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Devils host Flyers in beginning of home-and-home

by Brian Hunter
FLYERS (24-10-5) at DEVILS (10-27-2)


Last 10:
Philadelphia 7-3-0; New Jersey 2-8-0

Season series:
Third of six meetings this season and the start of a home-and-home that concludes Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. Each team has won once in its own building. Johan Hedberg made 40 saves in a 2-1 shootout win for the Devils on Nov. 27, while Mike Richards scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period of the Flyers' 5-3 victory on Dec. 4.

Big story: The race for the Presidents' Trophy is wide open this season, with a handful of teams in each conference looking like they have a legitimate shot to finish with the most points in the NHL. Philadelphia is one of the elite in the Eastern Conference and has had three days off since edging out one of its competitors in the West, picking up a 3-2 win in Detroit on Sunday.

Team Scope:

Flyers: One of last spring's playoff heroes, Michael Leighton, made a brief cameo appearance for Philadelphia and started a game against Los Angeles, but the Flyers have decided to go with the combo that got them this far while Leighton was out, sticking with rookie Sergei Bobrovsky and veteran Brian Boucher. It was Boucher who got the nod against the Red Wings and he made 25 saves as Philadelphia won in Detroit for the first time since Nov. 4, 1988.

"I don't think it was in our mind to get the win for that reason," Boucher said. "We haven't been playing well the last four games (a 1-3-0 stretch) and we wanted to get a big win."

Devils: One bounce summed up New Jersey's season in a nutshell on Tuesday when Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner scored the decisive goal in the third period on a dump-in that took a weird carom off the boards and went into the net past Hedberg, who had come out to play the puck. Just as responsible for the 2-1 loss was a sluggish start for the Devils, who had only one shot in the first period before Ilya Kovalchuk scored their lone goal early in the second.

"We have to score more," Kovalchuk said. "We can't play a first period like that, one shot. You're not going to win a lot of games when you score one goal."

Who's hot: Jeff Carter has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last four games for the Flyers. Danny Briere has 2 goals and 3 assists during the same span. … Kovalchuk has 2 goals and 1 assist in his last four games for the Devils.

Injury report:
Philadelphia forward Nikolay Zherdev (groin) is day-to-day, while defenseman Chris Pronger (foot) is on injured reserve. … New Jersey forward Jacob Josefson (hand) is skating with the team but remains on injured reserve along with forward Zach Parise (knee) and defensemen Bryce Salvador (concussion) and Matt Taormina (ankle).

Stat pack:
Scott Hartnell's goal Sunday was his 10th of the season, making him the sixth Flyer to reach double digits this season (Briere, Carter, Claude Giroux, Richards, Zherdev). … Kovalchuk's goal Tuesday was his 10th of the season, making him the first Devil to hit that mark.

Puck drop: While New Jersey deals with the question of how much Hedberg will eat into the playing time of struggling veteran Martin Brodeur, it was a difficult but necessary decision for Philadelphia in waiving Leighton, who started all six games against Chicago in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. After clearing waivers, he was assigned to Adirondack of the AHL.

"It's something that we've thought about here over the last few days," GM Paul Holmgren said. "There's really two reasons for doing this. One, it's in the best interest of the Flyers at this time, and number two, it's in the best interest of Michael. We need to get Michael playing at a higher level, and unfortunately when you have a goaltender situation like we have, it's hard to do right now."

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