Scott Hartnell (broken foot) returns to Flyers lineup today

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Fans in Philly can start feeling a little better about the season today.

Coach Peter Laviolette announced that power forward Scott Hartnell would be back in the lineup for this afternoon’s game against Winnipeg. Hartnell has missed the last 16 games with a broken foot and his return comes at the perfect time.

Philly has seen its share of injuries up front with Matt Read missing time most recently while guys like Wayne Simmonds, Danny Briere, and Sean Couturier have all missed at least a little time. Hartnell will bring some added scoring touch on top of his physical play up front and give Claude Giroux someone more familiar to play on his left side.

In three games this year, Hartnell had one assist and 13 penalty minutes.

Flyers sign Laviolette to multi-year extension

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What was rumored to be in the making is now official — the Philadelphia Flyers have re-upped with head coach Peter Laviolette on a multi-year extension.

CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio reports it’s a two-year extension. Given Laviolette had one year remaining on his current deal, this new contract will see him through the 2014-15 season.

“We are thrilled to have Peter continue his work with our group as we push to compete for the Stanley Cup,” Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told the team website.  “Peter has done a terrific job for us and is very deserving of this extension.”

The extension is not surprising given what Laviolette’s accomplished since taking Philly’s head coaching gig in Dec. 2009.

He’s been to a Stanley Cup finals, posted a 122-73-26 record and guided the Flyers to the third-most wins in the Eastern Conference since being hired — only Pittsburgh and Washington have more, with 127 each.

His playoff success has been equally impressive.

From Flyers.com:

Under his watch, the Flyers have been the only team in the league to reach the second round of the playoffs (or further) in each of the last three seasons.

The Flyers have participated in eight playoff series in that time, more than any other team.

With the extension, Laviolette will now set aim at moving up the Flyers’ all-time coaching wins list. Next in striking distance is Ken Hitchcock (131 wins), followed by Pat Quinn (141) and Mike Keenan (190).

Fred Shero is the winningest coach in franchise history, with 308.

Laviolette on Bryzgalov gaffe: “That goal was tough. It stung. It hurt.”

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Peter Laviolette didn’t really throw Ilya Bryzgalov under the bus when speaking of the stunning goal that ended up booting the Philadelphia Flyers from the playoffs. He didn’t sugarcoat its impact to NBC’s Tom Layberger, either, though.

“I thought that second goal was a tough bounce,” Laviolette said. “We were in possession and the puck ends up in the back of our net. That goal was tough. It stung. It hurt. I thought our guys were playing hard and skating early in the game. That was more of an unfortunate bounce than anything else.”

In other words, he basically seconded Ilya Bryzgalov assessment of it being “unlucky.” Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that he stood by his goalie after allowing him to fight through some tough times throughout the 2012 playoffs.

When asked if the Penguins series took something out of the Flyers, Laviolette’s response was simple: “No.” Instead, he gave the Devils a lot of credit.

“I think you have to give New Jersey credit for the way they played defense and the way they forechecked,” Laviolette said. “They kept it from being the game that we wanted and we could never seem to get down that road.”

One other thing the Flyers (and their opponents) couldn’t do was take advantage of a 1-0 lead. In their 11 playoff games, the team who scored the first goal went a stunning 1-10, which is just another confounding thing for Laviolette and the rest of the franchise to chew on.

It sounds like they’ll do their best to let that memorable goal go, though.

Philly tweaks include Jagr to third line and Briere- Hartnell reunion

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The Philadelphia Flyers aren’t in desperate mode despite being down 2-1 in their semifinals series against the New Jersey Devils, but with two straight losses, they’re not far from that. Peter Laviolette experimented a bit with some changes in Game 3 and Randy Miller reports that the tweaks continued in practice.

Here’s a look at the most noteworthy adjustments, according to Miller.

  • The new top line might combine Claude Giroux with Wayne Simmonds and James van Riemsdyk. JVR has been showing more life in round two than round one while both forwards bring a physical dynamic to that line. That makes it a little different from Giroux’s typical running mates; Scott Hartnell provided most of that before while Jagr presented a nice mix of creativity and puck possession.
  • Maybe that formula hasn’t been working well lately, however, as the 40-year-old Jagr reportedly spent time on the third line again. His practice partners were Brayden Schenn and Matt Read, which is far from “chopped liver” for a third line.
  • As much chemistry as Hartnell had on the top line this season, the mop-headed winger wasn’t half-bad in the 2010 playoffs with Danny Briere and departed forward Ville Leino. Intriguing winger Jakub Voracek will take Leino’s spot, which makes some thematic sense because the Columbus Blue Jackets (sort of) gave up on Voracek a lot like the Detroit Red Wings (sort of) gave up on Leino.

Keep in mind that these combinations took place at practice, which is far from a guarantee for the future. Most obviously, much was made about Alexander Semin playing on the fourth line during practice yet he ended up getting his typical second-line duty. Laviolette was coy to the press about whether or not the changes will stick.

“I haven’t announced any lineups and we don’t talk about lineups. I wouldn’t hang your hat on it,” Laviolette said. “You can, but I’m not going to talk about it.”

OK, then where should we leave our metaphorical hats, then?

Waiting for Giroux: Flyers’ top scorer struggling against New Jersey

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It was hard not to talk about Flyers stud scorer Claude Giroux after the first round of the playoffs. He put up 14 points against the Penguins and was hailed as being the “best player in the world.” Life against the Devils hasn’t been as kind though.

Through the first three games of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Giroux has just one goal and has been more than frustrated with how the team’s power play is going. As Sarah Baicker of CSNPhilly.com hears it from coach Peter Laviolette, the Devils aren’t giving Philly much to work with offensively.

“The real estate is hard to come by. The scoring chances are not as significant. The speed up and down the ice is not as significant. It’s more zone time and battling as opposed to rushes up and down the ice. I think it’s just a completely different look and feel than the first series.”

The Devils have been tough defensively and not in the old fashioned New Jersey way either. It’s not quite the trap and obstruction stuff you’d see back in the 90s, instead it’s a ferocious forecheck that frustrates whoever is carrying the puck. The Flyers haven’t had much time to think, never mind make a clean pass. For Giroux, not having that time or space to get creative is proving more than difficult and creates a problem they’ll need to find a solution for fast.