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Canadiens-Flyers Preview @NHLdotcom
Canadiens-Flyers Preview

GAME: Montreal Canadiens (21-19-6) at Philadelphia Flyers (30-11-8).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

Having finally posted a much-needed home win, the Philadelphia Flyers appear to have a good chance to get another when they take on the Montreal Canadiens.

Philadelphia went 8-2-1 on its grueling 11-game road trip which ended on Jan. 12, but returned home to lose three straight at the Wachovia Center.

The Flyers bounced back with a 2-1 win at Pittsburgh on Saturday, and ended their home woes with a 4-2 victory over the Penguins on Monday. It was Philadelphia's first win at home since Dec. 22.

With Montreal coming to town, the Flyers are presented with a good opportunity to post back-to-back wins at the Wachovia Center for the first time since beating New Jersey and Calgary on Nov. 30 and Dec. 6, respectively.

The Canadiens, who are halfway through a six-game road trip, have lost seven in a row away from home. They've won only once in their last 17 road games, getting outscored 68-37 during that span.

Also playing in the Flyers' favor is they have Peter Forsberg back in the lineup. He missed two games because of an abdominal muscle strain, but returned Monday and assisted on Mike Knuble's go-ahead goal with 2:05 remaining.

"We've struggled at home, so this was really good for our confidence," said goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who stopped 22 shots.

Niittymaki was back in net to rest No. 1 goalie Robert Esche, who returned to the lineup in Saturday's win. Esche, who was out since Dec. 15 with a groin injury, is 12-4-2 this season and may start again Wednesday.

Petr Nedved scored his first goal as a Flyer on the power play Monday, playing in his second game for Philadelphia since being acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes.

"Nedved is a really good addition for us right now. He's exactly what we need," said Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock. "(This is) two games in a row where the second unit on the power play scored goals, which has really helped us a lot. I am not sure where the line combinations are going to go yet but I know Petr is a good player."

Simon Gagne added an empty-net goal with 5 seconds left, tying his career high of 33 goals set in 2001-02. He has four goals and seven assists in his last seven games.

Despite losing the only meeting this season with Montreal, the Flyers have won seven of their last nine against the Canadiens, outscoring them 31-15.

Montreal is coming off a 7-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night.

Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec had two goals and an assist in his return after missing 14 games with a knee injury.

"We had a good start and things were going well," said center Steve Begin, who assisted on Plekanec's first goal. "And suddenly we just gave up and didn't stick with the game plan. ... It's 60 minutes. If you quit after five minutes, the game's over."

The Canadiens have allowed 13 goals in the last two games and are 2-3 since general manager Bob Gainey took over for fired coach Claude Julien.

Goalie Jose Theodore was pulled for a second straight game after allowing five goals on 18 shots. He is 0-3-0 with a 7.68 goals-against average on the current road trip, and is 5-9-3 away from home this season.

STANDINGS: Canadiens - 48 points, 4th place, 22 PB, Northeast Division. Flyers - 68 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 20 goals; Saku Koivu, 23 assists; Koivu, 35 points; Begin, 93 PIM. Flyers - Gagne, 33 goals; Forsberg, 46 assists and 61 points; Donald Brashear, 57 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 23): Canadiens - Power play: 18.9 percent (51 for 270), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.9 percent (233 for 288), 20th. Flyers - Power play: 18.8 percent (55 for 293), 11th. Penalty killing: 80.1 percent (226 for 282), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (16-14-5, 0 SO, 3.37 GAA); Cristobal Huet (2-3-1, 2.85). Flyers - Esche (12-4-2, 3.03); Niittymaki (18-7-6, 2, 2.82).

SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 25; Canadiens, 3-2, OT. At Montreal, Mike Ribeiro scored his second goal of the game in overtime.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 7-13-4 on the road; Flyers - 14-6-5 at home.

Associated Press

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