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2014 NHL Draft
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Leino, Laliberte ready for their opportunities

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Leino, Laliberte ready for their opportunities
Ville Leino and David Laliberte don't have the playoff pedigree of injured stars Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne, but the Flyers remain confident
NEWARK, N.J. -- Ville Leino is no stranger to playoff hockey. But David Laliberte is.

Like it or not, those are the names Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will add to his lineup Thursday in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. The Flyers lead the best-of-seven series, 3-1 (7 p.m. ET, TSN).

The opportunity for Leino and Laliberte came about following Wednesday's announcement by Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren that forwards Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter would be sidelined after suffering right foot injuries in Game 4 Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Leino has been practicing with the team during the playoffs and was listed as a healthy scratch for each of the first four games of the series. He'll play on a line with center Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell. Laliberte was told to join the team in New Jersey on Wednesday and will be make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut on a line with center Mike Richards and Daniel Carcillo.

"Team dynamics and team chemistry are always different each year and our team has been through an awful lot of ups and downs with injuries to key players so (Thursday) is no different," Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said. "Having said that, it doesn't change how we have to play. (The Devils) are going to be a very desperate team; their backs are against the wall so they're going to be at their best. No matter who's in the lineup or not, we need our best effort."

It was almost this time last year when the Detroit Red Wings recalled Leino from their American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids to add some depth to their playoff roster prior to a first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Leino had 2 assists in seven postseason games after scoring 5 goals and 9 points in 13 regular-season contests.

The native of Savonlinna, Finland, now finds himself in a similar position as the newest member of the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I like to play offensive and make plays, so I like going hard and being aggressive on the puck," Leino told NHL.com. "You don't have to sit back and wait for something to happen (in the Flyers' system). It's aggressive hockey and gets you right on top of things."

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward might not be the most gifted skater, but when he gets the puck in the attacking end, he can really hang onto it and make things happen. Really, when you think about it, he's the prototypical Flyer -- a hard-working forward who's tough to knock off the puck and can cycle well.

Leino won the Oskanen Award as the Finnish Elite League's top player in 2007-08, finishing second in points (77) and third in goals (28). In May 2008, the Wings signed him to a free-agent contract. He had 4 goals and 7 points in 42 games with Detroit this season before being traded to Philadelphia in February.

"The games are a lot faster in the playoffs and the tempo is very high," said Leino. "I know I just have to play smart in the neutral zone and get pucks out. In the offensive zone, it'll be the same game. You have to be creative and get pucks on net and try to make plays."

Laliberte, 24, had 18 goals and 46 points in 66 games with the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms this season. He finished tied for second on the Phantoms in points, was third in goals and fourth in assists (28). He also had 2 goals and 3 points in 11 games with the Flyers, including a goal and an assist in his NHL debut, Oct. 31 against Carolina.

"Lally's a good player," Carcillo said. "He was up in the beginning of the year and did really well with us. He goes hard to the net and is a big guy (6-foot-1, 194). I think he'll fit in well with us, so long as we play every shift hard and be physical on them like we have been."

Laliberte was selected by the Flyers in the fourth round (No. 124) of the 2004 Entry Draft.

"I'm excited just to be with these guys here," Laliberte told NHL.com. "I just want to show that I belong here and want to make my first shift a good one. I'm playing on such a good line with Richards and Carcillo, so I'll try to jump right in and help them out and play my game."

Dr. Steven Raikin will perform surgeries on Gagne and Carter on Friday at the Riverview Surgery Center at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia to repair the foot fractures both players sustained in Tuesday's 4-1 win in Game 4 of the series.

Gagne will have two screws surgically inserted in his right big toe and likely will 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.

A victory Thursday at Prudential Center would provide an extra week of rest for Gagne, since the earliest the conference semifinal would begin is April 29.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com
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