STILL TRAILING after his team played its best game of the series, a coach begins to search around this time for an X-factor to insert in his lineup.
One such gift could have landed in Craig Berube's lap yesterday.
After the Oshawa Generals were ousted from the OHL playoffs on Wednesday, the Flyers recalled first-round pick Scott Laughton yesterday.
Laughton, 19, already has five games' NHL experience under his belt with the Flyers from the 2013 lockout-shortened season. Laughton was lauded for his defensive responsibility as an 18-year-old, making the decision tough for the Flyers to send him back to junior hockey.
This season, Laughton grew the offensive side of his game, netting 87 points in 54 regular-season games and another 11 in nine postseason contests.
Alas, Berube said in a text message that Laughton will not play in Game 4 tonight. Instead, Laughton will practice this morning with the other call-ups from the Phantoms.
One other such possible addition, Steve Downie, could begin practicing again early next week, according to a source. Many assumed Downie was a healthy scratch for the final two games of the regular season, but he is still suffering from the same "upper-body" injury that has plagued him for most of the season.
The source said Downie "has not been the same since November," when he was transported to the hospital following a second-period fight with Washington's Aaron Volpatti in a 7-0 loss on Nov. 1. After spending 2 days in Pennsylvania Hospital with a severe concussion, Downie was back in the Flyers' lineup on Nov. 12.
Downie, 27 and set to be an unrestricted free agent, was finally shut down last week by the Flyers. He hasn't skated since April 10.
Laughton, the Flyers' 20th overall pick in 2012, is a much better bet to join the team later in the series. The boon for the Flyers is they can use him in nine playoff games without burning the first year on his entry-level contract. After 4 years in Oshawa, Laughton will turn pro in the fall anyway.
One quote from Rangers coach Alain Vigneault yesterday about his team's game plan has to be at least a little concerning for the Flyers: "I'm hoping we can set a faster pace for the game."
New York's speed has been the biggest difference-maker in the first three games - leading to countless odd-man rushes and scoring chances. The Flyers combated some of that Tuesday, but are still left with one glaring question: How do you slow down the Rangers?
"I think good backchecking from the forwards creates good gaps for our defense," Nick Grossmann said. "It's tough if you give them a lot of room in the neutral zone, because they're a fast team, and they're going to use it. We need to disrupt their breakout.
"Hitting is another thing. Every time you hit a guy, it's going to slow them down. I think the forwards have done a good job, dumping pucks in and grinding them down."
The Flyers have outhit New York, 109-101, through three games - but that might not mean much. None of the NHL's top three playoff teams in the hits category (Columbus, Los Angeles and St. Louis) leads its series.
Former Flyer Dan Carcillo has scored four goals in six career games against the Flyers - including two this season alone. Carcillo, of course, scored the goal that iced it for the Rangers in Game 3.
But former teammate Scott Hartnell pointed out that Carcillo also took two penalties on Tuesday night, something the Flyers hope they can exploit if he is in the lineup again.
"He's an agitator who knows how to get under people's skin," Hartnell said. "He scored a big goal, but he was frustrated, too, because he took some penalties, and I don't think his team wants him to take those penalties. If we stay after him, he's liable to take a few more of those. He's a great kid and I still stay in contact him, but it's Philly vs. the Rangers, and we want the upper hand."
No war of words
The Rangers appeared to be none too impressed with Claude Giroux's bold prediction, when he said minutes after Game 3: "We'll be ready for Game 4. We're going to tie up the series and go back to New York."
Before hopping on the train to return to Philadelphia after practice at Madison Square Garden yesterday, the Rangers had no interest in responding to Giroux through rhetoric - in a series already devoid of a lot of on-ice emotion and nastiness.
"What's he going to say, 'We're going to go in and lose'?" Brad Richards asked. "He wants to win. I'm sure their focus is on that. None of it involves us either way, whatever he says. We want to go in and win tomorrow, too. Does it matter what we say? It's going to be played out on the ice [tonight]."