Physical fourth line key to Flyers' success vs. Bruins

Physical fourth line key to Flyers' success vs. Bruins
April 29, 2011, 6:42 pm
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Friday, April 28, 2011
Posted: 2:39 p.m.
By Sarah BaickerCSNPhilly.com

The Buffalo Sabres were tough. The Boston Bruins will be tougher.

Such is the nature of the playoffs in the National Hockey League. Series by series, the physical nature of the game the hitting, the shoving, the puck battling ramps up.

I think with every round, the intensity gets amped up a little bit, Blair Betts said. These guys (the Bruins), theyve got a big, physical team. Not that Buffalo didnt, but I think theyre a better team and I think it will be a tougher series for us.

It will be up to the Flyers to match the physicality of a Boston team thats big (Milan Lucic is 6-4220, Zdeno Chara is 6-9255) and likes to hit. And much of that is an onus that falls on a teams primary grinders, its fourth-line.

It definitely is, Jody Shelley said. If you watch any given night, its the third and fourth lines that have to contribute. Not just with energy and momentum, but on the score sheet, too. We know thats vital. Its one of those things that theres situations youre going to be out there against the top line, youre going to be out there late in games, and not only be reliable but be a factor. And we know that.

Given the particularly rough nature of this Bruins squad, its likely the Flyers will want to fit a tough guy of their own into the lineup when the series opens Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center and theyll be able to now that Chris Pronger is mostly healthy and theres no longer a need to dress seven defensemen. Chances are, it is either Shelley or pugnacious AHL call-up Zac Rinaldo who will get the call.

Shelley, who fractured the orbital bone under his left eye March 21, practiced on Friday morning with the Flyers fourth line. Hes cleared to play, but not cleared to fight, and hasnt been in the lineup since March 17.

But that doesnt mean there isnt a place for him on the roster when facing Boston.

Shelley's just a big, physical guy, Betts said. I think thats it. I think maybe theres an intimidation factor with him in the lineup. I think hes underrated as a player. Hes great on the forecheck, he uses his body well and his size to protect the puck and create room for the rest of us, and thats what well expect out of him.

Rinaldo actually made his NHL debut in last weeks Game 5 loss to the Sabres in Philadelphia. That he was called to action came as somewhat of a shock given his reputation for bad behavior with the Adirondack Phantoms last season, Rinaldo had more suspensions (four) than goals (three) and was ejected from each of his last two games in the first period.

He played just 1:56 in Game 5, but did register three hits and made himself noticeable despite the dearth of ice time.

We fell behind early in that game, and the game plan kind of went out the window, coach Peter Laviolette said. We had to get our guys that can score out there as much as we could. I thought he was good. He had a couple good shifts and he had three hits, three hard hits.

True to form, Laviolette declined to confirm which of the two grinders will be in the lineup Saturday afternoon, saying only, We certainly want to be physical, and we want to be ready to play in a physical game.

Rinaldos equipment was packed up and carted to the Wells Fargo Center following Fridays practice, however and since the young forward has just one set of equipment here, that very well could be an indication that hell get the nod for Game 1.

That said, the Flyers are prepared to thrive with whichever player joins the lineup. Shelley and Rinaldo both understand the task at hand, and theyll join 18 other players who recognize the challenges posed by the Bruins, as well.

We have a physical element, too, all of us, Shelley said. The last series got physical, and there was a lot of things done, and Boston has some big guys that play a certain way. And were ready all of us. Its the playoffs, every one of us is ready, from our goalie right to every defensemen.

Whoevers in will be ready to go, and ready to battle.
E-mail Sarah Baicker at sbaicker@comcastsportsnet.com

Related: CSNNE: Bruins over last year's collapse Five things the Bruins need to win

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