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Division rivals battle in Conference Semifinals

By Adam Kimelman and Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Staff Writers

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Division rivals battle in Conference Semifinals
There won't be many secrets when the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils meet in the Eastern Conference Semifinals

Philadelphia Flyers

Seed: 547-26-9 103Pts.

New Jersey Devils

Seed: 648-28-6 102Pts.
There won't be many secrets when the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils meet in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Not only are the two teams separated by less than 100 miles, they see each other six times a season as rivals in the Atlantic Division.

They're meeting in the postseason for the second time in three years -- the seventh-seeded Flyers rolled to an easy five-game win against the second-seeded Devils in 2010 on the way to the Stanley Cup Final. This time, the fifth-seeded Flyers will have the extra home game after finishing one point ahead of the sixth-seeded Devils in the regular season.

The teams have met four times in the playoffs since the Devils' franchise moved from Colorado to New Jersey 30 years ago. New Jersey won in 1995 and 2000 on the way to the Stanley Cup; Philadelphia has won the last two, in 2004 and 2010.

The Flyers should be well-rested when the Devils come to the Wells Fargo Center for Game 1 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC) -- they'll have been off for a week after eliminating Pittsburgh, while the Devils had to go into double overtime in Game 7 before eliminating Florida in the early hours of Friday morning.

Each team won three of the six regular-season meetings, with one of the Flyers' losses coming in a shootout. Each team won twice in the other one's building.

You can't get much more even than that.
Claude Giroux was the top performer of the first round, totaling League highs in goals (six), assists (eight) and points (14).
Giroux got most of the headlines, but their scoring depth ran all the way to the fourth line. Ten different forwards had at least one goal, as the Flyers attack in waves and create numerous matchup problems.

Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr, who play alongside Giroux on the top line, combined for just three goals in the first round.

Danny Briere had a pair of two-goal games en route to scoring five times in six games while centering the second line, with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.

James van Riemsdyk, last year's playoff star with seven goals in 11 games, returned in Game 5 after missing seven weeks with a broken foot. If he re-discovers that groove in the second round, a scary Philadelphia offense gets that much better.

The Devils rely on their forwards to almost all of its scoring. In fact, the Devils scored 18 goals in their first-round victory against the Florida Panthers, and all 18 came off the stick of a forward.

Ilya Kovalchuk, who won a playoff series for the first time in his career, was co-leading scorer with three goals. Travis Zajac also had three goals, including the OT winner in a series-saving victory in Game 6.

But as is the hallmark of this team, the scoring was spread across all four lines. Rookie Adam Henrique had two goals -- including the double-OT winner -- in Game 7. Captain Zach Parise and veteran Patrik Elias each had two goals, but so did fourth-line grinders Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta.

Coach Pete DeBoer almost always rolls his four lines, although he will double shift his star players on the third and fourth lines when looking for a spark. But he is also not shy about spotting his fourth line -- Bernier, Gionta and Ryan Carter -- and it has responded with five goals.

Getting a healthy Nicklas Grossmann back in the lineup would be a key. Grossmann is a big, physical shot-blocking machine the Flyers missed dearly in the last two games against the Penguins after he sustained an upper-body injury in Game 4.

If healthy, Grossmann will pair with Braydon Coburn to play against the opposition's top line. Kimmo Timonen and Matt Carle also see a ton of ice time in all situations.

Rookie Erik Gustafsson, who had a goal and seven blocked shots in Game 6 against the Penguins, could bump either Andreas Lilja or Pavel Kubina from the lineup if Grossmann returns.
The Devils rely on their big three of Marek Zidlicky, Andy Greene and Bryce Salvador to do the majority of the work. Mark Fayne also sees time in the top-four rotation.

Salvador, who was out last season with a concussion, has been New Jersey's most consistent defensive defenseman. He may have picked up an arm injury in Game 7 of the Florida series. Zidlicky, obtained near the NHL trade deadline for his puck-moving skills, has been extremely dangerous with the puck on his stick.

Peter Harrold, pressed into duty because of the struggles of rookie Adam Larsson, has been solid in limited minutes. Anton Volchenkov had a disastrous start to the playoffs, but played a strong final two games.

Ilya Bryzgalov made the big saves when he had to against the Pens. His robbery of Kris Letang in Game 1 fueled the Flyers' comeback in that game, and he was at his best in Game 6, stopping 30 of 31 shots to close the series.

What is there left to say about veteran Martin Brodeur, one of the most decorated goalies in the history of the game.

He has seen everything the Stanley Cup Playoffs have to offer in a career that is approaching 20 seasons -- and he has conquered all of it. In the past round, he played in his 10th Game 7 and emerged victorious in double OT, making 43 saves to earn second-star honors.

Brodeur was good when he needed to be throughout the series, stopping 166 of 180 shots for a .922 save percentage and a 2.06 goals-against average.

Peter Laviolette showed no hesitation throwing his rookies into the fire, and he was rewarded for it. Brayden Schenn was a key part to the second line, and Sean Couturier did a fine job defending and frustrating Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin as Laviolette was able to dictate matchups at will throughout the series.

Peter DeBoer won his first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff series against his former club in the first round.

But the challenge increases as the Devils face the rampaging Philadelphia Flyers. That team's depth will cause a litany of matchup problems for the Devils that DeBoer must solve. Fortunately, he has veteran assistant Larry Robinson to lend a hand with that task.
Special Teams

The power play scored 12 times in the first round, thoroughly dominating the Penguins' third-ranked regular-season penalty-killing group.
Led by Giroux, the Flyers' penalty killers were aggressive, especially in applying pressure at the points. They scored three shorthanded goals and created a number of other scoring chances. 

The Devils set a record for penalty-killing success in the regular season. But their prowess while a man short deserted them completely in the first round as Florida scored nine power-play goals to make the series far closer than it had to be. It will have to be better against the Flyers, who decimated Pittsburgh on the power play, going 12-for-23.

New Jersey managed five power-play goals against Florida, but only one in four games on  the road.

Series Changer

Ilya Bryzgalov -- The goalie struggled early in the series, but was outstanding in the series-clinching win with 30 saves on 31 shots. He'll need that level of play to continue if the Flyers hope to get back to the Conference finals.

Marek Zidlicky -- The in-season import from Minnesota makes New Jersey's transition game and power play tick. But will he be able to handle physical pounding Flyers will look to deliver?

What If ...

Flyers will win if … The Game 6 Bryzgalov stays around for the second round, the offense continues to get production up and down the roster and the power play keeps enhancing the even-strength scoring.


Devils will win if... New Jersey fixes its leaky penalty kill and Brodeur recaptures the magic from earlier in his career that made him so hard on the Flyers in the postseason.

Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players