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Game Day Preview

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: Philadelphia Flyers (10-3-6-0) at Toronto Maple Leafs (7-10-2-0).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

If their starting goalie wasn't playing so well, the Philadelphia Flyers might have another goaltending controversy on their hands.

Roman Cechmanek figures to be back in net as the defensive-minded Flyers try to extend a five-game unbeaten streak in a matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Backup goalie Robert Esche turned in another strong performance Thursday with 27 saves, and Jeremy Roenick scored on the power play with 7:29 left in regulation as the Flyers skated to a 2-2 tie with the San Jose Sharks.
Tie Domi congratulates Belfour after his second shutout of the season.
Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHLI

"The only reason we had a chance to be there was because of our goaltending," Roenick said.

Esche, acquired in an offseason trade with Phoenix, is 3-0-2 in his five starts with a 1.60 goals-against average. He hasn't allowed a goal in the third period in any of his six games played.

Philadelphia always seems to have an unsettled goaltending situation, but Esche has little chance to take the starting job away from Cechmanek, who is also playing very well. Cechmanek, 7-3-4 with a 1.96 goals-against average, has allowed two goals or fewer in nine of his past 10 appearances.

It is a good thing the Flyers are getting strong goaltending and have the NHL's best defense because their offense has struggled of late. They have scored only nine goals during the current 1-0-4 streak, totaling 14 in the past nine games.

One Flyer that needs to pick up his scoring is right wing Mark Recchi, who has only two goals in his last 16 outings. Centers Michal Handzus and Keith Primeau also are looking to end droughts, having failed to score a goal in nine and eight straight games, respectively.

Maple Leafs goalie Ed Belfour has elevated his play of late after a slow start, helping Toronto win three of its last four games.

Belfour made 29 saves for his second shutout of the season Tuesday as the Leafs beat the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins 2-0.

Belfour struggled in his first month with his new team, but he's stopped 94 of the last 98 shots he's faced.

"I definitely feel like I'm in a groove," Belfour said. "I'm getting used to the guys. Our defensive timing is getting better."

Toronto was able to win Tuesday without right wing Alexander Mogilny and center Alyn McCauley. Mogilny, the team's leading scorer, has a sore neck while McCauley has been bothered by a sore groin.

Coach Pat Quinn said he expects both Mogilny and McCauley to play Saturday, but the team learned defenseman Bryan McCabe will be out two-to-four weeks with a cracked bone in his right foot.

McCabe, second on the Leafs with over 24 minutes of ice time a game, had one goal and six assists in 18 games this season.

"He was starting to round into form and playing like the Bryan that we knew last year," Quinn said.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 21): Flyers - 26 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division. Maple Leafs - 16 points, 4th place, 12 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - John LeClair, 11 goals and 17 points; Justin Williams, Simon Gagne and Kim Johnsson, 9 assists; Donald Brashear, 37 PIM.

Maple Leafs - Mogilny, 10 goals and 21 points; Mogilny, Mats Sundin and Robert Svehla, 11 assists; Tie Domi, 36 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 21): Flyers - Power play: 14.0 percent (14 for 100), 21st (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.6 percent (84 for 103), 23rd.

Maple Leafs - Power play: 19.8 percent (20 for 101), 5th. Penalty killing: 85.2 percent (92 for 108), 8th.

GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Cechmanek (7-3-4, 0 SO, 1.96 GAA); Esche (3-0-2, 1.58). Maple Leafs - Belfour (6-6-2, 2, 2.41); Trevor Kidd (1-4-0, 4.24).

2001-02 SEASON SERIES: Flyers, 2-1-1.

LAST MEETING: March 25; Flyers, 4-1. At Philadelphia, Primeau scored twice, and Brian Boucher, now with Phoenix, made 25 saves for the Flyers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flyers - 5-2-2-0 on the road; Maple Leafs - 5-7-1-0 at home.

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