3 p.m., Wells Fargo Center
Game 1, Eastern Semifinals
Series tied, 0-0
TV: NBC, NBCSports.com, CBC
RADIO: 94 WIP
NJD BLOG: In Lou We Trust
It's always tough to say, but it appears as though the long layoff has allowed for Nicklas Grossmann to find his way back into action. That means fewer minutes for Pavel Kubina and Andreas Lilja, and that is a very, very good thing.
The Devils are sort of an odd team to analyze. For starters, coach Pete DeBoer has mixed up his lines a ton in advance of this series -- all but the fourth line have shifted -- so it's tough to get a read in that department. (And there's no doubt that DeBoer split Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise to the Flyers couldn't just say "Oh, we'll throw Coots out there and call this a series.") When you look at their roster on paper, you see plenty of threats spread across three lines: Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Parise, even rookie Adam Henrique.
Am I necessarily worried about their firepower? No. Not when the Flyers are coming off a series win against perhaps the best offensive team in the league. Matching up with the Devils at forward should not be an issue at all, but two things need to happen for the Flyers to win Game 1 and this series: They need to win the special teams battle and Ilya Bryzgalov has to be the goalie we know he can be.
Bryz had phenomenal numbers against New Jersey this season -- 0.29 goals against average, .987 save percentage and two shutouts. If that continues, of course, the Flyers will be in excellent shape. In terms of special teams, it's fair to throw the first round numbers out the window for the Flyers. It's fair to throw a lot of what we saw in that ridiculous Conference Quarterfinal series against Pittsburgh out the window.
Can we read into New Jersey's abysmal first round penalty killing percentage, though? Perhaps. The Devils were one of the best PK teams in the league during the regular season, but against Florida in Round 1, they basically allowed the Panthers to score at will.
The Flyers had a better power play than the Panthers during the regular season -- not but a wide margin, but it was better -- so we'll have to see if this is something the Flyers can exploit. The 52.2 percent conversion rate won't carry over to second round, but the PP can still bite New Jersey.
Here's the Devils' lineup as we expect it:
Ponikarovsky - Zajac - Kovalchuk
Parise - Elias - Zubrus
Sykora - Henrique - Clarkson
Carter - Gionta - Bernier
Greene - Fayne
Salvador - Zidlicky
Volchenkov - Harrold
And the Flyers:
Hartnell - Giroux - Jagr
van Riemsdyk - Briere - Voracek
Read - Schenn - Simmonds
Talbot - Couturier - Wellwood
Timonen - Carle
Grossmannnnnnnnn - Coburn
Lilja/Kubina - Gustafsson
Game thread will be up shortly after 2 p.m. Go Flyers.