The Time: 7:30 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - NBC SN, CBC, RDS; Radio - 660 AM WFAN
The Series: The New Jersey Devils (2) vs Philadelphia Flyers (1)
The Last Devils-Flyers Game: In a pivotal game 3 of the series the Devils came away victorious with a 4-3 overtime win against the Philadelphia Flyers and referees Marc Joannette and Brad Watson. The Flyers jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on a Brayden Schenn power play goal but the Devils quickly answered with two goals of their own, only twenty seconds apart. The first goal was via Patrik Elias on the power play and the second goal was scored by Ilya Kovalchuk who just returned from a lower body injury that caused him to miss game 2. Matt Carle added a goal for Philadelphia early in the second to tie the game at 2-2 and the Flyers and Devils exchanged goals in the third to force the game into overtime. In overtime, the Devils were able to fight off two power play opportunities, and grab a victory over the Flyer courtesy of a Alexei Ponikarovsky goal. John has the recap of the game here.
For an opposition's perspective, check out Broad Street Hockey. More thoughts and keys to the game after the jump.
Whether the initial storm:
The Flyers are going to come out with a strong push in Sunday's game. Down 2-1 in the series and playing on the road, the Flyers will likely come out fiery and with an aggressive forecheck looking to set the pace early. I expect the Devils to be on their heels initially and having to withstand that initial first punch the Flyers will throw at them. But as we have seen throughout the playoffs the Devils will then be the ones on the attack and forcing the Flyers deep into their zone. The important thing is to not let the Flyers take an early 2 or 3 goal lead that the Devils will then have to dig back from.
Control Your Emotions:
The Devils have been very successful thus far in the series in not being baited into penalties or fisticuffs by the Flyers hits/slashes/extra activity after the play. The Devils aren't letting the Flyers get under their skin and as a result the Devils aren't taking dumb penalties or letting their emotions affect their play. In the Flyers first round series against Pittsburgh I think the Flyers did a great job in taking the Penguins out of their comfort level with all of the thuggery they bring. It will be important for the Devils to not let players like Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell and possibly Zac 'Slew-Foot' Rinaldo get under their skin. The referees always catch the guy retaliating and the Devils can't afford to give the Flyers power play opportunities because of a lack of discipline.
Keep Pounding Away On The Forecheck:
The Flyers have a number of good, solid defensemen in Kimmo Timmonen, Brayden Coburn, Matt Carle and Niclas Grossmann. Good, not great. The Devils are able to generate quick chances (see Zach Parise's goal in game 3) on turnovers generated when they pin the Flyers back in their own zone and one of the keys to this series has been and will be the Devils forwards on the forecheck against the Flyers defense. It is a matchup I think the Devils have the advantage in and they must keep this up in game 4.
The Flyers may get some help though. Andrej Meszaros, out since early March because of back surgery practiced with the team on Saturday and could replace rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson in the lineup. Meszaros, averaged over 20 minutes of ice-time per game during the regular season but he comes into a rough spot. It's not easy to jump into the middle of a playoff series and especially without any game action in over two months.
It was reported today by numerous outlets, (here is Adam Kimelman of NHL.com's report) that Philadelphia rookie Sean Couturier will miss Sunday's game. He apprently hurt his leg in a puck battle early in the first period of Thursday's game. Couturier had played great so far in the playoffs so its a sizeable loss for Philadelphia as he was logging 15:24 of ice-time per game. He had 4 points, all even-strength, in 9 playoff games. Couturier also had taken the second most faceoffs for Philadelphia in the post-season (111) and was winning them at a 56.8% rate.
Zac Rinaldo, the human penalty minute, will take his place. Rinaldo will bring his own brand of Trevor Gillies type energy to the game. We all remember his slew foot of Zach Parise back in February when the Devils were leading the Flyers 6-1 late in the third period. He supposedly did it to 'stir things up'. Great guy to have in the NHL, isn't he?
Based on Saturday's skate Kimelman reports the Flyers lineup tomorrow night should look like this:
Scott Hartnell - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
James van Riemsdyk - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Jaromir Jagr
Zac Rinaldo - Maxime Talbot - Eric Wellwood
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andrej Meszaros - Andreas Lilja
The assumption is of course that Ilya Bryzgalov will be back in net.
The Flyers have good depth at forward, but I would think the Devils could easily exploit a line of Hartnell/Briere/Voracek or even Read/Schenn/Jagr in the right situations. From a defensive standpoint you still want to see Patrik Elias and his linemates against whatever line Claude Giroux is on.
Unless something changes, I would expect the Devils to ice the same lineup they did in game 3.
What are your thoughts on tonight's game? Do you think Philly will come out with a lot of energy/emotion? If so, will they be able to control the play long enough to gain a sizable lead? How much will the loss of Couturier hurt the Flyers? How much will the return of Meszaros help them? Sound off below and thanks for reading.