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New Year Begins in Newark

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers try to end losing streak in New Jersey

Related content: Flyers-Devils Preview/Game Notes

(Voorhees, NJ) – The city of Newark, New Jersey isn’t exactly high on the list of favorable destinations for a weekend getaway. So far this season, the Philadelphia Flyers would certainly agree.

Philadelphia is 0-2 in the beautiful new Prudential Center, having lost there 4-1 on November 8 and 4-2 on December 16. Those two losses make it 10 straight in North Jersey dating back to March 9, 2004.

With the Atlantic Division as tight as it is, the Flyers would love to put an end to that run of futility on Friday night (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).

“New Jersey [has] played us well the last few games,” said Scott Hartnell. “They are frustrating to play against, so we have to dictate what’s going on and the pace of the play.”
Martin Biron and the Flyers will look to end a 10-game losing streak in New Jersey on Friday. (Getty Images)

“They probably feel confident playing against us, but we have to find a way to break that,” added Danny Briere.

In a theme that is being repeated up and down NHL cities on the East Coast, the standings in the Eastern Conference remain unbelievably close at what is almost the midway point of the season. It is even more so in the Atlantic Division, where, should the playoffs begin right now, all five teams would qualify.

The Flyers, who currently sit in the seventh position in the conference, have experienced both the view from the top early in the season, and the bottom more recently, where they were in 13th place before their current three-game winning streak began last Thursday.

“You can’t go through a lapse for a couple games; we all have seen how the standings change,” said Head Coach John Stevens after practice on Thursday.

“The whole conference is jam packed right now, and in our division the five teams are in the top eight. That’s crazy to see,” said R.J. Umberger. “One game can really move you up or down, and you have to play each game like it’s going to get you into the playoffs. These points right now are going to be big at the end of the road.”

Briere isn’t used to the logjam, either. His Buffalo Sabres of last season led virtually from start to finish in running away with the Eastern Conference. That may have hurt that club in the long run, though, as they lost in the conference finals to the Ottawa Senators.

“In the second half, we were playing games to get rid of them and move on. You kind of lose your edge,” he explained. “I think it’s a good thing to have right now. Every game we play is very important and you can’t look past everybody because there’s so much parity and everybody is so close. I see it as a very positive thing.

“We’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re in control. If we play well, we’re going to make the playoffs and be a good seed. If we don’t, we might be in trouble down the stretch. We’ve had some inconsistent play, but we’ve had periods where we’ve played extremely well, also. It’s fun to be in that position where we can control our own destiny.”

Jones and Kapanen recover, Smith and Upshall out

Defenseman Randy Jones will be back in the lineup Friday after recovering from his knee injury, as will Sami Kapanen, who missed Wednesday’s practice with the flu but was back on Thursday.

Jason Smith (leg injury) and Scottie Upshall (sprained ankle), however, will not play on Friday, according to Stevens. Ditto Simon Gagne (concussion), who hopes to return for one of the Flyers’ two road games next week in Atlanta on Tuesday or the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Steve Downie was recalled from the Phantoms on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

Defenseman Kimmo Timonen was the latest to get hit with the flu bug as he missed Thursday’s practice, but Stevens is hopeful he will be ready to play Friday.

Downie, Ruzicka recalled

Steve Downie was recalled on Wednesday, while Stefan Ruzicka was brought back on Thursday. Both should be in the lineup on Friday.

Stevens was asked if Downie will stick around longer this time after he played two games with the club earlier in the season.

“He’s played extremely well [with the Phantoms] and gotten himself in better shape and it looks like he’s moving better. He’s got an opportunity to come in here and play.

“The challenge with any young player is, can they do it every night? Can they come mentally ready to play every night? That’s usually the difference between being here and not being ready. If he plays well and continues to improve, he’ll get a chance to stay longer.”

Goaltenders announced

Stevens said that goaltender Martin Biron will start in net on Friday, while Antero Niittymaki will face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
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