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Philadelphia
Flyers
42-29-11
Atlanta
Thrashers
34-40-8

29 SOG
28 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
PHI
ATL
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Flyers-Thrashers Preview

Tuesday, 01.08.2008 / 7:00 PM

Associated Press

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Flyers-Thrashers Preview
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Atlanta Thrashers

A growing injury list hasn't prevented the Philadelphia Flyers from continuing to win. The goaltending of Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki deserves most of the credit for that.

The Flyers look to make it eight straight wins over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night when the teams meet for the second time this season.

Since losing a season-high six straight (0-4-2) last month, Philadelphia (20-15-4) has rebounded to win four of its last five games.

Biron was in net for the first two victories in that span, stopping 65 of 68 shots.

Niittymaki has been even better lately, allowing two goals on 94 shots in his last two starts - both wins. He recorded a 38-save shutout of Florida on Dec. 30 before facing a franchise-record 56 shots Saturday in a 3-2 victory at Toronto.

"Niitty stood on his head," Flyers center Jeff Carter said. "He played a hell of a game."

Although he is still Biron's backup, Niittymaki's recent play may have earned him another start. Also adding to Niittymaki's case is his 6-0-0 record and 1.68 goals-against average in six career games against the Thrashers (21-21-1).

Biron, though, stopped 31 shots in a 4-0 victory over Atlanta on Oct. 16 in the first meeting this season between the teams.

The Flyers have won seven straight against the Thrashers since a 6-5 overtime loss on Nov. 18, 2005. Philadelphia is 22-3-1 with three ties all-time versus Atlanta.

Mike Richards snapped a tie late in the third period Saturday with his team-leading 19th goal.

The victory, however, came with a high price as forwards Joffrey Lupul and Sami Kapanen both left the game with injuries.

"It was a gutsy win," Carter said. "We lost a couple of guys early and were down, basically, to 2 1/2 lines. We pulled out the win. These points against conference teams are going to be huge because (the standings) are so tight."

Lupul suffered a spinal cord contusion and a mild concussion in a collision with teammate Derian Hatcher and is not expected back for at least two weeks. Lupul is third on the team with 35 points, scoring 16 goals in 39 games after he had that many in 81 games last season for Edmonton.

Kapanen left in the second period after sustaining a deep facial laceration as a result from being hit with the puck.

Lupul and Kapanen join forwards Simon Gagne (concussion) and Scottie Upshall (ankle) and defenseman Jason Smith (bruised calf) as Flyers who are not expected to play Tuesday. Gagne, sidelined since Nov. 7, could return Thursday against the New York Rangers.

Marian Hossa scored twice and Ilya Kovalchuk added his league-leading 34th goal in Atlanta's 5-2 victory over visiting Buffalo on Sunday.

The Thrashers, who have alternated wins and losses in their last six games, have pulled within three points of Southeast Division-leading Carolina.

"Definitely, it was a huge win," Hossa said. "Every win is huge right now. ... We have a good chance to be over .500 and be a playoff team again."

With Johan Hedberg starting Sunday, Kari Lehtonen figures to be back in net Tuesday. Lehtonen has never beaten the Flyers, going 0-4-1 with a 3.31 GAA in five appearances, including four starts.

Kovalchuk has five goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak.

2007-2008 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 18 '08ATL 2 at PHI 3V. Prospal
Feb 05 '08PHI 3 at ATL 2S. Downie
Jan 08 '08PHI 4 at ATL 1J. Carter
Oct 16 '07ATL 0 at PHI 4M. Richards
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%