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Flyers look to lengthen fourth-place lead

Wednesday, 04.01.2009 / 2:00 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Flyers, fourth in the Eastern Conference, get another chance to put some distance between themselves and the fifth-place Hurricanes when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN) in the opener of a home-and-home series.

Another team charging up behind the Flyers is the Penguins, who are two points behind them. The Pens have won two straight and five of their last six, and finish an eight-game homestand tonight when they host the scuffling Devils, who have lost five in a row (7:30 p.m. ET, RIS).

Another team that seems to be in a bit of trouble is the Blackhawks. Chicago has lost two straight and seven of their last 10 to slip to fifth place in the Western Conference. To right the ship and move back into fourth place, they'll have to beat the St. Louis Blues, the hottest team in the League with five straight wins (8:30 p.m. ET, GCL).

In other games tonight, the Capitals host the Islanders; the Sabres, trying to stay alive in the East playoff race, visit the Thrashers; and the Avalanche host the Coyotes.

Here are some things to look for:

* Washington left wing Alex Ovechkin reached the 100-point plateau for the third time in four NHL seasons Friday when he had 4 points in the Capitals' 5-3 win against the Lightning. Ovechkin has taken 131 more shots than any player in the League and has 7 assists and 11 points in his last five games.

* Sabres center Tim Connolly leads the team with an average of .95 points per game, but missed 34 games with back and rib injuries. Connolly hasn't played more than 50 games in a season since the 2005-06 season, but is just 1 point shy of recording his third consecutive 40-point season.

* Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn is one of five Flyers with at least 130 hits, and he leads the team with an average ice time of 24:34 per game.

* Penguins center Sidney Crosby is just 1 goal shy of his third 30-goal season in four NHL campaigns. He has 15 goals and 30 points in 25 career games against the Devils, including 4 goals and 6 points in five games this season.

* New Jersey has allowed at least 37 shots in each of its last three games and has the longest current losing streak in the Eastern Conference at five games. They've also allowed seven power-play goals during that span.

* Blues left wing David Perron is just 10th in ice time among St. Louis forwards at 14:43 per game, but he leads the team with 35 assists, including 11 power-play assists. Perron has missed just one game this season and is third on the team a plus-14 rating.

* Phoenix center Matthew Lombardi had 9 goals in 50 games with the Flames, but has 5 goals in just 13 games since being traded to the Coyotes on March 4. Lombardi played more than 20 minutes in just six of the 50 games he played for the Flames, but has played more than 20 minutes in nine of his 13 games with Phoenix.

* Avalanche defenseman Brett Clark has blocked 86 more shots than any teammate and averages the most ice time on the team at 22:19 per game. Even though Clark is known as a stay-at-home defenseman, he has 6 assists and 9 points in 17 career games against the Coyotes, including a goal and an assist in three games this season.

* Pavel Kubina leads Maple Leafs defensemen with 40 points, but is one of seven Toronto players with a double-digit plus/minus rating at minus-11. Kubina has been just 2 points in his last 11 games, but has played more than 22 minutes in nine of his last 11 games. 

* Thrashers defenseman Tobias Enstrom has 10 assists and 12 points in his last nine games. Enstrom averages the second-most power-play time among Atlanta defensemen at 3:06 per game, and has 12 of his 29 points on the power play.

Contact Adam Schwartz at aschwartz@nhl.com.
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