May 6, 2012

Laviolette, Flyers look to even up series with Devils

By Jesse Connolly

The Flyers knew full well that their second-round series against the New Jersey Devils – or any playoff series, for that matter -- would be worlds different than their opening-round battle against the Penguins, but their clash against Marty Brodeur and Co. has proven to be tighter than most expected. 

Coach Peter Laviolette (Franklin, Mass.) and center Claude Giroux (bottom right) hope the Flyers can pull out a win in Game 4. (Getty Images)

After eliminating Pittsburgh in a six-game set that saw them score 30 goals – an average of five per contest – Philadelphia has struggled to adapt against a New Jersey squad that plays considerably stingier defense, as the Flyers have been limited to eight goals through the first three tilts.

"There's no question it's a different game from the Pittsburgh series," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette (Franklin, Mass.) told the Courier Post. "There's a lot of work to be done at each end. I thought we made good adjustments as far our end goes and neutral zone (from Game 2 to Game 3), but we need to continue to push on the offensive part of it, whether it’s power play or 5-on-5."

The Devils will host Game 4 on Sunday at 7:30 and will look to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

"If we thought they were just going to let us win, then we had the wrong mindset and we deserve to lose, there's no doubt about that," Flyers center Danny Briere said. "Everybody on an individual basis has to find another gear, find a way to believe we can beat them, find a way to go out there with the mindset that they are going to win every battle. We're not going to win every single battle, but we can't lose the majority like we have the last two games."

After pulling away in the third period of Game 2 in Philly and earning a 4-1 win, the Devils gave the Flyers two power play opportunities in overtime of Game 3 before Alexei Ponikarovsky scored at the 17:21 mark to give New Jersey a 4-3 win and 2-1 series lead.

Perhaps those missed opportunities in the extra session prompted the significant chances Laviolette made to his forward combos at practice on Saturday.

Claude Giroux centered Wayne Simmonds and former UNH standout James van Riemsdyk on the top line. Briere joined Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek on the second line, while Brayden Schenn served as the pivot for wingers Matt Read and Jaromir Jagr on the third line.

In the meantime, with Sean Couturier doubtful for Game 4 after suffering a lower-body injury in the Game 3 loss, Zac Rinaldo lined up on the right side of Philly’s fourth line, with Max Talbot taking on centering duties and rookie Eric Wellwood playing left wing.

"I haven't announced any lineups and we don't talk about lineups,” Laviolette said. “I wouldn't hang your hat on it. You can, but I'm not going to talk about it."

Lineup tweaks aside, the Flyers recognize there’s also one other major change they have to make in order to turn this series around.

"Maybe we've got to find the same emotion that we had against Pittsburgh," Giroux said. "Obviously that was a very emotional series. There were a lot of things going on in that series. The New Jersey Devils are more a team that's going to sit back. It's not going to be as open as Pittsburgh. We need to understand that. I think we need to understand it's going to be a close game and if we have to win 1-0, that's good enough."

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.