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Flyers finally know who to get ready for

by Mike G. Morreale
PHILADELPHIA -- If you enjoyed the hard-hitting, in-your-face excitement of the Bridgestone 2010 NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park, you're going to love the storylines and snarling about to commence Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN) when the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins meet for the fifth time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

For the Flyers' coaching staff, just knowing an opponent is a bonus after six days of waiting on pins and needles to devise a game plan against ... someone.

"We've been working hard for a week now and we've kept it kind of neutral," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said following another spirited practice at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. Thursday. "I always feel it's more about us and what we do, so we try and stay sharp with what we're doing. Now that we have an opponent, maybe you can pinpoint some things. It was good to know the direction we're going to go and now we can start piling it in."

The club's second-round opponent was made official Wednesday after the Montreal Canadiens upset the Washington Capitals. The Flyers will have been off eight full days by the time they take the ice for Game 1 against the Bruins Saturday in the opener of the Eastern Conference Semifinal at TD Garden.

"It's been eight, nine days here, so finally we know it's Boston," Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "I think we're all looking forward to getting on the road (on Friday) to start playing games."

Laviolette shuffled his line combinations Thursday in the absence of injured forwards Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Ian Laperriere. It looks as though center Jared Ross will make his first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance this season between James van Riemsdyk and Arron Asham on the club's third line. Andreas Nodl, meanwhile, will make his first start in a playoff game alongside fourth-line center Blair Betts and Darroll Powe.

Ross, who played in all six playoff games against the Pittsburgh Penguins during last season's conference quarterfinals, is looking forward to the opportunity.

"If I'm not competing and playing hard out there against a team like Boston, which is solid defensively, I'm not going to be very productive in my offensive game so I definitely have to go out there and battle for pucks in the corners and win faceoffs," Ross said.

The top two lines had Mike Richards centering Daniel Carcillo and Claude Giroux, and Danny Briere working between Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino.

"They have a skilled top-six, a good goalie and a pretty solid defensive corps and we know they have a couple of key guys out (with injuries) right now, so maybe we can take advantage of that," Flyers defenseman Matt Carle said. "Other than that, there a nose-to-the-grindstone type of team and have veteran leaders."

The Bruins will be without defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (wrist, indefinite) and Mark Stuart (finger, day-to-day) to open the series.

The Flyers own a 2-2 all-time playoff series mark against the Bruins, but they haven't met in the postseason since 1978, when the Bruins, led by Brad Park and Terry O'Reilly, scored a five-game series triumph over the Bobby Clarke-led Flyers.

The Flyers haven't won a playoff game in Beantown since 1976 League semifinals, when it scored a 4-2 triumph May 4 en route to a five-game series victory.

"Our styles are a little different," Laviolette said. "Their forecheck is a little different and the neutral zone is a little different. But I shouldn't speak for them. Our game is two-man aggressive, up ice, pushing the puck in the neutral zone. When you play trapping teams in the neutral zone, it's just a little bit different."

"It there's anything we took from the Winter Classic it's that they're relentless," Hartnell said. "They fought through the whole game. They were trailing in the last couple of periods and scored with a couple minutes left and were able to get the OT winner so give them credit for not giving up."

The goalies scheduled to start the opening game of this series weren't a part of the Winter Classic in January -- Boston's Tuukka Rask and Philadelphia's Brian Boucher.

Rask, 23, made two appearances against the Flyers this season, going 1-0-1 with a 1.92 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. Boucher, 33, played twice against the Bruins, going 1-0-0 with a 1.34 GAA and .949 save percentage. Veteran Bruins goalie Tim Thomas got the victory in the Winter Classic, with Michael Leighton suffering the loss for Philadelphia.

"Rask's been very good," Carcillo said. "He kind of outplayed (Buffalo's Ryan) Miller but Boosh kind of outplayed Marty (Brodeur, Devils) in the first round. They're both coming off series wins and maybe we weren't expected to do what we did. We have to get a lot of pucks on him in front. Goalies don't like traffic and they can't stop what they can't see, so that'll be the biggest thing."
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