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Devils try to close strong vs. Flyers

by Adam Kimelman
FLYERS (46-21-10) at DEVILS (35-36-5)


Last 10: Flyers 4-2-4; Devils 5-4-1

Season series: This will be the sixth and final meeting between the Atlantic Division rivals. New Jersey won the season's first game, Philadelphia won three straight, and then New Jersey won their most recent meeting 3-1 in Philadelphia behind a pair of goals by Patrik Elias.

Big story: Philadelphia will be aiming for a quick turnaround after a disappointing 1-0 loss in Atlanta on Thursday. The Flyers put 43 shots on net, but couldn't beat Chris Mason and saw their lead atop the Eastern Conference dwindle to one point ahead of the Washington Capitals.

With their playoff hopes over, New Jersey is trying to end its season on a positive note, and there's nothing more positive than hurting the playoff fortunes of one of your chief rivals.

Team Scope:

Flyers: Philadelphia was hoping to build on Tuesday's big win against the Penguins, but couldn't solve Mason. The 43 shots the Flyers fired were the most in team history in a shutout since a game in 1980 against Washington.

The game's only goal was a puck off Nik Antropov's skate and into the net that was upheld after a review. The Flyers went 0-for-5 on the power play and had a chance in the game's final seconds to tie it up, but Jeff Carter hit the post with a nearly empty net with 4.7 seconds left.

"It's tough when you throw everything at the net and they get a lucky bounce and get the goal," captain Mike Richards said.

Devils: Coach Jacques Lemaire said New Jersey's season shouldn't be defined by their awful start or amazing second-half run. It's how they play in their final six games, starting Friday against the Flyers, that will speak volumes about their season.

"I'd like to put pressure on these guys a little bit and say that the last games that we have to play from here on (will be the best way to judge the season)," Lemaire told The (Bergen) Record. "It would be very simple just to say that, 'Hey, we came back. We did well up to now. It's fine.' But it will be fine if we play well from now until the end.

"We've got to win some games there. That's what I'm saying. You can't go on and lose all of them to get a good feeling to end the season on a more positive note."

Who's hot: Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last five games, and the New Jersey native has 3 goals in five games this season against the Devils. … Elias may have just 1 point in his last seven games, but he always gets up against Philadelphia. In 69 games against the Flyers, he has 67 points.

Injury report: Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger suffered a setback in his recovery from a broken hand and likely won't play again until the postseason. Forward Jody Shelley is recovering from surgery to repair a broken left orbital bone. … Devils forward Zach Parise, out since October with a knee injury that required surgery, will miss Friday's game but said he should be ready to go Saturday against Montreal. Defenseman Colin White also won't play Saturday, due to a lower-body injury, but fellow blueliner Anton Volchenkov could return.

Stat pack: Philadelphia's 21 home wins are fifth in the Eastern Conference, but Thursday's loss extended its home winless streak to five. The Flyers are they're just 1-4-3 in their last eight home games -- however, they have set a franchise record for road wins with 25.

Puck drop: Parise hasn't played since Oct. 30, so you would expect he'd be champing at the bit to get back into a game. So could he play Friday? He thinks so, but instead will make his return Saturday against Montreal.

"There is (temptation), but we'll stick with what we planned," Parise told The (Bergen) Record.

That would give him five games to head into the summer with a positive feeling. They will be Parise's final five games until next season; he said he's informed USA Hockey he will not play in the World Championship.

"I decided that wouldn't be a good idea," he told the New York Post. "There are a couple of different reasons. It has a lot to do with (upcoming restricted free agency). It has to do with the injury."

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