The Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils will square off tonight in Game 4 of their second round Eastern Conference playoff series at 7:30. New Jersey leads the series 2-1, and is looking to put the Flyers on the brink of elimination. Here’s a preview of tonight’s action at the Prudential Center in Newark:
For the Devils, 4th-line forward Ryan Carter is scratched with an undisclosed injury. Rookie Tim Sestito (the younger brother of injured Flyers’ forward Tom Sestito) will take his place tonight in his first career playoff game. For the Flyers, Sean Couturier is a game-time decision. The standout rookie defensive center was cut by a skate in the first period of Game 3 and didn’t return to the game. Defenseman Andrej Meszaros (back) has resumed practicing with the team, but is out for Game 4. Tom Sestitio (groin) is also out.
Projected Line Combinations (left to right):
If Couturier can’t play, Talbot will slide over to center and Zac Rinaldo will play LW on that line.
Projected Defensive Pairings:
Ilya Bryzgalov will start in net for the Flyers and Martin Brodeur will start in net for the Devils on his 40th birthday.
3 Keys to the Game:
1) Power Play:
The Flyers’ power play was red-hot in the first round against the Penguins, but it’s gone ice-cold in the second round against the Devils. They’ve gone just 2-16 in the first 3 games of this series, and it’s cost them. In particular, it cost them Game 3, as they had two PP’s in OT and couldn’t convert on either. The Devils are taking space away on the PP this series. Where there was space for cross-ice passes and one-timers against Pittsburgh, there are now just Devils’ sticks waiting to clear the puck out of the zone. The Flyers need to adjust to the new PK strategy they are facing and try to get pucks on net, since Martin Brodeur’s rebound control hasn’t been that good this series. The Flyers must convert a higher percentage of their power play opportunities than they have been if they want to win Game 4.
2) Stop The Cycle:
The Devils dominated the Flyers in Game 2 and most of Game 3 by consistently cycling the puck behind the net. This kept the puck in their offensive zone and the Flyers’ defensive zone for extended periods of time, which led to tired Flyers players and scoring chances for the Devils that they were able to capitalize on. When the Flyers disrupted the cycle (Game 1, the 2nd period of Game 3), they were much more successful and they outplayed New Jersey. If the Flyers can prevent the Devils from establishing their cycle game in the offensive end and spending extended periods of time in the offensive zone, they have a very good shot to even the series at 2 games apiece.
3) Shuffling the Lines:
Head coach Peter Laviolette has decided to undergo some dramatic line changes for Game 4. The Hartnell-Giroux-Jagr line has been split up, and James van Riemsdyk will be on the top line with Claude Giroux for the first time in a while. Wayne Simmonds also moves up to the top line in an effort to establish a power presence, while Jaromir Jagr drops down to the third line with rookies Brayden Schenn and Matt Read. Scott Hartnell, who has looked hobbled since blocking a shot with his lower leg in Game 1, moves down to the second line with Danny Briere and Jake Voracek. The Flyers’ offense has looked stagnant for most of the series so far, struggling to establish themselves in the offensive zone and get pucks to the net. Claude Giroux, in particular, has struggled aside from his PPG in Game 1. He must step his game up in order to help the Flyers even the series and also to validate Laviolette’s comments that he is “the best player in the world”. It remains to be seen how the Flyers’ offense reacts to the line changes, but one figures it can’t be much worse than it has been thus far.
Devils 3, Flyers 1. Martin Brodeur will turn back the clock on his 40th birthday and post a vintage performance, while the Flyers power play will continue to struggle mightily and the Devils will be able to continue their offensive zone dominance with their cycle game. Hopefully I’m wrong, enjoy the game and let’s go Flyers!