Returning to the Wachovia Center appears to have helped the Philadelphia Flyers regroup from a difficult stretch. Location, though, hasn't been much of a factor in recent encounters with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Flyers pursue their eighth straight home victory Saturday night while seeking to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat overall to the struggling Maple Leafs.
Philadelphia (22-10-9) has been among the league's hottest teams for more than a month, posting an 11-3-4 record since Dec. 2 to move atop the competitive Atlantic Division, where the top three clubs are separated by just four points.
Much of that success is due to a 13-4-3 mark at home. It's been a different story away from Philadelphia, however, as the Flyers fell to 9-6-6 as visitors after dropping four of six contests (2-2-2) on a recently-completed six-game, 12-day road trip that was capped by back-to-back shootout losses.
On Thursday night, though, Philadelphia returned to the Wachovia Center for the first time since Dec. 23, opening a three-game stretch with a 3-1 victory over Minnesota. It has collected at least a point in 13 consecutive home contests (11-0-2) since falling to Tampa Bay on Nov. 8.
"It's tough when you get back because you can get complacent after a long road trip when you get back home," said Flyers captain Mike Richards, second on the team with 43 points. "But we could find our energy from the crowd and had a couple different players step up."
Scottie Upshall contributed a goal and an assist, while Scott Hartnell and Mike Knuble each scored for the Flyers, who secured a seventh straight home victory for their longest run there since reeling off nine in a row from Oct. 7-Nov. 12, 2005.
Ranking among the best offenses in the Eastern Conference with 3.32 goals per game, Philadelphia has scored 37 times during its hot streak, converting 46.4 percent (13-for-28) of its power-play chances.
In those seven games, Hartnell has eight goals and five assists, and Richards has three goals and eight assists. Additionally, All-Star reserve Jeff Carter has six goals and six assists for the Flyers, who've also limited visitors to 2.7 goals per contest in that stretch.
Carter leads the Flyers with 27 goals and 44 points overall, but has been held to just four goals and an assist in 12 career contests against Toronto, which has won six of its last seven at the Wachovia Center and is 11-3-0 versus Philadelphia since March 18, 2004.
The Maple Leafs (16-19-6) have also won the last three series matchups, most recently 4-2 at home on Nov. 29.
Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore contributed a goal and an assist apiece in that contest against Philadelphia, but the duo combined for two assists in Thursday's 6-2 loss at Montreal, Toronto's third straight road defeat.
"We just have to find a way inside this room to make sure that we're ready for the hockey game when warmups come and the drop of the puck comes," said forward Jason Blake, whose team has lost six of its last eight.
Toronto has also struggled defensively, conceding 34 goals during this slump and 148 overall to rank among the worst defensive teams in the league.
Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala is 4-0-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average lifetime versus the Flyers, but was pulled Thursday after giving up five goals on 21 shots in two periods.
The Leafs will be without forward Mikhail Grabovski, who will begin serving a three-game suspension for bumping linesman Scott Cherrey in the loss to the Canadiens.
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