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Emery faces old team as Flyers host Senators

by John McGourty /

SENATORS (8-5-2) at FLYERS (9-4-1)

Last 10 -- Senators 5-3-2; Flyers 6-3-1

Season series -- This is the first meeting of these teams this season. They play again in Philadelphia on Dec. 10. The Flyers visit Ottawa on Jan. 3, their first game after the Winter Classic, and again on March 23. Ottawa won three of four games last season, including a shootout victory at Philadelphia in their last meeting on April 4. The Flyers rank sixth in the Eastern Conference and the Senators are seventh.

Big story -- The Senators are stumbling despite being mostly healthy while Philadelphia is flying high, winning four in a row despite having five regulars out of the lineup.

This is the first time the Senators will oppose Flyers goalie Ray Emery, who took them to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, then struggled with emotional problems and played last season in Russia. Emery, who attended Ottawa center Jason Spezza's wedding last summer, is 9-3-1, ranks 10th with a 2.27 goals-against average and is tied for eighth with a .922 save percentage.

Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire, the No. 8 pick in the 2001 Entry Draft who came from Columbus in March, is 6-4-1, ranks 20th with a 2.71 GAA and has a .898 save percentage.

Ottawa leads the NHL in misconducts and average penalty minutes per game. Coach Clouston told them to shut up and play after Saturday's come-from-ahead loss to New Jersey, when the Senators had 39 PIMs, including two misconducts, and the Devils got all three goals on power plays.

Team Scope:

Senators -- Ottawa's 2-4-2 record in its last eight games includes four that were decided in overtime or shootouts. The Senators lost in overtime to Nashville and won in overtime against Tampa Bay. They lost a shootout to Boston and beat Edmonton in a shootout on Tuesday night. The Senators are weak defensively and in goal, ranking 19th in goals-allowed per game, while they are 11th in goals per game. The top line of Jason Spezza between Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson has 39 points, the second line has 23, the third line has 16 and the fourth line has 15 points with Shean Donovan at right wing, or 13 with Ryan Shannon there.

Second-liners Jonathan Cheechoo (1 goal) and Alexei Kovalev (4 goals, 7 points), both acquired this summer, have been disappointments. GM Bryan Murray said this week he's looking to make trades and that he's short at least one good player.

Flyers -- For the first time in four games, the Flyers hope to be able to play their top line of rookie left wing James van Riemsdyk, dynamic right wing Danny Briere with center Jeff Carter, who scored 46 goals a year ago.

Most interesting will be Emery's first appearance against his old team.

"I don't follow them that closely," Emery said this week. "I talked to few guys there. I don't keep in touch with management or anything like that. It's just a team I used to play for."

Who's hot -- Van Riemsdyk has 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) to tie Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly for the NHL rookie-scoring lead. Defenseman Matt Carle leads the NHL with a plus-14 mark. … Alfredsson had a point in nine straight games prior to being blanked by the Oilers. Alfredsson leads the Senators with 18 points on 6 goals and 12 assists. … Drop and give me 20: The Flyers are over .500 in shootouts for the first time in history thanks to Coach John Stevens policy of dividing the team in half for shootout drills. Losing team does pushups. The old ways still work in hockey.

Injury report -- Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov has missed the past five games after dislocating his elbow Oct. 28 against Florida. Philadelphia's Simon Gagne had hernias surgery on Nov. 3 and will miss the next 6-8 weeks. Van Riemsdyk suffered a broken pinkie that split open when he was hit by a shot from Carter on Saturday against St. Louis. It took 20 stitches, but he's going to try to play. Briere suffered a right quadriceps injury Oct. 27, then had the flu and is likely to return Thursday. Defenseman Ryan Parent has played only part of one of the past eight games because of a groin injury. He's doubtful for Thursday. The bad news, he had a groin injury at the end of last season. Defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen suffered a concussion Saturday and is likely to be held out a week, in accord with the team's head-injury guidelines. Briere, Tollefsen, Parent and van Riemsdyk all practiced Tuesday.

Stat pack -- The standings don't reflect it but the Flyers are the sixth-best team in the NHL, yet fourth in their division. They rank 14th in points but are sixth with a .679 percentage of points earned per game. No team has played fewer than the Flyers' 14 games. They lead the NHL by scoring on 26.6 percent of their power plays, are second with 3.57 goals per game and 34.4 shots per game, fifth in outscoring teams with 1.27-to-1 ratio in 5-on-5 play. They are also ninth-best in allowing only 2.57 goals per game. They Flyers are good, and hot right now.

Puck drop -- "They're a pressure team in the offensive zone, they skate very well and obviously they have a few injuries but, to me, that's a very dangerous team. They've got guys coming up who want to prove themselves and we're going to have to skate and compete to beat these guys tonight." -- Senators coach Cory Clouston describes the Flyers.

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