SENATORS (14-11-4) at FLYERS (14-13-1)
Last 10 -- Ottawa 4-5-1; Philadelphia 2-8-0
Season series -- This is the second meeting of these teams this year. The Flyers won, 5-1, at the WachoviaCenter on Nov. 12 when Danny Briere returned from an injury and scored twice and Ray Emery made 22 saves to defeat the team he took to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. The Flyers visit Ottawa on Jan. 3, their first game after the Winter Classic, and again on March 23. Ottawa won three of four games last season, including a shootout victory at Philadelphia in their last meeting, April 4. The Senators rank seventh in the Eastern Conference and the Flyers are 10th. The Flyers are 31-22-8-3 in 64 meetings with the Senators.
Big story -- The Flyers are 1-2-0 in three games since replacing head John Stevens on Dec. 4. After losing to Washington and Montreal, they beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Tuesday to end a five-game losing streak. They scored more goals in that game than in the previous five games combined.
New coach Peter Laviolette was glad to get the win but he wasn't pleased with their nine penalties, an average night for the club that leads the NHL with 18.2 penalty minutes per game. Laviolette put the Flyers through a grueling skate Wednesday morning.
With Emery out for six weeks due to abdominal surgery, Brian Boucher is once again the Flyers' starting goalie. He had a tremendous rookie season here in 1999-00 when he went 20-10-3 and led the NHL with a 1.91 goals-against average. He struggled the next season and was traded away the year after that. Boucher set the NHL record with five consecutive shutouts in 2003-04, totaling 332:01 without allowing a goal.
Senators -- Top-six forwards Nick Foligno, Jason Spezza and Alex Kovalev have 12 goals among them. On the plus side, Milan Michalek, acquired in the Dany Heatley trade, leads the Senators with 15 goals. Steady Mike Fisher has 13, including the lone goal in Tuesday's 4-1 home loss to Montreal. Jonathan Cheechoo, who came here with Michalek, has only three goals. Ownership and management have expressed disappointment with the team's lack of grit in going to the net. General Manager Bryan Murray told the media he's looking for a power forward.
Flyers -- The Flyers are badly banged up. It's the biggest reason for their struggles -- but excessive penalty minutes, lack of consistency and a scoring drought have also been factors in their slump. Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux each had two goals against the Islanders. Richards hadn't scored in four games, Carter in six and Giroux in eight. Brilliant rookie James van Riemsdyk hasn't scored in 10 games and has only two goals since scoring against Ottawa Nov. 12.
Who's hot -- Alex Kovalev has three points in his last four games. Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson have two points in their last two games. Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell has three points in his last three games. Richards, Carter and Giroux are all coming off two-goal performances.
Injury report -- Emery had abdominal surgery on Tuesday and will miss at least six weeks. Simon Gagne had double hernia surgery in late October and is several weeks away from returning. Fourth-line center Blair Betts is out until late this month with a dislocated right shoulder. Third-line left wing Darroll Powe is out until January with a shoulder strain. Center Jared Ross suffered a concussion Nov. 28 and hasn't returned. Defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen has missed 14 games with a concussion.
Ottawa goalie Pascal Leclaire is out until later this month with a broken jaw. Chris Neil's knee injury will keep him out at least another week. Shean Donovan is sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury and Chris Neil is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Alexandre Picard has missed three games with an upper-body injury.
Stat pack -- The Flyers rank third in the NHL with 32.2 shots per game while the Senators are 15th with 29.9 shots. The Flyers are seventh in allowing only 28 shots while the Senators are ninth with 28.7. The Flyers are fourth on the power, scoring 23.4 percent of the time, while the Senators are 23rd with a 17.5 success rate. The Senators are 13th in penalty-killing at 81.2 percent while the Flyers are 25th at 77.8 percent. The Flyers get 1.11 goals to every goal their opponents get in 5-on-5 play while the Senators have a 0.93-to-1 ratio.
Puck drop -- Look for a lot of traffic in front of Boucher after Senators owner Gene Melnyk criticized team leadership and Murray followed with this statement:
"We don't go to the net much, or often enough for me. I think getting behind, we've had a more difficult time creating offense than I thought we would. It's the same old story, when your best players don't play well and sort of carry the offense, you don't get it from your third and fourth lines often enough."