By Tim Panaccio in PhiladelphiaThe Big Swede
Nicklas Grossmann returned to the Flyers lineup for Game 1 and was back with usual defence partner Braydon Coburn as the shut down pair against New Jersey Devils sniper Ilya Kovalchuk.
"You gotta keep an eye on him," Grossmann said of Kovalchuk. "He's got skill, he can skate, he can do it all, basically. You got to respect him and play hard against him."
Grossmann was concussed in Game 4 against Pittsburgh. He had nine days to recover since coming back. He played 16:29 and played physical and skated without problem. He is the Flyers' most physical defenceman.
"I felt pretty good," Grossmann said. "Took a couple of shifts to get back in the game after a couple weeks ... I wanted to get into it right away, rather than test it out or feel it out. Jump in the fire right away and it felt good.
"We came off a little slow at the beginning, but as the game went on, we built off everything. [That was] the way we had to play to be successful. As game went on, every five minute period got better and better."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette also used Sean Couturier's line against the New Jersey trio of Travis Zajac, Kovalchuk and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
When Devils coach Peter DeBoer double-shifted that unit to get away from Couturier's line, they went up against Danny Briere's line which was the dominant force in the game with three goals.
That left Couturier going up against the Patrik Elias unit with Zach Parise and Dainus Zubrus.
Couturier has played against a lot of top players this season, including three Russians: Washington's Alex Ovechkin, Kovalchuk and Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin.
"They're [all] different," Couturier said. "Malkin is a big guy, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, and Parise is a smaller guy. They both work hard. You always gotta be ready. ...
"As a line, we want to do the same thing, just work hard and try to play in their end, play good defence. When it's different guys, you gotta adapt a little bit." Got some life left
Petr Sykora wasn't good enough for the 'Minnysnowda' Wild.
But at age 35, he seems a nice fit back with the Devils. He scored the tying goal that forced overtime in Game 1.
Sykora said when he scored the goal, the Devils felt confident that the momentum had switched to them.
"When we tied our game at 3-3 I really felt that we had a very good chance to win the game," he said.
"We got an unlucky penalty on us, and I kind of felt if you can weather that storm, a couple shifts right after the power play, that we could come back to our game and go for it and win it. But they kept pressing and got the goal."
Sykora was frustrated because he said the Flyers like to skate with the puck and found it wasn't as easy to do in this game as it might have been against Pittsburgh.
"I felt even the first 20 minutes we played our game," Sykora said. "[Claude] Giroux, [Jaromir] Jagr, all these guys they just want to get the puck and skate with it and we made it tough for them. I think that's how we're going to beat them.
"That's how we have to play, just make sure we put up that wall. Make sure they have to go through three, four to five guys all the time. I felt tying the game late in the third, we had a big chance to beat them and it just didn't happen."Therapy
Kovalchuk had to leave practice early to receive "therapy" according to coach DeBoer. He has a lower-body injury which could be a leg or his back. Kovalchuk also missed the team bus to Philadelphia and was to join the club late Monday. Stat you need to know
Since leaving Buffalo five years ago to sign and play with theFlyers, Danny Briere has 36 playoff goals while the Sabres as a team, have just33 in the playoffs over that same span.Better forecheck
The Devils didn't feel they did a good job on the forecheck after the first period against the Flyers.
"It has to do with us making better plays through the neutral zone and putting the puck in the right spot to allow us to forecheck it," Zach Parise said.
"I thought we just turned puck over a little too much in the second half of the game and made it pretty easy for them. They've got a really good transition, so we made it a lot harder on ourselves."
The Devils don't want to go back to New Jersey 0-2.
"I'm sure it's going to be high-paced and there's going to be a lot of intensity from both sides," Parise said. "It's a big game. Both teams would love to win it and we're going to have to play a very good team game."Tim Panaccio reports for CSNPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @tpanotchCSN.
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