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Battered Bruins come to Philadelphia

by John McGourty

BRUINS (29-24-12) at FLYERS (35-26-4)

Last 10 -- Boston 6-2-2; Philadelphia 7-2-1

Season series -- It's the fourth and final meeting between the two teams, but the first since Boston's 2-1 overtime victory on Jan. 1 in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park. The Flyers won the first two meetings, 4-3 in a shootout at home on Oct. 22 and 3-1 at Boston on Dec. 14 -- the first really good game the team played under new coach Peter Laviolette.

Big story -- The Flyers and Bruins, the sixth- and eighth-place teams in the Eastern Conference, are trending in opposite directions -- and it's the home team, the Flyers, that's trending upward. The Flyers are healthy, with the exception of injured starting goalie Ray Emery who is out for the season. The Bruins, Eastern Conference champs a year ago, are the lowest-scoring team in the NHL and have battled all season to qualify for a playoff spot. Their best offensive player, Marc Savard, has missed 23 games with separate foot and knee injuries and won't even get half of the 88 points he put up last season. In fact, he may not play at all for the rest of the season after suffering a concussion on Sunday -- the fourth reported concussion of his career.

Team Scope:

Bruins -- With Savard out, Patrice Bergeron has to step up as the Bruins' No. 1 center. He's having a good season with 13 goals and 40 points in 57 games. Jeff Penner was called up from Providence in Chara's absence while Dennis Wideman and Mark Stuart were the top defensive pairing for Boston against Toronto in Tuesday's 4-3 OT loss. David Krejci centers the second line, Vladimir Sobotka is in the middle on the third line and Steve Begin continues centering the fourth line. It may be time to take a look at center Zach Hamill, their first-round pick, eighth overall, in 2006, now second in scoring for the AHL Providence Bruins.

Flyers -- Left wing Simon Gagne, 30, is going for a "hat trick" of sorts, his third-straight game-winning goal. Gagne had the game-winner Sunday against Toronto and again on Tuesday against the Islanders. Like Savard, Gagne missed a lot of games (24) earlier this season. After playing in pain for the first 10 games, Gagne had hernia surgeries and missed 24 games. A lot has been made this season about Gagne's decline, he's on pace for 44 points after 74 a year ago. But the Flyers' two-time leading scorer is putting up 0.78 points per game, down very slightly from his career average of 0.80 ppg.

Who's hot -- Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has three points in three games. Sturm and March Recchi each have three points in two games. … Gagne has 5 goals and an assist in the Flyers' first five games after the Olympic break. Jeff Carter has eight points in seven games. Danny Briere has eight points in eight games. Michael Leighton is 15-3-2 with a 2.28 goals-against average for the Flyers.

Injury report -- Savard, Boston's No. 1 center, is out with a concussion sustained on Sunday and may not be back for the rest of the regular season. Chara didn't play Tuesday or skate Wednesday due to a lower-body injury. The Bruins have also been without Ference (groin) and goalie Tuukka Rask (knee). … The Flyers activated defenseman Oskars Bartulis from injured reserve on Tuesday, giving them seven defensemen, 14 forwards and two goalies, though Emery won't be back this season.

Stat pack -- Winning teams need contributions from everyone, and the Flyers have that. Philadelphia is 30-13-3 with fourth-line center Blair Betts in the lineup, and 5-13-1 without him. The Flyers are 33-12-2 with Darroll Powe in the lineup, and 2-14-2 without him. Powe has spent the season on the third and fourth lines.

Puck drop -- Only six active goalies have won the Stanley Cup -- Martin Brodeur, Nikolai Khabibulin, Chris Osgood, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Cam Ward and
Marc-Andre Fleury. Of those, only Brodeur and Fleury are starting for teams in playoff position but Osgood could once again rise from discard bin. That means at least 13 teams will enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs with question marks in net. You're always a question mark until you win. Leighton, a waiver acquisition from Carolina after Emery got hurt, has played better than anyone could ask and the team plays in front of him -- but he's in the unenviable position of playing in a goalie graveyard, Philadelphia. The questions about whether he's good enough are rivaling complaints about the Eagles on sports talk radio and in the papers. His Flyers stats rank with the league leaders. But only time will tell how he'll do in the playoffs.

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