Flyers change wings

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET


 U.S. Civil War buff Ken Hitchcock may be courting a civil war of his own tonight when his Philadelphia Flyers take on the Maple Leafs in Game 4.

 Based on the way he conducted practice yesterday at the Air Canada Centre, the Flyers coach seems to be leaning towards busting up Philadelphia's high-scoring Alexei Zhamnov-Jeremy Roenick-Tony Amonte line.

 The fearsome threesome has recorded a whopping 25 points in eight playoff games but was not as effective in Toronto's 4-1 victory on Wednesday night.

 But with top defenceman Kim Johnsson ready to return tonight from a broken bone in his right hand, Hitchcock has some major decisions to make up front. The first order of business is to move Sami Kapanen back to forward and reunite Johnsson with his regular defence partner, Marcus Ragnarsson.

 "They've been a terrific pair for us this year," Hitchcock said. "Sami did a great job (on defence), but Kim has been arguably our best defenceman for a year and a half now.

 "When you add good players into your lineup, especially in a heated series like this, it's a good feeling for everybody."

 The diminutive Kapanen did a good job on defence in place of Johnsson, despite being just 5-foot-10 and 173 pounds.

 "Kapanen's going to go up front, so he becomes the hunter, rather than the hunted," Hitchcock said with a laugh.

 "And he has all the numbers and will start getting back at those guys who were going after him. So all the scurrilous Leafs better watch out, because he's coming after all those guys."

 Nothing is etched in stone, but Hitchcock is leaning toward matching Kapanen with captain Keith Primeau and tough guy Donald Brashear on one line and putting Zhamnov and Amonte with Simon Gagne. He would also unite Roenick with Mark Recchi and the struggling John LeClair, who has only one point in eight games.

 If those new combinations fall into place tonight, a fourth line would consist of Branko Radivojevic, Radovan Somik and Michal Handzus, a scorer who is also struggling.

 Hitchcock was upfront with the problems he feels plagued his team in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semi-final, such as his team's energy level.

 "This is a four-line series and I felt in a couple of stages in the last two games, Toronto's energy was a little bit higher than our's because (Leafs coach Pat Quinn) was able to roll four lines," Hitchcock said. "If the refs are going to let (the teams) go at each other like this, which I think is terrific, then four lines are going to be necessary."

 Toronto goaltender Ed Belfour confounded the Flyers in Game 3 with his ability to take control of the puck on Philadelphia shoot-ins, taking the wind out of their forecheck. Hitchcock said that has to stop.

 "If we're going to be more effective, we've got to do a better job keeping the pucks (away from him)," Hitchcock said.


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