Better With Popcorn

Flyers Vs. Penguins ECQF Game 4: Pens On The Brink With Depleted Lineup

Through the first three games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, not much has gone the way of the heavily-favored Pittsburgh Penguins. With the Philadelphia Flyers winning almost every phase of the series, the Penguins find themselves one loss away from the end of their season.

Following the morning skate on Wednesday, the team’s chances of turning things around in a pivotal Game 4 have gotten that much tougher.

With Arron Asham, Craig Adams and James Neal all sidelined for Game 4 with suspensions, the team is forced to dress Dustin Jeffrey, Eric Tangradi and Joe Vitale. The three players have a combined total of three games of playoff experience.

Obviously, the biggest loss is Neal who was a 40-40 scorer this season (ended up with 40-41-81), plays on the top-line with Evgeni Malkin, and is currently tied with Sidney Crosby for the team lead in points in the post season thus far.

In his place, the Penguins will play Tyler Kennedy on the top line and move Tangradi onto the third line. Kennedy scored 11 goals and 22 assists for 33 points in 60 regular season games this year and currently has two goals in the series.

Here are the team’s lines from morning skate, which are assumed to be the combinations used tonight:

Kunitz-Malkin-Kennedy

Sullivan-Crosby-Dupuis

Tangradi-Staal-Cooke

Jeffrey-Vitale-Park

The forward group wasn’t the only unit that will have some drastic changes coming into Game 4.

Both Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek sat out the morning skate. Martin had missed the team’s practice on Tuesday in what was called a ‘maintenance day.’

Following Wednesday’s practice, head coach Dan Bylsma announced that Martin was not going to play in Game 4, due to an undisclosed injury.

The team has recalled Simon Despres with the intention of having him play for Martin. Despres is the team’s first round selection from the 2009 draft.

He spent the last few seasons with the Saint John’s Sea Dogs of the QMJHL before playing 18 games with the Penguins this year (Depres registered one goal and three assists in those games).

Game 4 will obviously be his first career playoff game.

In the case of Michalek, the team has not addressed whether he will play or not and currently has him listed as a ‘game-time decision.’

Both players are in the top-four on the team in average ice-time and are important pieces for the team to have success. Michalek logs the second most minutes only to Brooks Orpik.

With four replacement players guaranteed and a potential fifth if Michalek is unable to go, the Penguins find themselves in an elimination game without a full deck.

Considering the fact that the Flyers have beaten them down even with their lineup in tact, this fractured unit cannot be the ideal group the team would hope to dress in the potential final game of their season.

 

--

Follow me on Twitter (@mattbrigidi) and make sure to "like" The Checking Line-Flyers Edition on Facebook to stay up to the minute with all the latest team news and notes.

Feel free to shoot me an email: mattbrigidi@thecheckingline.com