Laliberte moves from black aces to first line

David Laliberte will replace Simon Gagne on the Flyers' top line. (Tom Mihalek/AP)

NEWARK, N.J. – David Laliberte knew he was going into tonight’s lineup, he just didn’t know where.

So when he arrived at the Prudential Center today for the pre-game skate, he was surprised to learn that he will take Simon Gagne’s spot on the Flyers’ top line.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity that I have,” Laliberte said. “I didn’t know what to expect. But I’m happy. It’s a really good opportunity, so I just want to prove that I belong here. I want to make sure that these guys are not scared about me [being here].”

Prior to Jeff Carter and Gagne’s injuries, Laliberte was practicing with other Phantoms call-ups Jon Kalinski, Andreas Nodl, Danny Syvret, Erik Gustafsson and Joonas Lehtivuori separate from the Flyers. Those players are known as “black aces,” players who skate on the big club’s taxi squad during the playoffs.

Now, Laliberte is skating with Flyers’ captain Mike Richards and Dan Carcillo as the Flyers attempt to close out their first round series against the Devils tonight in Game 5.

“It’s tough when you’re practicing when just six or seven guys,” Laliberte said. “Now, I’m here and I want to just try and do my job. I’m going to play like I played all year, it’s like another game for me.”

Danny Briere will move back to center - where he found much success - and Ville Leino will fill-in on the Flyers’ second line.

That means Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Arron Asham – one of the Flyers’ best lines this postseason – will remain together and will have a chance to matchup against New Jersey’s third and fourth lines.

“Our team’s been through an awful lot this year with ups and downs and injuries to key players,” Chris Pronger said. “Today is no different. We know we’re going to get their [Devils’] best, their backs are up against the wall. It doesn’t matter who is in or out of the lineup.”

Pronger said he did not get the sense that the Flyers were disappointed, disheartened or any different without Carter and Gagne.

“I didn’t get that sense on the bus, I didn’t get that sense after the game,” Pronger said. “You’ve got to role with the punches. This is just another thing in a long line of things that have happened to us this year.”

If you had a few questions about how the Flyers might replace Carter and Gagne in other situations, I attempted to answer a few here: Three Questions the Flyers Must Answer.

Here are tonight’s expected lineups:

Carcillo – Richards – Laliberte (properly pronounced LAL-EEB-BER-TAY)
Van Riemsdyk – Giroux – Asham
Powe – Betts – Laperriere

ALSO: Devils coach Jacques Lemaire still did not believe the Flyers will be without Carter and Gagne and refused to say the absence of those players will give his team a lift:

“I thought it was bull-[bleep], as a matter of fact,” Lemaire said this morning. “I don’t believe nobody [sic]. So, I can’t say it gave us a lift.”

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