CHICAGO _ Call it the Chris Pronger Factor.
Because of Pronger’s dominance in the Stanley Cup Finals, it appears Chicago will split up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, putting them on different lines Sunday and freeing one of them from the 6-foot-6, 220-pound defenseman.
“I guess it could go two ways,” Pronger said Saturday of the expected line changes. “One, they haven't played together that much. So maybe they're a little out of whack. Or B, it sparks them and fresh line mates and a new look, that gives them a little bit more offensive punch. I don't know. We'll see.”
The series is tied at two games apiece heading itno Game 5 Sunday in Chicago.
In the third period of the Flyers' 5-3 win Friday, Chcago split up Kane and Toews. Kane went to the third line with Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland, while Andrew Ladd moved to the top line with Toews and Dustin Byfuglien.
During the season, talented veteran Marian Hossa, Chicago's second-line right winger, has played on Toews' line. That's another possibility for Sunday.
Pronger said any lineup change was “out of our hands. All we can do is continue to get better, play even better defensively and make sure we're keeping them in the perimeter, and Mike (Leighton) can see all the shots.”
Asked if he took satisfaction knowing Chicago was considering line changes because of him, Pronger said, “I don't necessarily think it's that. If you go back and look, our forwards have done a great job. You look at the line that's scoring against them, it's the (Danny) Briere line. They’ve done a great job of making them play defense. Which, obviously, they don't want to do. They want to play offense. They want to have the puck. They want to control the pace of the game, control the game that way.”
The Briere-Ville Leino-Scott Hartnell line “has done a great job controlling the tempo of the game and controlling the puck and making them play in areas where they don't want to.”
Added Pronger: “This game is five-man units on the ice having chemistry. We've done a pretty good job of that thus far.”
The Flyers, coming off two straight wins, were upbeat at Saturday's news conference.
Left winger Simon Gagne said the Flyers gained confidence they can win in Chicago, despite dropping 6-5 and 2-1 decisions at the United Center early in the series.
“We lost the first two games here, but there were a lot of great things happened in those two games,” he said. “Now it's up to us. It's 2-2. It's up to us to try to play a better game here in Chicago for 60 minutes.”
In the high-scoring first game in Chicago, Gagne said, “I think both teams were not too happy about their defense play. But the second game I like the way we played, especially the second half of the game. I thought that the third period we played the game we wanted. Good forecheck, put everything at the net, created a lot of chances offensively; and at the same time, we played well in our zone.”
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Leighton said the Flyers need to play with the same urgency Sunday night as they displayed in winning two straight home games and tying the Finals at two victories apiece.
“It’s going to be the most important game for us,” he said. “…We have to go to Chicago and give the same effort and hopefully get the same results.”
In effect, the Finals are now a best-of-three.
“I don’t think much is going to change,” said Leighton after the Flyers hung on for a 5-3 win Friday and evened the series. “It’s got a little bit chippier out there, a little rougher, a lot of talking. And I don’t think much is going to change.”
The Flyers are 1-15 in road Finals since they won the Cup in Buffalo in 1975.
“We have to win a game there eventually,” Leighton said of the team’s trip to Chicago.
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Breakaways. Ville Leino’s 16 points are the most by an NHL rookie in one post-season since Jeremy Roenick had 18 points for Chicago in 1990. Leino, who has seven goals and 16 points in the post-season, has set franchise rookie records during the playoffs. He broke the marks set by Mel Bridgman (six goals in 1976) and Brian Propp (15 points in 1980)….The Flyers have won seven straight home playoff games and have a league-best 9-1 home record during the post-season…..The 29 goals scored are the most in the first four Finals games since 1981, when the Islanders and Minnesota North Stars combined for 36 goals….Toews has yet to score a goal, but he continues to dominate in the face-off circle. He won 24 of 33 draws (73 percent) in Game 4, and he has won 67 of 100 (67 percent) in the series…..Friday’s crowd of 20,304 was the largest for a hockey game in the Wachovia Center’s history….In Friday’s win, the Flyers blocked 28 shots _ 17 more than the Hawks. Kimmo Timonen led the way with five blocks. Pronger was plus-4 in the game and had six of the Flyers’ 35 hits. Chicago had 32 hits…..Defenseman Oskars Bartulis played just 3:48 and six shifts on Friday.
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