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Flyers Playoff Gameday: ECQF Game 4 vs. Penguins

April 18, 2012, 7:21 AM ET [1824 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Looking to complete a sweep of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, the Philadelphia Flyers return to action after a two-day layoff to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast locally on CSN Philly, nationally in the U.S. on NBC Sports Network and nationally in Canada on TSN.

"Discipline" has been the buzzword of the last few days, in light of the video game-like scoring pace throughout the series and the three Pittsburgh suspensions that arose from Game 3. The goaltending was not very good on either side in Game 3, and both Ilya Bryzgalov and Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury will likely need to play better tonight in order to give their respective teams a legitimate chance to win.

As a result of the suspensions handed down this week, Penguins will be without their top offensive winger, James Neal, for tonight's game, along with checking forward Craig Adams. Former Flyers forward Arron Asham has been banished for the remainder of the series (no matter how long the series goes).

Even without Neal, any team that has Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Steve Sullivan and defenseman Kris Letang still has plenty of firepower. The Penguins real issue is this series has been their porous defense, inability to kill penalties, breakdowns that have led to shorthanded goals for Philadelphia and a lack of clutch saves (sometimes routine ones) by Fleury.

Neal suspension for tonight means that Roxborough native Eric Tangradi will get into playoff game in the city of his birth. Although Tangradi's offensive game has not manifested itself yet at the NHL level, he is a capable player who has shown himself to be a scoring threat at the AHL level. Joe Vitale (the player who had incidents with Nicklas Grossmann and Danny Briere a few weeks ago in Pittsburgh) will be back in the lineup. Dustin Jeffrey practiced in Neal's spot yesterday, but he could switch lineup spots with Tyler Kennedy or even Tangradi depending on how Dan Bylsma manages his lines tonight.

On the Flyers end, the club has fallen behind in each of the first three games. Coming back is a non-issue for this club, but the team's momentum has often been generated by what happens after -- not leading up to -- their first goal of a game. In all three games to date, the Penguins have had an odd-man rush within the first 90 seconds of the game.

Thankfully, the Flyers enjoy outstanding offensive depth that runs about 10 players deep. The Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and Sean Couturier lines have all taken turns activating the goal light with regularity. Even so, no team can hope to forever get away with giving up the first goal of a game. Sooner or later that needs to change. For Philly, it may as well be tonight because the Penguins response to giving up a first goal has been to collapse defensively and yield numerous other tallies.

For the balance of Game 3, the Flyers played decent team defense. Two of the four goals that got past Bryzgalov were preventable ones, and the Penguins' puck movement was outstanding on the sequence that led to Neal's second goal of the game. Overall, however, the Flyers did a good job of protecting -- and then adding -- to their lead once they got it. The team did the same in the latter stages of the third period in Game 2.

The Flyers figure to dress the same lineup as in Games 2 and 3. Marc-Andre Bourdon remains day-to-day with an upper body injury. James van Riemsdyk (foot surgery) is close to being ready to return, as is Tom Sestito (torn groin). Andrej Meszaros (back surgery) is still a few weeks away.

Hockey often has a way of defying the script of a series. All signs point toward another high scoring game tonight, but the play could suddenly turn tighter checking. If there's one thing this series has show, it's that anything is possible.

PROJECTED LINEUPS (subject to change)


Hartnell - Giroux - Jagr
Schenn - Briere - Simmonds
Talbot - Couturier - Voracek/Rinaldo
Wellwood - Read - Rinaldo/Voracek

Carle - Timonen
Grossmann - Coburn
Lilja - Kubina



Kunitz - Malkin - Jeffrey
Sullivan - Crosby - Dupuis
Cooke - Staal - Kennedy
Tangradi - Vitale - Park

Martin - Letang
Orpik - Michalek
Niskanen - Engelland



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