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Flyers-Devils Preview

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers are hoping they've finally shaken their early season slump.


After a five-day layoff, the Flyers return to the ice Friday when they visit the New Jersey Devils.

The Flyers (8-15-4) have not played since losing 4-3 in a shootout to the Devils on Saturday. Despite the loss, Philadelphia recorded a point for the fourth time in five games, going 3-1-1 over that span.

Before that run, the Flyers had lost three in a row and nine of 11.

Mike Knuble and Todd Fedoruk scored, and Randy Jones had a goal and an assist Saturday for Philadelphia.

Brad Lukowich had the game-tying goal, and Zach Parise and Patrik Elias also scored for the Devils (15-9-2), who have won five straight against the Flyers.

Antero Niitymaki made his seventh straight start and had 29 saves for Philadelphia. Niitymaki, who is 4-2-2 with a 2.68 goals-against average over his last nine appearances, is seeing a lot of playing time since Robert Esche underwent surgery on Nov. 29.

"You know you're going to play a lot of games, and it's easier to prepare yourself every game and in practice," Niitymaki told the team's official Web site. "It's always fun to play a lot of games. I don't want to say it gets easier, but it's easier to prepare mentally."

Philadelphia coach John Stevens said he was using his team's long break to work on fundamentals.

"It's a really good week for us to kind of review everything and by the end of Thursday, we'll have reviewed a lot of parts of our game that need work," he said.

The layoff also gave captain Peter Forsberg a chance to travel to Arizona, where a skate company was trying to come up with a design to prevent his foot from rolling inside the boot. Forsberg, who is listed as probable for Friday's game, has struggled to find a comfortable skate since undergoing corrective surgery on his right ankle in May.

"We worked on it for a couple days," Forsberg said after practice Thursday. "I don't want to talk about if it's good or bad. We're still working on it."

The Devils have played once since their last matchup with the Flyers, beating Montreal 2-1 in overtime on Wednesday. Patrick Elias scored the game-winner on a power play with 7.3 seconds left in the extra period for New Jersey, which improved to 10-1-1 at home.

The Devils have won six straight on their home ice since a 5-2 defeat to the New York Islanders on Nov. 2.

Goalie Martin Brodeur, who is 15-9-1 with a 2.32 GAA this season, made his 19th straight start despite cutting a finger in practice on Tuesday.
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