Flyers-Sabres Game 5: Everyone Completely Hate Each Other Now? Good.

Flyers-Sabres Game 5: Everyone Completely Hate Each Other Now? Good.

Four games into the opening round of the NHL playoffs, the Flyers and Sabres are giving us plenty of reasons to watch. Fans of both sides would probably prefer their team be up a game at this point, particularly Philadelphia, who entered the series as the favorite with their 2 seed. But as we see from year to year, there’s plenty of parity in the NHL, and seedings can mean next to nothing once the first puck is dropped. The home ice advantage can help, and the Flyers will look to reap that benefit tonight as the series comes back from lovely Buffalo. It’s the perfect point in the series to return home to Philly too. The Flyers and Sabres are knotted at a pair of wins apiece, and the shit has officially begun to hit the fan both on and off the ice. Such a sweet, sweet guy. Check out the video below on the escalating war of words between the two teams, plus what it might mean for tonight’s game.

Great to see how this type of back and forth through the media puts a smile on even Peter Laviolette’s face. I honestly can't recall him ever looking so happy. Of course, how can you not laugh when Lindy Ruff accuses you of whining? It’s also pretty hilarious to hear Danny Briere talk about how this is just Lindy being Lindy, and Danny would know after his all his seasons in Buffalo. 

I don’t know that I necessarily agree that this is all just for the media and fans though. As the on-ice action has gotten chippier, the chatter after the games has ratcheted up as well. Heading into game 5, these two teams hate each other. Trash talk often seems to spill over into games and vice-versa. You gotta love playoff hockey and the way a series can evolve from skirmish to battle to war. We could be in for a nasty night in South Philly. 

Photo by Flickr user boogerfingers. yep.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Flyers will be without the services of Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger, possibly for the rest of the series per Tim Panaccio's report. It is worrisome to have them both out for this key game in the series and what's sounding a bit more like the next few games at least. The depth we’ve heard and talked about for so long will be tested tonight.

It’s not exactly an alien situation though. While the Flyers enjoyed a pretty healthy regular season run, they showed in the 2010 playoffs that they can rally in the face of even multiple simultaneous injuries. In a postseason as long and physical as the NHL’s, the war of attrition will claim its share of victims. It’s up to the guys left on the ice to take it up a notch. Either Ben Holmstrom or Zac Rinaldo will be active per Lisa Hillary. The decision between the two may come down to who Ruff has in his lineup.

Similar to after game 1, the Flyers really shouldn’t need to change much after being shut out in game 4. They played pretty well, just as they had in games 3 and 4. Hopefully the Ryan Miller from those two outings will show up tonight. Miller was masterful in game 5, and there’s little a team can do when the opposing goalie is that locked in. The Flyers will try tonight though, presumably with some crease activity early.

Enjoy your Friday night and what could be a pretty wild and entertaining game. Both teams should be fired up from the start.

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

After an 0-for-5 day at the plate, Odubel Herrera isn't heading to the bench a day later.

He's leading off. 

Pete Mackanin chose to move the slumping centerfielder atop the lineup card for Friday's series opener against the Reds despite Herrera's striking out in all five plate appearances Thursday.

"I think he's a .290-plus hitter as a leadoff man and I'm not going to sit him," Mackanin said pregame. "He needs to battle his way out. You figure you're the leadoff hitter once a game. After that, it's wide open."

While he hasn't batted leadoff this season, Herrera spent the majority of his time in that spot last season. In 76 games there, he batted .285 with a .359 OBP and .417 slugging percentage. 

The leadoff hitter this season has been Cesar Hernandez, who has a day off with a groin pull he's dealt with the last 10 days. Herrera primarily has been the No. 3 hitter this season and his average is down to .226 with 49 strikeouts to just 11 walks. 

Mackanin hopes the leadoff role can help change Herrera's approach at the plate.

"He was drawing a lot of walks at leadoff, so whether he has that mindset or not, I'm not sure," the manager said. "I just want to get him as many at-bats as possible. We need to get him going. We need him and [Maikel] Franco to get going."

May specifically has been tough on Herrera. He has four hits in his last 36 at-bats and has seven strikeouts in his last two games. He has just seven hits in 22 games this month. 

"I think he's at the point where he's grinding and sometimes when you grind, sometimes there's that feeling where you get lost," Mackanin said. "I've been in situations as a hitter where I've gone up to the plate saying, 'I don't care where it is. I'm going up there and just hacking.' Because you start thinking and that's not working.

"And you look for a pitch and then all of a sudden you say I'm going to take a pitch to get a look at and it's strike one. Then he throws you a nasty slider and that's strike two and your plan is out the window. So I've gone up to the plate myself saying, 'I'm just looking down the middle and swinging. I'm not thinking.'"

When asked, Mackanin said the team had not discussed demoting Herrera or Franco to the minors to take pressure off the duo.

While Herrera tries to hit his way back into a groove, Howie Kendrick is in the midst of working his way back to the majors. He was hit by pitch twice in a rehab appearance Thursday but is back in the lineup Friday in left field. 

Mackanin said Kendrick needed four days minimum in his rehab assignment and will therefore play Friday and Saturday before the team sees how he feels.

The manager also said the team would give more playing time to backup catcher Andrew Knapp. He started consecutive games for the first time on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

"I'm going to try and see him as much as possible and keep him as sharp as possible instead of once a week," Mackanin said. "That's tough to hit, once a week. It's tough to hit twice a week if you don't hit back-to-back. There's no ulterior motive."

Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

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Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

Sixers head coach Brett Brown is in Australia this week, where he has accused longtime friend and former Australian men's national team assistant coach Shane Heal of defrauding him of $750,000, according to the Australian Associated Press.

Brown invested $250,000 into each of three companies for which Heal was the sole director. Brown wasn't given a legal title regarding the companies and didn't know the specifics of how the money would be used.

"I assumed that the money was going to be used for what Shane told me it was going to be used for," Brown said. "Because it was a friend that I had for 25 years."

Heal was charged last year by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission following an investigation relating to alleged misconduct in 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to the AAP.

The sides return to court in Brisbane on July 20.

Heal played in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996-97 and was with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003.