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Holmgren does a Trump-like job in rebuilding Flyers

by Brian Compton / NHL.com

The Flyers defeated the Canadiens 4-2 last night and now lead their playoff series 3-1. Watch Danny Briere's winning goal
A few thoughts while they sing, “I’m Feeling Bleu” in the streets of Montreal:

He’s A Magician – David Blaine may be performing his silly tricks on Oprah, but it’s Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren who could be the greatest magician we’ve seen since Houdini.

Swaps with Nashville, Edmonton and Buffalo near the end of last season, combined with the emergence of young forwards Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and R.J. Umberger have the Flyers just one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals after spending last season in the League’s basement.

“It is a long way that we’ve came since last year,” Richards said after Philadelphia’s 4-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens at the Wachovia Center on Wednesday night. “I think that just shows what kind of people Homer (Holmgren) brought in. Not only good hockey players, but we’re having fun being together and this is probably one of the closest-knit groups I’ve ever been a part of. Last year was frustrating, but this year is just so much fun.”

With the way all his players have performed this postseason, it’s difficult to judge which of Holmgren’s deals ranks as No. 1. However, the deal that brought goaltender Martin Biron from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a second-round draft pick is looking better each day.

Biron was stellar again Wednesday, stopping 28 shots through the first two periods before helping his club survive Montreal’s late surge. While Daniel Briere has also been sensational, Biron has to be considered the club’s MVP with almost two rounds in the books.

“Last year I came here, and winning a game at the end of the year was just a big party and a lot of fun,” Biron said.

More importantly for Biron, the fans in Philadelphia are smiling. Biron knows what can happen when you don’t perform in the City of Brotherly Love.
   
''When things are going good, people want to give you flowers,'' he said. ''When things are going bad, heads up. The vase is coming.''

The Sharks avoided elimination last night with a 2-1 win over the Stars.
Watch Milan Michalek's winning goal for San Jose
Not Dead Yet – Fans in San Jose will get to watch at least one more game at the Shark Tank.

Patrick Marleau found the back of the net during a penalty kill and Milan Michalek broke a 1-1 tie early in the third period on the power play as the Sharks cut their series deficit to 3-1 with a 2-1 win against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center.

The series now shifts back to HP Pavilion for Friday night’s Game 5, when the Sharks will once again find themselves in a do-or-die situation. Only two teams in NHL history have come back to win a series after dropping the first three games, and no team has accomplished the feat since the New York Islanders won four straight against the Penguins in 1975.

"We had nothing to lose," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "So we went out there and had fun. We'll embrace the challenge to make history in coming back from a 3-0 deficit. We've been sitting back too much and not playing Sharks hockey. That was a pretty solid effort. It was an impressive effort. Our special teams were impressive obviously -- we scored a power-play goal and got another shorthanded."

Marleau’s shorthanded tally was his second in as many nights. Teammate Joe Thornton quickly came to the defense of Marleau, who has been the target of many during a series that went south for San Jose in a hurry.
   
''He hasn't played penalty kill all year long,'' Thornton said. ''He just has great speed. And obviously when he gets the chance, he's going to put it in the back of the net. That gave our bench a huge lift.''
   
Aside from what was a 3-0 deficit, the Sharks are posed with another challenge Friday night: Find a way to beat the Stars in San Jose, where Dallas has won 14 of the last 18 meetings between the teams.
   
“We’re looking to do what we know we can do,” said Stars goalie Marty Turco, who made 22 saves in Wednesday’s loss. “We’ll give everything we have to win Game 5.”

New York Rangers forward Sean Avery will miss the remainder of the season with a lacerated spleen he suffered in Game 3.
Avery’s Done – As if the New York Rangers aren’t in a large enough hole, they’ll now be asked to erase a 3-0 series deficit against the undefeated Pittsburgh Penguins without Sean Avery.
   
The pesky forward was taken to a Manhattan hospital just hours after Tuesday’s 5-3 loss in Game 3 due to a lacerated spleen, which was suffered during the first period. He managed to finish the game, but it’s likely the last one he’ll play this season.
   
And when you take into consideration that Avery’s an unrestricted free agent come July 1, there’s a possibility that he played his last game as a Ranger on Tuesday.

New York is 9-13-3 this season when Avery is not in the lineup.
   
“He’s an important part of our team, obviously,” said forward Brandon Dubinsky, who has three goals and three assists in eight playoff games. “At the same time, we have a job to do, and it starts (Thursday) night. We can’t sit here feeling sorry for ourselves and being sad and having the ‘poor me’ thought because one of our players is out.”
   
A player that took a lot of heat following his antics with New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur during the opening round. While Penguins forward Gary Roberts was one who ripped Avery in the media, the veteran made a classy clarification on Wednesday.
   
“There’s hockey and then there is life and your health. You don’t wish that on anybody,” Roberts said. “I don’t know Sean personally away from the rink. Obviously, we’ve had our comments throughout the media, but truthfully when it comes to this kind of stuff you just hope that he makes a full recovery.”

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.


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