flyers fans gathering at Kildare's in Manayunk at 7:30 p.m. (ET) will be able to watch Game 1 on 15 of Kildare's 40" plasma televisions -- easily viewed throughout the bar. There will also be raffles to win autographed prizes and pick up great giveaways including t-shirts, thunder sticks, cheer cards and more. On Friday, Flyers Alumni will serve Stanley CUPcakes from a cupcake truck at various locations around the City. Locations will be posted at www.philadelphiaflyers.com.
--Mike G. Morreale
Gearing up for Game 1
04.14.2010 / 3:25 p.m. (ET)
So what did we learn at the morning skate for both teams in preparation for tonight's Game 1 showdown between the Flyers and Devils in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round series?
Well, not much. Although I do know Chris Pronger will play a major part in anything the Devils attempt to do.
For starters, Devils coach Jacques Lemaire was playing musical linemates during the skate so it became impossible to gauge what he was thinking and what matchups he'd prefer to have on the ice with the last line change as the host team for the opening two games of this series.
"All the games we played against them, I don't think there was a lot of matchups that we didn't like on both sides,” Lemaire said. "Maybe I'm wrong there, but it looks like he didn't mind to play his top players against mine and I don't mind to play our top players against his. Matchups are tough when you only have one line and you might have one or two lines that really can't play against certain players. Then, you've got to hold your players to find the right time to send them on. But neither are a problem because our teams are balanced."
I asked Flyers coach Peter Laviolette which defensive pair -- Chris Pronger and Matt Carle or Kimmo Timonen and Lukas Krajicek -- would he prefer against Zach Parise's line and Ilya Kovalchuk's unit.
His response: "There's matchups that we're trying to get." Oh well, I tried.
Laviolette did elaborate when asked if he is committed to matching certain lines that the Devils throw on the ice.
"It's obvious we'll look to do things defensively," Laviolette said. "From a forwards' point of view, I'm more concerned about attack. You get the pair of defensemen and you kind of monitor that and watch that. Maybe if there's a line combination we're looking for, we'll try to get that. If we don't get it on the road, I don't like to juggle. I don't like to send guys on, send guys off, disrupt shifts. We try to lock it down and match it the best we can."
What do I think?
How about this:
Devils 1-Parise, Zajac, Langenbrunner. 2-Kovalchuk, Elias, Zubrus.
Flyers: 1-Gagne, Richards, Carcillo. 2-Hartnell, Carter, Briere.
Don't hold me to that though. My gut also tells me that Laviolette might be better suited to have the better-skating Timonen matched against Parise and the intimidating Pronger against Kovy.
--Mike G. Morreale
Game 1 primer
4.14.2010 / 12:00 PM ET
Philadelphia at New Jersey: 7:30 pm ET -- The Flyers beat the Devils five times this season (5-1-0), including three-straight games in the second half of the season. Philadelphia tallied five goals twice and outscored New Jersey 20-13 … The top point-getters for the season series were Claude Giroux (1-6--7) and Chris Pronger (0-7--7) for the Flyers and Patrik Elias (2-3--5) and Brian Rolston (1-4--5) for the Devils.
Brodeur vs. Boucher: Philadelphia goaltender Brian Boucher played his NHL rookie season with the Flyers in 1999-2000, leading them to the Eastern Conference Final before losing to Martin Brodeur and the eventual Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils in seven games. Brodeur has played 92 playoff games since 2000, Boucher just four.