Boston Bruins players, from left, Blake Wheeler, Shawn Thornton and Mark Recchi rest during practice in Wilmington, Mass. Thursday, April 29, 2010.The surprising Boston Bruins barely made it into the NHL playoffs as the sixth-seeded team. Then they upset the Buffalo Sabres. And now they have home-ice advantage in the second round against the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
VOORHEES, N.J. - The Philadelphia Flyers see a lot of themselves in the Boston Bruins.
Both teams had to finish strongly just to make the playoffs. Both stress defence, with plenty of muscle.
Beginning Saturday in Boston, they go at each other in the Eastern Conference semifinals. These teams are meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 1978.
"I'm sure it will be a physical series," Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger said after Thursday's practice. "They're a physical group. If you look at their lineup, if you look at the way they played Buffalo the last series, they played very well. They played a very up-tempo, spirited, skating, physical series. I would expect the same thing."
The Flyers allowed only four power-play goals in 32 attempts in a first-round upset of New Jersey. Boston was even better against Buffalo, giving up zero.
Philadelphia needs to stay out of the penalty box and hold its own on special teams.
"They've got good depth up front and they rely on four defencemen quite a bit," coach Peter Laviolette predicted. "We're going to try to be physical, try to hit."
By the time the time the best-of-seven series begins, the Flyers will have been off for nearly nine days. Laviolette doesn't expect any drop from the layoff.
"We're at this point in the year where we're down to eight teams," he said. "No sense coming out of the gate slow, easing our way into it. We might as well jump on it right away."
The Flyers were 2-1-1 against the Bruins this season, winning 4-3 in October and 3-1 in December. They lost the Winter Classic at Fenway Park in overtime, 2-1, and then were beaten 5-1 at home in February.
"They're tough," Scott Hartnell said. "They finish every check. It's going to be a battle. I think the best scheme is to go toe-to-toe with them in the corners, win puck battles."
The Flyers realize they must do something to unnerve Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask.
"We have to get traffic to the front of the net ... not allow their goalie to see pucks," Pronger said. "You look at the way he played that first series?out of the pucks he saw, 95 out of a hundred he's making the save."
Two young Flyers?Andreas Nodl and Jared Ross?expect to see action because of injuries to Jeff Carter (broken foot), Simon Gagne (broken toe) and Ian Laperriere (concussion).
"(Ross) is a spirited guy that seems to be strong on the puck," Laviolette said.
Ross did get into six playoff games against Pittsburgh last year so he has some experience.
"You can't take a second off," he said. "The intensity of the playoffs is something you have to be aware of all the time."