PITTSBURGH Theyve been through this before.
No Chris Pronger. No Erik Gustafsson. No Andrej Meszaros. No Kimmo Timonen. No Andreas Lilja. No Pavel Kubina. No Marc-Andre Bourdon.
And now, the Flyers wont have Nicklas Grossmann, who will miss Game 5 Friday night with a concussion.
Grossmann was hit twice in the head during the first period of Game 4, first by Tyler Kennedy, and then came a more devastating elbow from Evgeni Malkin.
Rookie Gustafsson will make his playoff debut tonight.
Our team has done has an exceptional job this year, coach Peter Laviolette said. Guys moving up in their role.
Guys coming into the lineup, who had been out of the lineup a little bit. Recalls weve used from our minor-league affiliate. I think our team has handled those situations well.
The fact that weve lost another defenseman is hard to take. But in saying that, our team has filled this spot all year long. We had close to 450 man games to injury. This isnt something new to us. Wed much rather have Grossmann in there thats not an option right now.
Grossmann was the Flyers most physical defenseman and their best shot blocker. He had 152 blocked shots this season, 52 of which came as a Flyer. He and Andreas Lilja are the Flyers playoff leaders with 12 blocked shots.
Braydon Coburn was Grossmanns on-ice partner. Coburn will likely go with Timonen tonight.
We feel good about all the guys in our dressing room, Coburn said. Whoever is in is expected to do the job and contribute to what were trying to do out there.
The Flyers players did not comment on the Malkin hit, but Giroux said he knows exactly what Grossmann is going through.
Hes a good defensive player, but at the end of the day its all about your health, Claude Giroux said. I had a concussion this year. Its just the worse. You cant really do anything.
You sit on your couch and watch TV. It messes with your mind. Its not fun and we hope he gets better soon.
Coburn-Grossmann was the shutdown pair on the ice with Sean Couturiers line against Malkin in this series.
Now half that pair is gone and theres a bigger challenge facing the Flyers.
Every game is a challenge, Coburn said. They have world class talent over. We have to find a way to win.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma admitted Grossmanns absence gives the Penguins an opening to do some damage.
Theyve done a good job of having Grossmann and Coburn playing in defensive situations, Bylsma said. The factor here at home wasnt so much having the Couturier line against Malkin, which didnt happen all that much.
They had Coburn-Grossmann on the ice in those situations. Without that match-up for them there may be some circumstances where you look to have that in your favor if given the last change.
Gustafsson figures to be paired with Matt Carle, who he played with this season at times.
Its a dream come true my first pro, playoff game, he said. Im a little nervous, but mostly Im excited. Its going to be a lot of fun.
I think youve just got to play it safe out there, keep it simple. Especially for me, just keep it simple and get into the game like you play all the time. Obviously I have to skate a lot and be physical tonight.
Gustafsson lacks the size, strength and shot-blocking ability of Grossmann, but has considerable quickness and puck-skating skills.
Gus has done a terrific job for us all year, Laviolette said. Hes had a good year. He had one, tough injury, but hes done a good job playing at this level.
The minutes he has played has increased over time 18, 20, 22 minutes and hes done a good job for us. We have a lot of confidence in Gus and the way he plays the game.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com