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Devils, Flyers fight to keep faint playoff hopes alive

by Adam Kimelman /

DEVILS (15-17-10) at FLYERS (19-21-3)


Last 10: New Jersey 0-6-4; Philadelphia 6-4-0

Season series: This is the fifth and final meeting between the Atlantic Division rivals this season. The New Jersey Devils won three of the first four games, but the Philadelphia Flyers won the most recent game, a 2-1 shootout victory at Wells Fargo Center on March 15.

Big story: Can the Devils pull out of a tailspin that has seen them go winless in 10 games? Or can the Flyers, with their beat-up defense, continue to make a run for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot?

Team Scope:

Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk told reporters after practice Tuesday that he would travel with the team to Philadelphia and decide after the morning skate Thursday if he would play that night against the Flyers. Moments later, though, New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer squashed those hopes.

For the first time since sustaining an injury to his right shoulder during a March 23 game, Kovalchuk skated Tuesday at his regular right wing spot on a line at practice, alongside center Adam Henrique and left wing Dainius Zubrus. He also played the point with the first power-play unit.

However, DeBoer told reporters after practice that after watching Kovalchuk go through all the drills, he didn't believe the star forward looked ready to return.

"He's not close enough to be a consideration, so we're going to leave him back," DeBoer said.

Flyers: Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette wasn't fond that a reporter called his defense "a patchwork" following the Flyers' 4-2 win Tuesday against the New York Rangers, but with four regulars injured and a lineup featuring three players who spent the majority of the season in the minor leaguers, the description somewhat fit.

The only two regulars Thursday were 36-year-old Kimmo Timonen and Luke Schenn, who Laviolette described as a "cagey vet" at 23. Kurtis Foster, a healthy scratch in 23 of 43 games this season, played 12:14. Rookie Oliver Lauridsen, in his 10th game, had a game-high six hits in 19:59 of ice time. Second-year defenseman Erik Gustafsson had a goal in 23:15 of ice time. And Brandon Manning, called up Tuesday morning, played 11:56 and assisted on the game's first goal.

"I think they've been excellent," Laviolette said of his defense group. "Oliver has come out and done a nice job, Kurtis jumps back in the lineup and takes some major minutes. Manning comes up and get back in to the swing of things, he looked great. Kimmo, you can't say enough about him. Luke Schenn hauled probably close to 60 minutes in the past two games, so they were real strong."

Who's hot: Flyers forward Jakub Voracek has goals in two straight games. With 19 on the season, he's set a new career high in just 43 games. His previous best was last season, when he had 18 in 78 games.

Injury report: Kovalchuk is out with a shoulder injury for the Devils. Defenseman Bryce Salvador (wrist) is questionable. Defenseman Anton Volchenkov will not play due to suspension. … The Flyers will be missing forwards Maxime Talbot (leg), Zac Rinaldo (high ankle sprain) and Jody Shelley (hip), and defensemen Braydon Coburn (shoulder), Andrej Meszaros (shoulder) and Nicklas Grossmann (upper body).

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