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Laviolette isn't concerned with Flyers' next matchup

by Dan Rosen /

The Flyers now get to watch six Eastern Conference teams battle to get to where they already are. Only three will make it, and one of them will be Philadelphia's opponent in the next round.

Peter Laviolette does not care who it is.

"The cards are going to fall, one way or the other, somewhere," Laviolette said Monday from the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, N.J. "They're going to tell us we're going somewhere or we're playing somebody. Regardless, we'll be ready."

Laviolette, though, certainly doesn't want to trade the upcoming days off because the break gives some injured players a chance to heal.

The Flyers finished their first-round series against Pittsburgh in six games despite losing defensemen Marc-Andre Bourdon in Game 1 and Nicklas Grossmann in Game 4 to upper-body injuries. They welcomed James van Riemsdyk back to the lineup in Game 5, but he hadn't played since March 1, so he was rusty.

Defenseman Andrej Meszaros is still working on his rehab after undergoing back surgery in March, but he started skating during the first round and could be a welcome addition to the defense at some point in these playoffs. There is no guarantee, however, that he will be able to return in the second round.

There probably are many other players dealing with bumps and bruises, as well.

"I do like the fact that banged-up bodies get the chance to heal for a few days," Laviolette said.

He's not concerned that a long break could ruin the momentum the Flyers created with their 5-1 win in Game 6 on Sunday, when they blocked 40 shots, got 30 saves from goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, and received an all-world performance from Claude Giroux, who had a goal and two assists and set the tone with a big hit on Sidney Crosby six seconds into the game.

"It's irrelevant," Laviolette said of the break between rounds. "At some point we'll get an opponent, they'll tell us who we're playing or where we're going. I think you have a pretty good idea anyway just from seeing the teams through the course of the year. Teams don't change much. Minor changes. We'll get our team ready. We'll have plenty of time."

In regards to Game 6, Laviolette's thoughts on his team's performance did not change from his immediate reaction after the game.

He said it was the Flyers' "most complete game" because of the desperation they showed blocking shots and the commitment they showed to play a tight-checking, strong defensive game while not compromising any of their offensive abilities. He was concerned that the Penguins were building momentum and confidence after winning Games 4 and 5 to creep back into the series, but the Flyers shut them down in Game 6.

"What I liked about Game 6 is our team really played a certain brand of hockey that tightened things down," he said. "It's not an easy thing to do. They still generated lots of chances, but it's what we did to defend that."

He had high praise for rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who scored a goal and blocked a team-high seven shots. Gustafsson played in Games 5 and 6 because Grossmann could not. He played almost twice as many minutes in Game 6 as he did in Game 5.

"There was a lot of quickness to his defense," Laviolette said. "There was good stick on puck and good positioning because he's not as big as (Evgeni) Malkin or whoever he might be going against. He had a heck of a game for us. Defensively he was really, really strong. He chipped in a big goal offensively. When he came up with pucks he moved them efficiently out of our end or made the passes through the neutral zone that he needed to make.

"I don't think it's completely unexpected. We all like [Gustafsson], we know he's capable of playing a good game, a big game. When you get into a situation like that, you certainly want to see it."

Laviolette, though, was most pleased with how his team, especially the seven rookies he used, responded throughout the entire series against the Penguins.

"I know that it was good for our team just because there is a lot of youth, a lot of players that are experiencing the playoffs for the first time. They got to see what it's about," Laviolette said. "It was fast. It was physical. The environments were great in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. You get a sense of what it's like to play on the road and play at home. You get to feel what a lead is like at 3-0. You get to feel what it's like to lose a couple of games in a row as the pressure builds. I think all of that is a positive for our group. I think you can look back on the series and say we learned a lot so that we can be better moving forward."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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