SABRES (11-4-1) at FLYERS (10-4-1)
Last 10 -- Buffalo 7-3-0; Philadelphia 7-3-0
Season series -- The Flyers defeated the Sabres 5-2 in Buffalo eight days ago in a game that was dominated by Philadelphia's third and fourth lines. The Flyers had more screens than a summer-camp bunkhouse in front of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. The Flyers have beaten the Sabres five-straight times. The Sabres return to Philadelphia, Friday, Nov. 27, for a "Black Friday" matinee at 1 p.m.
Big story -- Philly is on a roll with five consecutive wins, including a drawing-away 5-1 victory Thursday over Ottawa in which the Flyers scored three unanswered third-period goals. The first line of Jeff Carter centering Danny Briere and rookie James van Riemsdyk was together for the first time in four games. Briere scored twice, van Riemsdyk once and Carter had two assists. Buffalo has led the Northeast Division all season on the strength of Miller's goaltending -- he was brilliant again on Friday as the Sabres beat Calgary 2-1 in a shootout.
Sabres -- The Sabres started 9-2-1 and had the NHL's best defense before two bad losses last weekend. Coach Lindy Ruff attributed the losses to illness and a busy early schedule and lightened up on his team, although he sent a "team wake-up" message by putting veteran defensive forward Adam Mair on waivers. Mair passed through waivers and will likely be a healthy scratch. The Sabres have scored only 11 non-shootout goals in their past six games -- and that might not be good enough against Philadelphia. Miller has made a career of "stealing" games in these situations.
Flyers -- "Happy, happy, joy, joy" is the only way to describe the way the Flyers feel these days. They started the season sluggishly and then suffered a slew of injuries. But while waiting for the injured players to return, they discovered they have great depth at forward and defense and started the current winning streak. The injured players know they're not entitled to the jobs they're returning to -- they have to play well to keep them. Job insecurity will keep everyone's legs churning. Ray Emery, with every game, is looking more and more like the goalie the Flyers have been seeking for years.
Who's hot -- Both goalies are hot. Miller has 11 wins, one more than Emery. Miller leads the NHL with a 1.75 goals-against average and Emery is seventh at 2.18. Miller leads with a .940 save percentage and Emery is tied for eighth at .924. Van Riemsdyk is second among rookie scorers with 15 points. He brings a big body, fast feet and great hands to the first line.
Injury report -- Buffalo defenseman Toni Lydman has been out with a groin injury since Oct. 24, missing nine games. He missed the season's first three games with a hand injury and has played in only four games. Normally, he's on the first pairing, a big absence. Backup goalie Patrick Lalime returned last night but didn't play against Calgary, after missing the previous four games with a groin injury. Mike Grier missed last night's home game against the Flames with what appears to be a thigh injury. Philadelphia defenseman Ryan Parent has played only part of one of the past nine games because of a groin injury. Defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen suffered a concussion last Saturday against St. Louis and is doubtful.
Stat pack -- Philadelphia is much better than Buffalo on the power play and in penalty killing but Buffalo is slightly better during 5-on-5 play, scoring 1.44 goals to the opposition's every goal. Philadelphia's ratio is 1.41-to-1. The Flyers are scoring on a League-best 27.9 percent of power plays. Expect a lot of shots on goal: Buffalo is averaging a League-high 34.2 per game; the Flyers are second with 33.9.
Puck drop -- "They were the better team. You can't find any argument against that. I'm not going to mask it, it wasn't a good night for us. We didn't help ourselves a lot," Ruff said after last Friday's loss to the Flyers.
|J. van Riemsdyk||13||4||11||15||+7||6||1||2|