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Flyers bench boss looks to shake up offence for Game 4

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TSN.ca Staff
5/14/2008 10:54:26 PM
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For a team that has scored just five goals in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Final and managed just 18 shots on goal in Game 3, the Philadelphia Flyers are looking at every possible way of generating offence against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Flyers head coach John Stevens may even have to resort to some rather unorthodox methods.

"An aerial attack," he told reporters with a laugh on Wednesday. "Believe it or not, I went to a coaching clinic one time and one guy presented on the aerial attack. So I'm going to have to go get my notes out from that one."

The Flyers went into their series with the Penguins with a challenging objective in mind - to hold off Pittsburgh's potent offence by cutting down their speed in the neutral zone. But as the third-round series progressed, it was the Penguins who were quickly drawing rave reviews for stingy defensive play.

"I do think there are some things we can do from our tactical approach," explained Stevens. "I think there are some things we can do from an execution approach.  But there is no question we have to do a better job of getting pucks in, and doing a better job of protecting the puck and working the cycle."

And down 3-0 in their series with little left to lose, Stevens shook up his top two lines during practice on Wednesday in preparation for Game 4. Daniel Briere - who's been held to just one assist in the series after scoring two-game winning goals against Montreal - will centre Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell, while Vaclav Prospal will play between R.J. Umberger and Joffrey Lupul on the second line.

"Richie and Danny have had an awful lot of success together this year," said Stevens. "Mind you, mostly on the power play, but they're two of the best offensive players on our team and in the league. (They're) two of the leaders on our hockey team for years to come, so we thought we'd give it a look."

Briere, who also saw his share of offensive struggles during the regular season, has no issue with the changes that Stevens will employ.

"You know what, at this time in the playoffs it's not about yourself," Briere told reporters on Wednesday. "It's about the team. If Johnny thinks that's the best way to go, it's the best way to go. So, yeah, we're excited. I know I'm excited about the opportunity. We're down, so you have to try to find a way. If that works, then great. Like I said, it's not about what you think at this time, it's about what's best for the team."

Whatever the Flyers have in mind, the Penguins have frustrated the their top lines in this series and are prepared for anything that comes their way in Game 4. Even if it's a mysterious 'aerial' attack.

"I got experience in that," said Penguins forward Jarkko Ruutu with a smile when asked about it. "I went to the Finnish army - I'm an air defender defending the Helsinki airport if there is a war, so it's fine for me - you gotta take everything they can through at you and be prepared for it."

Defenceman Ryan Whitney, who has played against Stevens's teams in both the NHL and American Hockey League, knows that the opposing coach wants big plays in the Penguins zone. "They're going for the alley-oop," he said. "So we just got to stop the alley-oop. I don't know about Ruttsie, he can shoot down the planes."

There is one thing the Penguins won't hold off easliy, and that's the return of defenceman Braydon Coburn. His swollen eye has started to open up and he skated in Wednesday's practice. Coburn said he didn't have any problems seeing the puck is hoping to play in Game 4. The Flyers say they will make a decision on his status on Thursday.

John Stevens (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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