Updated: Friday, April 7, 11:45 am
Voorhees, NJ – With the regular season winding down, the Flyers will try to do something they have not done yet: defeat the Buffalo Sabres (8:00 p.m, UPN).
The Sabres have had the Flyers' number this season, winning all three games. However, the teams' last meeting of the year could be the most significant with playoff implications on the line. In fact, Philadelphia could very well end up back at HSBC Arena in the postseason.
Buffalo currently sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 100 points followed by the Flyers who have 93 points, setting up a possible first round playoff matchup.
"With seven games left, winding down to the end of the season, you don't know if you're going to be playing this team in the first round or later on," said captain Derian Hatcher. "We all know we haven't beaten them this year, so there's a lot at stake."
In the three games this year, the Flyers have played the Sabres close, losing 2-1, 4-2, and 6-5. In order to win, they cannot get into a chance-for-chance battle.
"They have a lot of skill offensively," said Simon Gagne. "We don't want to try and beat them by scoring more goals. We need to play our game. Last time they came into our building, we opened it up a little too much for them. We need to play our game; a tight game."
Ken Hitchcock announced Friday morning that the Flyers will be without leading scorer Peter Forsberg. Forsberg sat out Thursday's practice with what he termed a left groin problem.
"I've had problems with the left groin all year, but it's not exactly the same spot," said Forsberg.
"The one thing I've learned this season is nothing is behind us," said Hitchcock about the team's numerous injuries this season. "We just roll with whatever shows up. Once you seem to have injuries, you never seem to get out of it."
However, Hitchcock knows not to read too much into any possible injury, saying: "We've learned not to overreact when a guy misses practice. It's about the games."
Also missing the game will be Petr Nedved, who will be out for the third straight game with a right groin strain. Nedved re-aggravated an earlier injury to his groin in a game on April 1 against New Jersey. Rookie Ryan Potulny will make his debut.
"Every day he's with us, we're more and more impressed," said Hitchcock of Potulny. "There is an upside to this. We can get a real good look at him in a pretty intense hockey game."
The Flyers will have to give a strong defensive performance against Buffalo, as the Sabres currently rank sixth in the NHL with 251 goals scored.
"You have to play a great sound defensive game," said Hitchcock. "You know you're going to give up chances, but they are never out of the game. If we play better defensively, it will give us a better chance to do stuff offensively."
One thing is for certain: Robert Esche will start tomorrow, and Antero Niittymaki will play Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7:00 p.m., CSN) when the team returns home from its three-game road trip.