No lack of storylines as Flyers meet Penguins

By Will Graves

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, April 10 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Briere missed the final week of the regular season with a sore back after taking the hit from Vitale. Defenseman Nicklas Grossman also went out with a lower body injury sustained in the first period of the April 1 meeting and remains day-to-day.

Yet even shorthanded, the Flyers know they can't afford to change the way they play.

"I think it's going to be a rough series," Giroux said. "It won't be easy. They want to win as bad as us. We're a young team with a lot of energy and we've got to make sure we go out there and make sure we outwork the Penguins. It's going to be a tough one."

One in which the Flyers will need to rely heavily on Bryzgalov to win. The 31-year-old netminder played some of the finest hockey of his career in March, posting three straight shutouts at one point.

The eccentric, contemplative Bryzgalov, who became a breakout star while being featured in HBO's "24/7" series leading up to Philadelphia's Winter Classic matchup with the New York Rangers, is hardly intimidated by the Penguins.

"You know, I'm not afraid of anything," Bryzgalov said. "I'm afraid of bears — bears in the forest."

Consol Energy Center should be bear-free on Wednesday. It won't be pressure-free, however, and Bryzgalov hasn't exactly sparkled in the postseason recently. He hasn't been on a team that won a playoff series since playing for Anaheim and was miserable last spring as the Phoenix Coyotes were swept in the first round by Detroit.

Laviolette insists his goaltender is in a better place now, even on a team filled with playoff newcomers.

There are no such issues with the Penguins, where the core has been intact for several years. Yet the dynasty that looked almost inevitable after the club made the Cup finals in 2008 then won it the next year has not materialized.

It's been three long years since Crosby hoisted sport's most venerable trophy over his head in triumph. The road back begins in earnest Wednesday.

"We should be confident and knowing what our game looks like," Crosby said. "I think the rewarding part is going out there and working hard and trying to earn it."

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