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Bruins-Flyers Preview @NHLdotcom
Bruins-Flyers Preview

GAME: Boston Bruins (17-21-7) at Philadelphia Flyers (28-10-8).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Philadelphia Flyers look to sweep the season series as they host the Boston Bruins at the Wachovia Center.

The Flyers have prevailed in three close games with the Bruins, and the only game not decided by one goal was a 5-3 victory Nov. 25, whe the Flyers rallied before adding an empty-net goal.

Peter Forsberg scored the tying and game-winning goals in a wild second period of that game, which saw both teams net three goals in the middle 20 minutes.

The Flyers, though, will be without Forsberg for the series finale. The Flyers leading scorer, Forsberg is expected to be out at least one game with a groin ailment he described as "nothing bad."

"It's something you have to be careful with," said Forsberg, who added he hopes to play Saturday against Pittsburgh.

With Forsberg out, coach Ken Hitchcock is expected to use center Michal Handzus between Simon Gagne and Sami Kapanen on the top line. First-line wing Mike Knuble will provide depth on the second line.

The groin injury forced Forsberg to leave after two periods of Philadelphia's 4-3 shootout loss Tuesday to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Flyers lost in the fourth round of the shootout when Gagne was stopped by Hurricanes goalie Martin Gerber, and former Flyer Rod Brind'Amour beat Antero Niittymaki.

The loss was the Flyers' second straight at home after returning from an 8-2-1 road trip.

Defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who has been out since Dec. 6 following surgery for a sports hernia, is practicing with the team and might return against the Bruins.

Pitkanen almost single-handedly defeated the Bruins in the first matchup of the season Nov. 8. He tied the game with 24 seconds remaining in regulation, then scored the game-winner 1:55 into overtime for a 4-3 victory.

The Bruins are looking to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.

After a poor start, the disappointing Bruins seemed to be on the rebound by winning six of 10 games in a three-week stretch. Boston, though, has lost three of four games againt Pacific Division teams.

Boston ended a three-game skid with a 4-3 overtime victory Monday over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Left wing Marco Sturm scored two goals for the Bruins, who won despite blowing a two-goal lead in the third period. In overtime, Sturm set up Patrice Bergeron - who assisted on Sturm's two goals - for the game-winner.

"I think you always have to find a guy on the team who maybe you click with," said Sturm, who was acquired from the San Jose Sharks in the Joe Thornton trade Nov. 30. "It's always a lot of fun playing with him."

Sturm has nine goals and eight assists in 19 games since the trade. Thornton has six goals and 24 assists.

After defeating the Ducks, Boston is 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

STANDINGS: Bruins - 41 points, 5th place, 24 PB, Northeast Division. Flyers - 64 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Bruins - Sergei Samsonov, 16 goals; Bergeron, 21 assists and 34 points; Hal Gill, 64 PIM. Flyers - Gagne, 31 goals; Forsberg, 45 assists and 60 points; Donald Brashear, 55 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Bruins - Power play: 15.8 percent (38 for 241), 22nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.7 percent (236 for 282), 11th. Flyers - Power play: 18.4 percent (51 for 277), 12th. Penalty killing: 79.8 percent (214 for 268), 25th.

GOALTENDERS: Bruins - Andrew Raycroft (7-16-2, 0 SO, 3.68 GAA); Tim Thomas (1-0-1, 0, 1.90). Flyers - Niittymaki (17-6-6, 2, 2.77);

SEASON SERIES: Flyers, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 2; Flyers, 1-0. At Boston, Jeff Carter scored the only goal of the game in the second period and Niittymaki stopped 27 shots for the shutout.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Bruins - 8-12-4 on the road; Flyers - 13-5-5 at home.

Associated Press
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