VOORHEES, N.J. – The Philadelphia Flyers will get a big boost when their second-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens resumes Wednesday.
Veteran forward Mike Knuble participated in an optional skate Tuesday at the Flyers suburban practice facility and declared himself fit to play in Game 4.
“I was cleared yesterday during the game so I think I can get out there with very little apprehension at all,” Knuble said. “The guys are playing well and you just want to come in and not mess up what’s going on.”
But Knuble’s return does complicate things a bit for Flyers coach John Stevens.
When Knuble partially tore his hamstring in Game 5 of the Flyers’ first round series against the Washington Capitals, he was playing on a line with Jeff Carter and Scottie Upshall. His spot on that line has been filled more than admirably by R.J. Umberger, who has scored four of the Flyers’ 10 goals in the series.
Now it appears Umberger will be moved to another line, but Stevens says it’s worth the risk because of how valuable Knuble is to the Flyers.
“The line of Knuble, Carter and Upshall was really strong going back to the regular season and certainly through the playoffs,” Stevens said. “We’ll do whatever we have to do to get a guy like Mike Knuble ready to come back in. We have to put him where we feel he’ll be most valuable. A guy like R.J., he’s such a valuable guy because of his versatility.”
Stevens noted that Umberger has spent some time on every line this year, playing wing alongside centres Daniel Briere, Mike Richards and Carter, while also playing centre on the fourth line.
“I haven’t tried him on defence yet, but he’s played just about everywhere else,” Stevens said. “Back in training camp when we had him slotted on the fourth line I told him not to worry about where he was playing, just worry about playing.”
Knuble will likely be most valuable to the Flyers on the power play, where he scored a career-high 15 goals this season.
But the bigger problem for the Flyers so far in the series has been actually getting a power play.
After averaging just over five man advantage situations per game in the first round, the Flyers have had only seven power plays compared to 14 for the Canadiens in the series.
Richards feels that disparity is the main reason many people feel the Canadiens have been the better team over the last two games even though they lost both times.
“We’d like to get more shots ourselves, but a lot of their shots have come off power plays and we’re not getting the same chances,” Richards said. “So I don’t think you want to blow it out of proportion too much.”
Notes: Flyers D Jaroslav Modry, who flew back to the Czech Republic on Saturday to attend funeral services for his father, was supposed to return to Philadelphia on Tuesday night and be available to play in Game 4. Stevens said that would be unlikely since Modry hasn’t seen game action since April 19 when he suited up in Game 5 of the Flyers series against Washington, and also because of the emotional few days he has just gone through.