SABRES (12-7-2) at FLYERS (13-8-1)
Last 10 - Sabres 4-5-1; Flyers 6-4-0.
Season series -- This is the third meeting this season, all this month. The Flyers beat the Sabres 5-2 in Buffalo on Nov. 6 thanks to two goals by Danny Carcillo. Ryan Miller was outstanding in a 29-save performance and Tyler Ennis scored his first NHL goal in a 3-2 Buffalo win in Philadelphia on Nov. 14. The teams don't meet again until March 5 in Buffalo.
Big story -- The Sabres are 0-3-1 in their past four games and have slipped from the Northeast Division lead; after an 8-1-1 start, they've dropped into third place in the division and eighth in the Eastern Conference. They're in an 11-game scoring slump, averaging only 1.9 goals per game. However, their 21 games played are tied for fewest in the conference and three fewer than the division-leading Boston Bruins, whom they trail by two points.
The Flyers are back home after a grueling five-game trip that saw them go 2-3-0. They finished on a positive note with a 2-1 victory at Long Island on Wednesday -Scott Hartnell scored the game-winner with less than six minutes to play.
Sabres -- Buffalo shoots but they can't score. However, they are excellent defensively. The Sabres are third in the NHL with 33.7 shots per game but 23rd with 2.48 goals per game and 19th with 18.8 percent efficiency on the power play. Miller leads NHL goalies with a 1.98 goals-against average. The Sabres are fifth in allowing only 2.48 goals per game and 10th in killing 82.4 percent of power plays. The Sabres top line has been having trouble scoring all season. Thomas Vanek, who had 40 goals last season, has just 7 goals. Jason Pominville has 5 goals and Derek Roy has 4, as does Tim Connolly.
Flyers -- The Flyers play five of their next seven games in the WachoviaCenter, where they are 8-3-1, the fourth-best home record in the NHL. Brian Boucher was in net for both road wins. Ray Emery lost three-straight games and is 1-4 in his last five starts. Daniel Briere will serve the second game of a two-game suspension today.
Who's hot -- Flyers defenseman Matt Carle leads the NHL with a plus-18 rating. Hartnell is tied for third with six power-play goals and has three points in the past two games, as does Jeff Carter. Miller has allowed more than two goals only once in the past six games. Upfront for Buffalo, no one's hot when you score only four goals in three games.
Injury report -- Flyers' defensive center and penalty killer Blair Betts is out until late December with a shoulder injury. Third-line left wing Darroll Powe is out until January with a shoulder strain. Defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen has missed eight games with a concussion. First-line left wing Simon Gagne played nine games before hernia surgeries that have him sidelined indefinitely. The Sabres returned to full strength Wednesday when Mike Grier played after a five-game absence due to a groin injury.
Stat pack -- An oddsmaker would favor Philadelphia because it's league-best power play meets the No. 10 penalty-killing unit; the Flyers' No. 13 PK unit meets the Sabres' No. 19 power-play and because Philadelphia has a 1.3-1 goals-scored ratio in 5-on-5 play compared to Buffalo's dead-even, 1-1 ratio. But the same conditions prevailed No. 14 when Miller stole the game. Buffalo is one of nine teams that haven't lost when leading after two periods.
Puck drop -- Here's an opportunity to see two of the NHL's best rookies. Buffalo's Myers, 19, is second among rookie defensemen with 3 goals and an average of 21:41 minutes per game. He has 6 assists and is plus-2. Flyers left wing James van Riemsdyk, 20, leads all rookies with four game-winning goals and is second among rookies with 12 assists, 18 points and a plus-7 rating.
|J. van Riemsdyk||20||6||13||19||+7||8||2||4|