Hartnell, Flyers aware of skilled Devils offense


Scott Hartnell admits he was taking notes on some of the other playoff series this week while the Flyers were waiting for their second round opponent to be decided.

Was there anything he learned about the New Jersey Devils, who visit Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals?

I can't reveal that information ... the secrets that I learned Thursday night, Hartnell smiled. We know that they have a lot of skill. Their top line can score, their power play is dangerous ... like every other team that made it to this point.

They also have one of the best goalies who's ever played the game. We're going to have our hands full and it's going to be exciting.

You hear the word Devils and you immediately think of Marty Brodeur in goal and skilled forwards such as Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Parise led all scorers in the six regular season games against the Flyers with three goals while Kovalchuk had the most points with eight.

Yet lesser-known types were just as dangerous on this low-scoring Devils squad. Kurtis Foster and Alexei Ponikarovsky each had two goals in the season series.

Who worries you?

Probably Kovalchuk or Parise, I'd say, Hartnell admitted. Both of them are game-changing players. Both of them skate and work hard both ends of the ice.

Parise is hungry around that net. He's always fighting for pucks. He's quick. He does everything well. He's one of the guys we're definitely going to have to worry about when he's on the ice.

On the other side of the puck, Flyers centerman Claude Giroux led the team in goals (four) and points (seven) against the Devils this season. Wayne Simmonds was second with three goals and five points.

I didnt even know that, Giroux said. It doesnt matter who the team is. In the playoffs, you need to kind of adjust your game and find a way to kind of beat their defense.

I think the boys are pretty excited that were finally going back to work, and hopefully we can play the same way.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said hes not looking to change anything from the series against the Penguins, other than getting a better start in games, especially, the series opener given the Flyers will have had a full week off between series.

The prolonged layoff has given Kimmo Timonen a chance to allow his bruised foot to heal, plus allowed fellow defenseman Nicklas Grossmann a full 11 days to recover from a concussion.

Both were back practicing in the latter part of the week with the Flyers.

I like the fact that we had a couple defensemen that had been out of the lineup on the ice practicing ... I feel like we could have some depth there, Laviolette said.

Seeing those two guys out practicing ... any time you get guys back and they practice with you and stay for the full amount of time, those are positive things.

Grossmann is expected to start in Game 1.

One thing the Flyers will be aware of is how Kovalchuk likes to hang out in neutral ice waiting for breakaway passes. He did that repeatedly against the Flyers this season.

When it comes to speaking about the opponent and what we need to do I will probably keep all of that in house, Laviolette said.

How they get through the neutral zone and how we defend it is definite strategy and its something that I am not comfortable talking about in front of the cameras.

Hartnell says the Flyers shouldnt change too much, anyway, from what has made them successful.

You look at teams' tendencies and all that kind of stuff, what they try to do themselves, but as much as you look at them, the focus is more on us, how we play, how we start games, Hartnell said.

We gotta focus on what we gotta do. This is the best time of the year. You look and there's only eight teams left fighting for that Cup and it's us versus Devils right now. We're not worried about anything else and we've got to go after them.
Not a fan of polls
Bovada in Vegas has the Flyers as a 52 favorite to win the Stanley Cup, second only to St. Louis which is a 154 favorite to win.

These betting lines dont mean much to Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.

None of that stuff really factors for us, he said. Thats what you guys go and pick. whether you pick us as a favorite or not we really dont view it.

He said any of the four Atlantic Division clubsRangers, Penguins, Flyers or Devilsare capable of winning the Eastern Conference.

They are all part of the top eight teams in the league, Laviolette said. New Jersey was two or four points behind the Penguins. Im not sure how that translates into a heavy favorite.

They finished one point behind us. Im not sure how that translates into a a heavy favorite, either. I dont think it matters. Two teams are going to go out and play hockey and the team that does best moves on.

And if you are wondering about a Flyers East vs. Flyers West matchup with the LA Kings, its a 141 longshot.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net

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