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Tim Thomas, Tomas Kaberle and Kris Versteeg rank among players ‘new’ to Boston-Flyers series

As we approach this afternoon’s Game 1 between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers, many will cite baggage from the 2010 series. Will the Bruins be able to shake off the constant stream of questions about that historic collapse? Could the Flyers’ rising swagger turn into self-destructive cockiness?

It’s easy to think that the two teams are the same since only about a year has passed since they played that ’10 semifinals series. Yet injuries, lineup changes and new acquisitions show that the sides will be a little different, with the most profound alterations occurring in Boston’s lineup. Here are a few players who are “new” to this series.

Tim Thomas (benched in 2010)

Obviously, Thomas was on the Bruins’ roster last year, but the team went with Tuukka Rask after the rookie carried the team into the playoffs. Rask was pretty fantastic in 2009-10 but did seem to run out of steam a bit in the postseason. Thomas is the closest thing the NHL has to Dominik Hasek 2.0, so it’s reasonable to say that he’ll be a difference-maker.

Tomas Kaberle (2011 trade deadline acquisition)

The Bruins managed to get to the second round despite their awful power play and Kaberle’s struggles, but a deep Flyers attack will force them to lean on their shallow defense. If he falters for another round, Philly might send Boston on vacation again.

Nathan Horton (Pre-season trade acquisition)

Horton only had three points in that seven-game series against the Montreal Canadiens, but two of those came from overtime game-winning goals. If hockey players were politicians, those two goals would be the polished sound bytes that obscure a lacking larger body of work. Horton’s big-bodied game might come in handy against the physical Flyers, though, as he scored 26 goals for the Bruins this season.

Kris Versteeg (Acquired around the trade deadline)

It seems like the former Chicago Blackhawks/Toronto Maple Leafs forward gets lost in the shuffle of the Flyers’ ridiculously deep offensive attack. He only had 11 points in his 27 regular season games with Philadelphia, but he quietly put together five assists and a +6 rating in the first round. The fact that he’s averaging a bit under 15 minutes of ice time per game is a testament to the Flyers’ depth, but he could be helpful in a tougher series against Boston.

David Krejci (Injured during last year’s series)

A Mike Richards hit in Game 3 of the teams’ 2010 series knocked Krejci out of the playoffs and Boston clearly suffered without their underrated center, as they won that game but dropped the next four. He hopes to finish what he started last year, although he’ll need to finish the scoring chances he starts in this round after scoring just one point (a goal) in seven games against Montreal.

Chris Kelly/Rich Peverley (Acquired around the trade deadline)

While Kaberle was the big-ticket acquisition, Kelly and Peverley were unsung heroes for Boston in the first round. Kelly scored six points (three goals and three assists) while Peverley had five (one goal and four assists) in that seven-game series. Philadelphia shouldn’t underestimate their Misfit Line, which also features rejuvenated winger Michael Ryder.

Andrej Meszaros/Sean O’Donnell (Pre-season additions)

These two new additions to the Flyers’ blueline are very different players. Meszaros is an enticing physical talent prone to defensive lapses while O’Donnell is limited from a skill perspective but very trustworthy on defense.

Tyler Seguin (Boston)/Nik Zherdev (Philadelphia) – (Healthy scratch wild cards)

Seguin was supposed to be a big difference maker as the second overall pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but he’s not quite there yet.  Zherdev is one of those skilled but flighty players who can hurt opponents and his own team in equal measures. Seguin hasn’t made a playoff appearance while Zherdev has two points in five games for Philly.

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With the exception of Krejci, this list shows plenty of players without baggage from last year. Will these new ingredients give this series a new flavor? Find out today on NBC at 3 p.m. ET.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.