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Scratched Pronger quiet but is clearly not himself

The word from Flyers practice Thursday was that defenseman Chris Pronger was ready to go in Game Five. That looked to be the case as Pronger went through the entire Flyers morning skate Friday, taking a regular turn with normal defense partner Matt Carle.

Pronger took a few slap shots for the first time in view of reporters and took several wrist shots. But as it turned out, he did not play and CSNPhilly.com reported early Friday night that Pronger won't play in the series.

Pronger stayed on the ice well past the rest of his teammates, the first sign he would not play in the game. He lined up pucks in the faceoff circle and took several wrist shots in succession, fanning on one and grimacing in apparent pain on another. At the end of the group of pucks, he slapped the last one away in disgust.

"It's tough to say how he's feeling," Carle said. "Honestly, he's the only one who could answer that. It's been a long process for him, frustrating at times. You never know how he's doing for sure.

"He'd probably never tell you until the summertime anyways what he's thinking about how much pain it's inflicting or whether he feels anything at all."

As has been his custom in this series, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette would not give any insight into Pronger's status other than to say, "He looks good." Asked if he was preparing his lineup for Pronger to play, Laviolette said simply, "Next question."

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The accusations of Sabres coach Lindy Ruff that the Flyers were "whining" about officiating in the wake of Game Four were top-of-the page news in Friday's Philadelphia Inquirer -- over the 76ers' playoff loss to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat and the latest Phillies victory.

Prior to Game Five, Laviolette brushed off Ruff's comment. He has experience in this area after Ruff verbally sparred with Laviolette's Carolina Hurricanes during the 2006 Eastern Conference finals.

"I thought it was funny," Laviolette said. "One of the [Flyers' assistant] coaches did a little spoof on it today in the coaches office and took out the word 'whining' and put in 'winning.' It was pretty funny. We don't get involved in too much of that crap but it was funny. We had a good time with it."

Pressed on whether he felt it was inevitable Ruff would spout off in this series based on his '06 experience, Laviolette simply said, "We don't get wrapped up too much in that. We had a good chuckle."

Sabres agitator Patrick Kaleta said the Buffalo players have had a good laugh about Ruff's comments.

"Lindy's behind our backs 100 percent," Kaleta said. "That's why me personally, and I can vouch for everybody in the room, that we love playing for Lindy, that he'll have our backs 100 percent of the way. That's what you need, a sense of team where everyone is in it together. He's kind of funny sometimes and that's the way he is."

Ruff didn't back down Friday when asked about Flyers captain Mike Richards' assertion that the Sabres "got away with murder" Wednesday.

"I think we got a lot of motivation from their comments is what I think," Ruff said. "That we got away with murder, we got a lot of motivation out of that. That really fired us up."

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Kaleta got plenty of media attention following the morning skate for a YouTube clip from Game Four that went viral courtesy of Deadspin.com and ESPN's "Around the Horn." Midway through the third period, Buffalo's Cody McCormick and Philadelphia's Nikolay Zherdev were engaged in front of the Sabres' bench and the video shows Kaleta opening the bench door -- dropping Zherdev into the lap of some Sabres and out of the play.

Kaleta pleaded innocence.

"There was a [line] change. You pop it open and slide down," Kaleta said. "I didn't expect anyone to be in our bench but it was kind of funny. Just because I did it, people think I did it on purpose but I was there and flipped it up and whatever.

"They were scrumming but you never expect anybody to be there. You're on a change, you pop it open and slide down and let the player come in. It's what you do. You do it so many times you kind of take it for granted."

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Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher entered the game leading all playoff goaltenders with a .954 save percentage and was tied for the lead in goals-against average at 1.45 with Washington's Michal Neuvirth. Buffalo'sRyan Miller was fourth in both categories at .937 and 2.02. This is just the fourth time in the Flyers' 44-year history they've been shut out twice in a playoff series. It last happened to them in 2002 against Ottawa when current Sabres goalie Patrick Lalime blanked them three straight times.

This is the first time ever the Flyers have lost two 1-0 games in the same series. In fact, Games One and Four are just the third and fourth time ever Philly has lost a playoff game by that score.

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To replace injured Jeff Carter, the Flyers dressed 20-yearold tough guy Zac Rinaldo. He had 331 penalty minutes at Adirondack of the AHL and had more suspensions (4) than goals (2). . . . Through four games, the only players with two goals in the series were Buffalo winger Thomas Vanek and Flyers center Danny Briere. The Flyers had a 9-8 edge in scoring but the series was tied if Timonen's empty-net goal that clinched Game Three is excluded. . . . The NHL announced Friday that the start time for a potential Game Seven, which would be here Tuesday night, will be 7:30 p.m. Game Six remains as previously scheduled at 3 p.m. Sunday in HSBC Arena.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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