WHILE HOCKEY teams always scratch players from their lineups, it's rare for a television analyst to miss games.

Mike "Doc" Emrick skated shorthanded two games last weekend, including Game 3 of Flyers-Pittsburgh, because his NBC booth analyst Ed Olczyk, a former NHL player and coach, was bedridden with the flu.

"It's a 24- to 48-hour flu that puts you in bed," Emrick said Monday from St. Clair, Mich., where he resides. "He lives in Chicago and does the Blackhawks [during the week] . . .

"You always miss having the master of the telestrator there. And you miss a third person, especially [Sunday] when we had long periods when we were waiting for penalties to be handed out."

With Olczyk ailing, Emrick relied more on ice-level reporter Pierre McGuire. The telecast flowed smoothly with only the two of them, which shouldn't be surprising since Emrick and McGuire have worked together on weeknights all season.

Emrick, a former Flyers TV play-by-play voice, is as surprised as many others that the Flyers have seized a 3-0 lead over Pittsburgh in their opening-round series. He traces the Penguins' troubles to Game 1 of the series.

"In that first game, they totally embarrassed the Flyers in the first period [leading 3-0]," Emrick said. "It was so easy, and, for some reason, they let up. That's the biggest mistake they've made."

Addressing penalty-filled Game 3, Emrick said: "I remember Richie and Ron Sutter were on a Flyers team that was in the same position against Washington [1984]. It was a best-of-five and the Flyers were going out [in three games]. The fans were chanting 'So long, Bob' for [coach] Bob McCammon. The Flyers were just going after the Caps, doing things the Penguins were doing [in Game 3].

"It's the sign of a team that doesn't know what else to do. The softest word we use is frustrated, but you can't use that now. It was a case where [the Penguins] were embarrassed and didn't know what to do, so they lashed out.

"When you see [Sidney] Crosby and [Claude] Giroux in a fight, one part of you says 'My goodness, this matters to them,' and the other says 'These guys both have concussions. What are they doing?' But they don't think about that. It's sort of the purity of the sport: despite the fact we have millionaires, fortunately most of them don't act that way."

Emrick, who has a doctorate from Bowling Green University, is calling Wednesday night's Game 4 at the Wells Fargo Center with McGuire for the NBC Sports Network (Comcast SportsNet will air its own broadcast). If goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury regains his shot-stopping touch (he has yielded an astonishing 13 goals the last two games), Emrick thinks Pittsburgh can win and avoid a sweep. But he expects the Flyers to win the series.

Before the Stanley Cup playoffs began, Emrick listed eight teams he thought were Cup contenders. The list included Pittsburgh and the Flyers.

"Now, I'm withdrawing Pittsburgh and Vancouver," he said. The Canucks trail eighth-seeded Los Angeles, 3-0.