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Desperate Sabres continue trip in Philadelphia

by Adam Kimelman
SABRES (30-25-8) at FLYERS (40-17-6)

TV --
MSG-B (HD), CSN-Philadelphia (HD)

Last 10 --
Buffalo 4-3-3; Philadelphia 5-4-1

Season series -- This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season. The Flyers won the first two, one each at home and away. On Oct. 28, Jeff Carter had a goal and a pair of assists to lead the Flyers to a 6-3 victory in Philadelphia. On Jan. 11, Scott Hartnell had 2 goals and an assist and Danny Briere had a goal and 3 assists to lead the Flyers to a 5-2 win in Buffalo.

Big story -- The Flyers' recent scuffles has seen their Eastern Conference lead shrink to just three points on the Bruins. They've struggled most against desperate teams, a category the Sabres most definitely fall into. The Sabres are ninth in the East, but have multiple games in hand on the two teams ahead of them.

Team Scope:

Sabres -- The Sabres have to stop leaving points on the table if they want to climb into the top eight in the East.

Thursday's game in Carolina saw the Sabres take a pair of leads on goals by Steve Montador and Brad Boyes, but each time they allowed the 'Canes to tie the game before Jamie McBain's goal 26 seconds into OT gave Carolina the win. It was the only time the Sabres trailed all night.

"We had them in a position to seal them off," goaltender Ryan Miller told the Buffalo News. "Everything's going to matter in the end. I guess it's not so bad, but it's just like the Detroit game: We let it go."

Flyers -- Philadelphia has lost back-to-back games for the first time since late December, and has won just twice in its last six games. It's the team's worst stretch of the season -- but rather than worry, coach Peter Laviolette sees it as a good thing to go through now. He believes his team played its best when it was most desperate last season, and he's hoping these hard times bring out the best in his club.

"What it does is it forces you to examine everything," Laviolette told the team's website when asked about the current level of adversity. "You do examine conditioning, you examine your game, your system and your video and I think that's a positive thing."

Laviolette felt there was a better effort in Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs, but he's still waiting for more.

"I think that we're playing desperate teams and the competitiveness for me was better (Thursday), but the result wasn't good," he said. "It was much better than what it was (last Saturday) in Ottawa and the best it's been in the times of inconsistency and it didn't go our way."

Who's hot -- Flyers forward Kris Versteeg scored twice Thursday against the Maple Leafs, his first two-goal game since Nov 19, 2009. … Sabres forward Tyler Ennis has good memories of playing in Philadelphia. He scored there in his first NHL game, Nov. 14, 2009.

Injury report -- Flyers forwards Jeff Carter, Darroll Powe and Daniel Carcillo are recovering from the flu, and Powe and Carcillo could be available for Saturday. Carter is feeling better, but left the team Friday to attend his grandfather's funeral back in Canada. He's questionable for Saturday's game. … Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold is questionable with an upper-body injury, and center Derek Roy is gone for the season with a leg injury.

Stat pack -- The Flyers are just 1-for-23 on the power play in their last seven games. They're 3-3-1 in that stretch. In their previous seven games, they were 7-for-27 with the extra man, and went 5-2-0.

Puck drop -- Nathan Gerbe was back in the lineup Thursday after sitting out Tuesday's game against the New York Rangers. Gerbe has just 1 point in his last seven games, but has more offensive potential than the player he replaced Thursday, Rob Niedermayer.

Coach Lindy Ruff has said he'll use a rotation down the stretch, but Gerbe will be given the chance to earn a full-time spot.

"Obviously, if Nathan plays really well, it will make a tougher decision," Ruff told the Buffalo News. "I would like to see that."

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