-- One thing's for sure: The return of Jeff Carter
and Ian Laperriere
to the Philadelphia Flyers
lineup on Saturday was by no accident.
After missing one round-plus of the Stanley Cup Playoffs while recovering from injuries, both forwards returned with obvious intentions of making up for lost time in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens
They did and the Flyers are now one win away from advancing to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1997 following a 3-0 victory at Bell Centre in Game 4 on Saturday.
Laperriere replaced Andreas Nodl
in the lineup and assumed his normal role on the fourth line with center Blair Betts
and Darroll Powe
. Carter replaced agitator Daniel Carcillo
on the top line, playing right wing alongside Mike Richards
and Simon Gagne
"There's no question that having Jeff Carter
in the lineup was a boost. He was our leading goal-scorer (in the regular season)," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette
said. "Ian Laperriere
is as valuable going the other way as Jeff is going towards their net. To get players like that back into your lineup certainly is a boost, not just emotionally, but also from a standpoint of on-ice play."
Some of the players weren't even aware of the lineup change until they arrived at the rink in the morning.
"It was a big momentum builder for us," forward Scott Hartnell
said of getting the two regulars back. "We didn't really know they were going to be in the lineup and when we saw the lineup when we got to the rink, we were pretty fired up. We have a lot of healthy guys we wanted in the lineup, so it's going to keep us on our toes."
In the first period alone, Carter had a team-high three hits and two shots while logging 4:52 of ice time on seven shifts. Not bad for a player who had a plate inserted on the shaft of the metatarsal of his second toe on his right foot just 29 days ago.
"We got more depth out of them, and Cartsy's always dangerous on the ice -- he has a ridiculously good shot," forward Ville Leino
said. "Ian was working great on the PK and we know what kind of warrior he is. He brings character to our team."
Carter finished with 13:51 of playing time on 22 shifts; he was credited with four shots on goal, four hits and two blocked shots while winning three of four faceoffs. He averaged a little over 19 minutes a game during the regular season.
"Both players are impact players," goalie Michael Leighton
said. "They were a big part of why we're here today and to have them both back at the same time was a big confidence booster to us. Both of them played great for being off for so long. They both jumped right into the lineup and did what they had been doing all year, and we feel more confident with them in the lineup."
Meanwhile, Laperriere, who suffered a brain contusion 30 days ago after blocking a shot with his face, was his usual feisty self. "Lappy" also took seven shifts totaling 3:53 of ice time in the opening 20 minutes. Not surprisingly, he was whistled for a roughing minor a little over five minutes into the game and laid a thunderous hit on Montreal's Jaroslav Spacek
behind goalie Jaroslav Halak
He admitted feeling a bit fatigued in the end, too.
"I'm tired," Laperriere said. "But I'm excited. I had fun out there. Hockey's my passion, but I've got to think about my family, that's my life. It was just great to be with the boys for a big win."
Captain Mike Richards
thought the return of Laperriere and Carter offered a lot more balance and depth to the lineup.
"It was great to have them back and it was nice to play with a full lineup," Richards said. "We rolled the lines pretty good and we're a good team when we play with a lot of energy. Lappy is obviously an emotional guy, and we feed off his energy. Cartsy's speed and shot give a lot of people problems too, so I guess it's just rolling four lines and having everyone in the lineup and feeling comfortable with who's in your lineup at any time."
Laperriere finished with 9:13 of ice time on 16 shifts while also seeing some time on the penalty kill. He blocked one shot, had one takeaway and that one big hit in the opening period on Spacek.
He said he wasn't about to change his feisty style as a result of the injury.
"If I don't play that way, I'm not effective for my team," Laperriere said. "That first penalty, that roughing, I took a couple punches to the face, and that kind of got me going. I knew I could take a hit but I won't lie to anybody. I was nervous all (Friday) night and (Saturday), it was good to just to take that first hit, and I did, and I got bumped around like I usually do.
Carter was ecstatic to get back on the ice with his teammates.
"It's awesome," he said. "When I got hurt, I was told that my season was over. So I was being the cheerleader for the boys. When I got the call from (Flyers trainer) Jimmy (McCrossin) last weekend, saying there is a chance I might be able to play, that definitely lifted my spirits. I love to play hockey, and this is the best time of year to play, so I want to be out there.
"It's definitely a great feeling to get back".
Carter received word on Friday night that he'd be back in the lineup on Saturday.
"I told (coach Peter Laviolette) I think I can give him a pretty good 10, 12 minutes," Carter said. "I left it up to him and he let me know (Friday) that I was in, so it was a good feeling."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale