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Flyers want to get a lead

by Mike G. Morreale

The Flyers' Mike Richards has recorded at least a point in 10 of the last 13 games. Watch Mike Richards highlights
PHILADELPHIA – The odds are huge, down 3-0 in a best of seven playoff series, but the Philadelphia Flyers will take it one game at a time when they hit the ice tonight in Game 4 in their Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Wachovia Center.

Only the 1975 New York Islanders and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs have rallied from 0-3 series deficits to earn triumphs. The Isles knocked off the Penguins and the Leafs eliminated the Detroit Red Wings.

Perhaps if the Flyers opened the scoring or, at least, held a lead at some point in this series for longer than the 1:21 advantage they had in Game 1 of an eventual 4-2 loss, the club might gain some needed confidence. Mike Richards' second goal at 12:50 of the first period of Game 1 had given the Flyers that short-lived edge before Sidney Crosby's tip-in at 14:11 tied it and Evgeni Malkin's wrister with just seven seconds left in the frame ended it, for all intents and purposes.

"It's something we haven't had in this series," Richards told "Obviously, if we have a lead it will force them to open things up a little bit."

Flyers wing Mike Knuble knows the feeling a team gets playing with a lead.

"Scoring the first goal really helps in any playoff series," Knuble said. "If you look at our success in the earlier rounds, playing with the lead against Washington and Montreal was a big deal for us. Let's face it, it's exhausting when you're chasing every game, so we'd love to get out, try and use the momentum of the crowd and hopefully get a lead at some point. It seems in the last couple of games, we've had a bounce off of one of our guys and it really got them going. Maybe we can get that first goal but, if not, we just need to play a tight game and jump on our chances. We've done well in tight games this postseason."

The Flyers have yet to score the first goal of the game against Pittsburgh. In its seven-game elimination of Washington in the opening round, the Flyers were 3-1 when scoring first and they equaled that mark in their conference semifinal-round triumph over the Canadiens in five games.

"I think it's definitely something that could help us and maybe give them a little adversity to deal with," Flyers center R.J. Umberger said. "Getting that lead was something we did so well in the Montreal series. That team that scores first feels good about themselves and it just puts more pressure on the other team."

Coburn out -- Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn, who will remain sidelined for tonight's Game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, will again be replaced by rookie Ryan Parent.

"We were hopeful (Wednesday) on Coby's return to the lineup but he got on the ice (Thursday morning) and is still not ready to play," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "I think he's getting closer, but definitely not playing tonight. Ryan will be in the lineup, no question. I was very happy with the way he played (Tuesday). I thought he came in and played very well for, one, being out that long and being a young kid in that situation. So I was actually very impressed with his play, and I would expect him only to get better."

Coburn has been sidelined since the opening minutes of Game 1 when he was hit with an errant puck in the face that required 50-plus stitches.

"We're not going to put anybody back in the lineup if we don't feel they're ready to play, and clearly that's the case (with Coburn) right now. He's a young kid that wants to play and he's really kind of distraught right now that he's not able to go. But we're hopeful we'll win this game today, and then have a couple of days before we play again, so hopefully we can get him back."

If the Flyers win tonight, Game 5 will be at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Breaking the trap -- Flyers fourth-year assistant coach Terry Murray, a former NHL defenseman for over eight seasons, shed some light on the Pittsburgh trap following his team's practice Thursday morning.

Murray spends much of his time working with the defensemen and has seen several versions of the neutral-zone trap throughout his tenure as a player and coach.

"The most important thing is to get through the middle of the ice," Murray told "The defenseman must first bring their first forechecker towards him, which will buy some time, just before that first pass goes to your partner. If you can bring that forechecker toward you, back away with possession of the puck, and then make a pass to your defensive partner, that'll open up ice. Once that partner gets the pass, he has to skate to open up other options.

"The first option is to get a pass to your center and the second option would be the weak-side winger in order to get the puck into the offensive zone," Murray continued. "At times, the defenseman can gain the red line and simply chip it in to get that forecheck going."

The biggest problem for the Flyers, according to Murray, is the team's hastiness with the puck.

"I think sometimes we're forcing plays and not spending enough time backing away and making that fore-checker commit," Murray said. "We're playing pucks quickly from the original defenseman to the strong side winger and they close down on that man right away with their defenseman or the winger on that side. When that happens, it really puts a lot of pressure on the board winger to make a great play and normally that's not there."

High morale in Philly -- The Flyers went through a spirited practice Thursday morning in preparation for Game 4 against the Penguins. The club is hoping to get their hometown fans into the game early and often.

"We're still in it and still have hockey to play," Umberger told "We're excited to get another chance to play in front of our home crowd and want to give them a good effort and a good win. We want to take this back to Pittsburgh and go from there."

"We're hearing the history lessons," Knuble said. "Everyone is putting it out there all the time but the guys in this room are up to the challenge. It sounds pretty easy, but it's a win or lose situation and the guys here want to continue. We want to show and prove to ourselves that we are a better team. As a group we've risen to challenges and have pulled out great efforts before."

Contact Mike Morreale at

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