Suspensions do not alter Flyers' focus
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers reacted with little more than shrugs to the suspensions that left the rival Penguins without three players for Game 4 of the teams' first-round playoff series Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center.
"It is what it is," Philadelphia winger Scott Hartnell said. "[NHL discipline head] Brendan Shanahan, I thought he did a good job. For us, it really makes no difference who they put in there or whatever. ... It's not like they're going to roll over and die just because of what happened."
Hartnell was involved in a fight that earned Penguins forward Craig Adams an automatic one-game suspension for getting an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of regulation in the Flyers' 8-4 win in Game 3.
Late Tuesday night, Shanahan handed down two more: four games to forward Arron Asham for a cross-check to the chest of Philadelphia forward Brayden Schenn followed by a punch to the back of the head when Schenn was on the ice; and one game to winger James Neal for a hit on Philadelphia center Claude Giroux that brought a charging call and left Giroux temporarily dazed.
"We're not too worried about that stuff," Giroux said. "It doesn't matter who's in or out of the lineup. It's more a focus about our game and how we're going to play.
"If he would have not gotten suspended, or he got suspended 10 games, it doesn't matter to us."
Schenn was even forgiving in talking about Asham.
"It doesn't really matter to me," he said. "It's not my decision. It's the heat of the moment type of thing. I'm sure if he could take it back, he would. He was just trying to stick up for his teammate. It didn't make a difference if he got zero or four games."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said simply, "As far as a reaction, I don't have one."
Defenseman Simon Despres, the Penguins' first-round draft choice in 2009, has just 18 NHL regular-season games to his credit, but that didn't deter management from summoning him from Wilkes-Barre to play in Game 4 after Paul Martin had to be scratched because of an undisclosed injury.
"It's a great opportunity," Despres said.
Putting a 20-year-old into a situation like the one the Penguins faced in Game 4 would seem to have the potential for bruising his confidence and perhaps even stunting his development, but the Penguins had no reservations.
Coach Dan Bylsma even suggested after the game-day skate that, "I think you're going to see Simon step up in a big way."
For his part, Despres didn't appear to be worried about joining a team that was facing elimination or about getting into a series that has had its share, or more, of unpleasant incidents.
"It's been a pretty nasty series," he said. "A good series. Good rivalry."
The cover of the Philadelphia Daily News Wednesday featured an illustration of center Sidney Crosby as the lion from "The Wizard of Oz."
The page carried a large headline labeling him "THE COWARDLY PENGUIN" and a smaller one that read, "TIME TO FINISH OFF SNIVELING SIDNEY."
Not surprisingly, Crosby seemed completely unfazed by what the paper did.
"That's one of the nicer things they've said about me here," he said.
The Penguins-Flyers series has been one of the most closely watched in the NHL this spring, and not just by fans and members of other teams.
The people charged with putting together rosters for the world championships, which will be held May 4-20 in Finland and Sweden, undoubtedly have been paying attention, too. Among the Penguins they presumably have kept an eye on:
United States -- Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin.
Canada -- Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz.
Russia -- Evgeni Malkin.
Czech Republic -- Zbynek Michalek.
While some players quickly agree to participate in the tournament once their NHL season is over, others pass, generally because of injuries or general fatigue.
Presumably, the home of Flyers winger Danny Briere is sturdy and comfortable. There might be something else about it.
The three French-Canadian players who have lived there the past two seasons -- Briere and his young tenants, Claude Giroux in 2010-11 and Sean Couturier this season -- had accounted for 17 points and 11 of Philadelphia's 20 goals in the first three games of the series.
First Published April 19, 2012 6:52 am