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Power Play is the Focus as Flyers Head to New Jersey

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

Voorhees, NJ – The Philadelphia Flyers will begin a four-game road swing on Saturday in New Jersey (7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 610 WIP), and one facet of their game they are trying to improve upon in time for the Atlantic Division matchup is the power play.

Although the penalty killing has been superb, the power play has struggled at times, including during Wednesday's loss at home to Montreal, when the team went 0-for-8 with the man advantage. Ken Hitchcock thinks that the unit is close to where it needs to be, but has to finish on its opportunities.

"Effort is not the problem for us. We are at the final part, which is hitting the net and finishing off the rebound. We're not finishing," said Hitchcock. "We're getting it right to the beachhead, but we're not putting it in the ocean. That's something that needs to change."

Getting the shots from the point on net is the biggest adjustment that needs to be made, according to Hitchcock.

"We are getting tremendous looks and missing the net from the point with all kinds of traffic. That is something that has to change if we're going to score," he said. "The second part, for me, is that we've got to continually be aggressive to the net off of the half-wall. If we do those things, then good things are going to happen."

Peter Forsberg also thinks that the shots from the point can make the difference.

"The defensemen who shoot have got to hit the net so we get more room down low, so I think we have to start shooting from the point," said Forsberg. "We have one of the best guys in front of the net in [Mike] Knuble, so I think we've got to get more shots from the point and the play down low open up after that."

Success on the power play translates not only into points on the scoreboard, but helps momentum as well, which is always an important aspect in divisional games in which the crowds can be a factor.

"More than anything, it's supposed to give our team a lift in the momentum," said Geoff Sanderson. "Whether we score or not, if you have a good power play it filters onto the bench and gives us momentum."

Devils to Control Matchups at Continental Airlines Arena

When playing the Flyers at home, New Jersey will get to decide which of its players will take on Philadelphia's high-powered line of Forsberg, Knuble and Simon Gagne. Usually, that means John Madden will play the part of the shutdown center, a role he has made a career out of.

Still, Hitchcock will not go out of his way to avoid Madden.

"I'm not going to run from it. I'm not going to be running guys off the ice trying to get away from Madden," he said. "That means other people have to step up and do a job. That's very important."

Jeff Carter's line, which has rotated for most of this season, could provide that secondary scoring, and has generated several chances through the first four games, but has just one goal this season. That came when R.J. Umberger tallied against Montreal on Wednesday.

Carter and company are getting their chances, but the second-year player has yet to find the back of the net. Still, he's not too concerned about it.

"We just have to keep going. If we weren't getting the chances then we'd really start to worry, but we're getting them every game," said Carter. "I think it's only a matter of time before they start going in for us."

Niittymaki to Make Fourth Straight Start

Antero Niittymaki will be in net for the fourth straight game on Saturday. Niittymaki has been playing well and Hitchcock will continue with the hot hand.

"I've felt better every game so far. I only played two periods of preseason, and three full games so far, but I feel like I'm still getting better all the time. I feel better every time we play," said Niittymaki.

The second-year goaltender was asked if he was surprised that he has gotten the majority of the playing time.

"I don't think about it that much. Hitch said whoever is hot is playing, so I guess I'm not surprised."
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