Penguins prepare to face desperate Flyers
There is a swirl of discussion over the availability of a few key players for Game 5 of the first-round playoff series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.
This much, though, is certain: The Penguins, who hold a 3-1 series lead, can wrap things up and move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals with a win Friday at PPG Paints Arena.
Meanwhile, the Flyers are facing elimination.
"We're not ready for our season to be over," Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux said Thursday. "We go to Pittsburgh, tough building to play in. We know we can win there. We know if we play our game we can win.
"So we're going to go out there, play our game and be back (home) for Game 6."
Giroux, who had 102 points during the regular season, has been held to one assist and is minus-7 in the four games this series.
Philadelphia general manager Ron Hextall exonerated Giroux, saying there are a lot of factors in one players' numbers being down, and he didn't have to get technical when breaking down his club's game plan for extending its season.
"We need to play better," Hextall said. "They've played extremely well, and we need to play better."
Philadelphia top-line center and Selke Trophy finalist Sean Couturier, who missed Game 4 because of an injury sustained in practice Tuesday, skated but did not practice Thursday and accompanied the team to Pittsburgh. After practice, he indicated there is a chance he could play.
"Feeling better every day, and we'll see (Friday) how I feel," Couturier said.
Pittsburgh will be without tenacious winger Patric Hornqvist for the second straight game because of an unspecified injury, although he skated on his own Thursday.
The Penguins apparently dodged a huge setback after goaltender Matt Murray needed attention from a trainer during practice Thursday. Murray remained on the ice and continued in goal until the end of practice.
Afterward, he declined to say what ailed him but proclaimed, "I'm good."
Murray in Game 4 became the NHL goalie to reach 25 playoff wins the fastest, doing it in 36 games.
With two shutouts this series - along with a 1.27 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage -- Murray has been part of a dominating Pittsburgh performance in its three wins, which have been by a combined score of 17-1.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby -- whose goal and assist in Game 4 gave him 173 career playoff points, moving him ahead of Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux for the club record -- warned that his team's three lopsided wins haven't come as easily as they might have looked.
"It's playoff hockey," he said. "They've had chances, and we've gotten saves and big plays.
"It's about momentum and different points in games, and we've executed well, but that can change quickly if you don't play the right way."
Crosby and the Penguins know what facing a team on the precipice is all about after winning the Stanley Cup the past two years. In those two playoff runs, they were 8-5 when they had a chance to eliminate an opponent, 4-3 last year.
"It's always hard to end someone's season. We know they're going to be desperate and throw everything at us," Penguins winger Jake Guentzel said.
Updated April 19, 2018