-- The New Jersey Devils
were back on the ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Saturday in preparation for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers
, scheduled for Sunday at Prudential Center.
FLYERS VS. DEVILS
Kovalchuk stars in his return to lineup
By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
After sitting out Game 2 with a lower-body injury, Ilya Kovalchuk
returned to the Devils' lineup with a vengeance. READ MORE ›
As expected, Ilya Kovalchuk
was on the ice and in a pretty jovial mood. Kovalchuk returned to the Devils lineup for Game 3 following a one-game absence (lower body) and notched a playoff career-high three points in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Flyers.
The Devils lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1.
Coach Pete DeBoer is expecting to see the best Philadelphia has to offer in the postseason. However, the fact the Flyers did a little line shuffling during practice on Saturday has no bearing on how his team will play.
"We're concentrating on our game," DeBoer told the media following a 50-minute practice. "Obviously, they have key guys that we need to be aware of when they're on the ice, but we really feel that if we play our game, we don't have to spend an over-extensive amount of time on what they're doing."
"It's normal when things don't go your way [to change lines] … we did the same thing," Kovalchuk said. "We don't really care what they're doing there. We know how to play against those guys and how to be successful. We just have to go out there and do our job; they have the same faces and it's not like they're bringing five new guys in from somewhere.
"It doesn't really matter who plays with whom, it just matters who wants it more."
In addition to Kovalchuk, who said he feels fine and is ready to go for Game 4, rookie defenseman Adam Larsson
remained in good graces with head coach Pete DeBoer following another solid showing in Game 3. Larsson logged 20:32 of ice time on 33 shifts in Thursdays' win and also blocked one shot.
"I was a bit worried about [Thursday] night," DeBoer said. "You always play the first game back with a lot of adrenaline. We anticipated he wouldn't have any problem returning to the lineup [for Game 2 in Philadelphia], but sometimes the second game hits you a bit. He was out three weeks [as a healthy scratch] but he handled it well and there was no drop off. He played the type of game we needed him to play."
Meanwhile, Devils backup goalie Johan Hedberg
was celebrating his 39th birthday on Saturday. Starter Martin Brodeur
will be celebrating his 40th on Sunday in what he hopes will be a victory.
Brodeur has basically rewritten the regular-season record book for goalies by setting marks for career games (1,191), victories (656), shutouts (119) and minutes played (70,028). He also surpassed Hall of Famer Patrick Roy
with his 24th career playoff shutout in Game 4 against the Florida Panthers
in the conference quarterfinal round.
His 26-save 4-0 victory over the Panthers marked his first postseason goose egg since blanking Carolina 1-0 on April 23, 2009. It was his fourth since blanking Anaheim 3-0 in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final to give the Devils their third title in nine years.
Here were the line combinations during Saturday's practice:
- Patrik Elias
- David Clarkson
- Travis Zajac
- Ilya Kovalchuk
- Adam Henrique
- Dainius Zubrus
- Stephen Gionta
- Steve Bernier
- Marek Zidlicky
- Adam Larsson
- Mark Fayne
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale