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Still Fighting

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
Mike Richards skated on a line with Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell on Wednesday during the Flyers' practice. (Getty Images)
(Voorhees, NJ) – Trying not to sound too much like Nuke LaLoosh from Bull Durham, the Philadelphia Flyers stressed on Wednesday that in order to get back into their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, they will have to take it the proverbial “one game at a time.”


Game 4 is at the Wachovia Center on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., Versus). The Penguins lead the Eastern Conference Final series with the Flyers, three games to none, but Philadelphia was back on the ice on Wednesday morning at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone while trying to stay in good humor.

“The mood is pretty good here. For being down 3-0, it’s better than I thought it would be,” said R.J. Umberger, who scored his 10th goal of the playoffs in Game 3. “I think we’re just focused on one more game and I think we can get back into this series.”

“You can't win four games tomorrow night,” cautioned Mike Richards. “You've got to take it a game at a time. We've won four games in a row in the playoffs against a really good Montreal team, so I think we've got to draw from that.”

With just five goals in three games so far in the series, John Stevens made some significant changes to his top two lines for practice. Richards centered Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell, while Vaclav Prospal was with Umberger and Joffrey Lupul.

Briere and Richards have had success on the power play all season long, and will try and carry over that production into five-on-five play for Game 4 should Stevens keep those lines together in game action.

“Richie and Danny are two of the best offensive players on our team and in the league, and two of the leaders on our hockey team for years to come, so we thought we'd give it a look and there's a good chance you'll see it [Thursday],” explained the head coach. “Vinny's natural position is center ice.  He played one of his best games of the year with him at center ice late in the year.  He's a great distributor of the hockey puck.”

Briere is also willing to give the new look a chance – anything to start producing offense and help the team back into the race for the conference title.

“At this time in the playoffs it's not about yourself, it's about the team. If Johnny thinks that's the best way to go, it's the best way to go,” he said.  “So, yeah, we're excited. I know I'm excited about the opportunity. You have to try to find a way.”

One of the Flyers’ main struggles so far has been generating an attack through the neutral zone. The Penguins have done an admirable job keeping the Flyers from penetrating their defensive zone, which is something that will have to change for Philadelphia if it wants to get back into the series.

“I do think there are some things we can do from our tactical approach,” said Stevens. “I think there are some things we can do from an execution approach. But there is no question we have to do a better job of getting pucks in, and doing a better job of protecting the puck and working the cycle.

“We've done it at times. We've created some chances. If you look at the chances in the game there, they're almost even.  But if you look at the puck possession time, I think, it's tilted in their favor.”
“For us, it's about winning the next game. That's all it is. Then we'll go from there.” - Danny Briere

Jeff Carter, who was among the Flyers’ most effective forwards in Game 3 with five shots on goal, agreed with Stevens.

“They clog their end up in the middle of the ice pretty well. We just have to play around it,” said Carter. “We have to get pucks in behind them, chip it by them, and then skate. We’ve been getting into the neutral zone and then we turn it over.”

One player that has shown an ability to skate with the puck and generate the offense the Flyers are looking for is defenseman Braydon Coburn, who took a puck to the face in Game 2 and missed Game 3 as his left eye was swollen shut. Coburn was back on the ice for practice on Wednesday, and could return for Game 4.

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow and see how I feel. I had a good workout there today,” he said after practice. “[My eye] started to open up a bit late last night after I was icing it. This morning, it opened up a little bit more.”

“I think it will be one of those things where we have to wait till tomorrow and see how he feels after being on the ice today and see how he progresses,” said Stevens. “He's still up in the air right now.”

Whether or not Coburn makes his return, the Flyers appear primed to give it their best effort in Game 4.

“It's bound to turn around. That's the way I see it,” said Briere. “For us, it's about winning the next game. That's all it is. Then we'll go from there.”
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