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East-leading Flyers welcome in Thrashers

by Brian Hunter
THRASHERS (28-28-12) at FLYERS (42-19-6)


Last 10:
Atlanta 3-5-2; Philadelphia 4-5-1

Season series: Second of four meetings this season. Danny Briere sparked a three-goal third period for Philadelphia by scoring with 7:12 left in what ended up a 5-2 victory in Atlanta on Jan. 14. These teams will meet three times within a span of 20 days to end the month of March.

Big story: Sixty minutes hasn't been enough to decide many Thrashers games lately -- five of the last seven have gone into overtime, and one went as far as a shootout. Atlanta had come out on top in its previous three OT games before falling to New Jersey on Friday. Even still, the Thrashers crept closer to the Eastern Conference's top eight with the single point and are right back in action with the potential to close within four of a playoff berth if they win and get help.

Team Scope:

Thrashers: Special teams ended up deciding the game at Philips Arena, as Atlanta got the edge on New Jersey early in the third period when Dustin Byfgulien scored his career-high 20th goal of the season on a power play for a 2-1 lead. But former Thrasher Ilya Kovalchuk came back to haunt his old team, tying the score on a Devils power play moments later and then assisting on Travis Zajac's goal with 41.3 seconds left in overtime, his second of the game with the man advantage. Atlanta also had a power play in the extra period, but came up empty.

"You have to play smarter," said goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who finished with 27 saves. "We did not play smart enough to win the game."

Flyers: A four-game losing streak threatened Philadelphia's standing atop the Eastern Conference, but it appears the Flyers have righted the ship with consecutive wins over the Oilers and Maple Leafs. Brian Boucher stopped 27 shots while Claude Giroux set up an early power-play goal by Andrej Meszaros and scored what held up as the game-winner in their 3-2 victory in Toronto.

"Teams go through slumps, you're not happy about it," coach Peter Laviolette said on Friday. "I know the guys in here weren't happy about it, but you work at it. We did some good things against Edmonton, but not consistent enough and then we come in the game last night and probably played the best 60 minutes that we played in a while."

Who's hot: Byfuglien (2-3-5) and Blake Wheeler (3-1-4) have three-game points streaks going for the Thrashers. Tobias Enstrom has 1 goal and 3 assists during a four-game points streak. … Giroux has consecutive multi-point efforts for the Flyers, while Jeff Carter has 4 goals and 4 assists over his last seven games.

Injury report: Atlanta forward Patrice Cormier is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Forward Jim Slater (concussion) and defenseman Freddy Meyer (head) are on injured reserve. … Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger is day-to-day with a bruised right hand, while defenseman Oskars Bartulis (shoulder) is expected to miss the rest of the season.

Stat pack: Byfuglien and Enstrom each picked up his 50th point on Friday, tying Atlanta's single-season franchise record for a defenseman set by Enstrom last season. … Kris Versteeg, acquired by the Flyers on Feb. 14, recorded 1 goal and 5 points against the Thrashers this season while playing for the Maple Leafs.

Puck drop:
A three-game road trip awaits Philadelphia after this game with stops in Florida, Atlanta and Dallas, so picking up a win at the Wells Fargo Center takes on importance.

"We go on the road for a week so we definitely want to get those two points and have a big effort at home," forward Scott Hartnell said.

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