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Flyers aim for home-and-home sweep of Devils

by Brian Hunter

DEVILS (10-28-2) at FLYERS (25-10-5)


Last 10:
New Jersey 1-9-0; Philadelphia 7-3-0

Season series:
Fourth of six meetings between these Atlantic Division rivals, who conclude a home-and-home that started with Philadelphia's 4-2 win over New Jersey on Thursday. The Flyers have now taken two of three against the Devils, including the only previous game played at the Wells Fargo Center.

Big story: Jamie Langenbrunner didn't suit up for Thursday's game as rumors swirled the Devils would trade their captain, perhaps to the Flyers. The latter part didn't come true, but New Jersey did indeed move Langenbrunner -- back to the team where he started his career, the Dallas Stars. The deal netted the Devils a conditional draft pick and could be the first of several with the team well out of the playoff race and last in the overall NHL standings.

Team Scope:

The month of December produced just two wins for New Jersey -- one of them coming on New Year's Eve -- and as the Devils prepare to play their fourth game in January they're still searching for their first winning effort in 2011. Despite taking a pair of one-goal leads over the Flyers on Thursday courtesy of tallies by Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson, they couldn't get Jacques Lemaire his second victory since returning as coach.

"It's been the same thing the whole year," said Johan Hedberg, who made a second straight start in goal. "We're trying and we're trying and every time we do something good, it comes back and they do something else. It's extremely frustrating."

He added: "We're just not getting any breaks whatsoever. We are working harder. I think we're working smarter. Sooner or later, it will have to turn around."

Flyers: Stymied for the better part of two periods by Hedberg and New Jersey, two players were largely responsible for Philadelphia's turnaround in garnering two points. Scott Hartnell scored a pair of second-period goals 3:08 apart to answer first Zubrus and then Clarkson, and send the game into the third in a 2-2 deadlock. Danny Briere took it from there, putting the Flyers ahead for the first time at 2:48 and adding insurance at the 11:34 mark.

"It was fun the way our line was able to come out and get a couple of key goals," said Briere, who has a team-leading 20 goals.

Who's hot:
Patrik Elias has 1 goal and 2 assists in his last three games and a team-leading 27 points for the Devils. … Hartnell has 4 goals in as many games for the Flyers, while Briere has 4 goals and 3 assists in his last five games. Ville Leino had 3 assists Thursday and is a plus-7 over his last four games.

Injury report:
New Jersey has forwards Zach Parise (knee) and Jacob Josefson (hand) and defensemen Bryce Salvador (concussion) and Matt Taormina (ankle) on injured reserve. … Philadelphia forward Nikolay Zherdev is day-to-day with a groin strain, while defenseman Chris Pronger is on injured reserve following surgery on his right foot.

Stat pack:
As the Devils reach the midway point with their 41st game, they already have one more regulation loss than they suffered the entire 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. … The reunited line of Briere, Hartnell and Leino combined for 4 goals, 7 points and a plus-8 rating on Thursday.

Puck drop: In each of his last two starts, Hedberg has been victimized by a bad bounce -- Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner got his first NHL goal, the game-winner, when his shot took an unexpected carom off the boards Tuesday, and Hartnell's first goal on Thursday resulted from a dump-in by Leino that took a weird diagonal bounce off the end boards and eluded Hedberg, giving Hartnell an open net.

"Second game in a row," Hedberg said. "I've never seen that bounce, ever. From that angle with the puck and the way it came out, with as fast as it came out, I've never seen it. It just keeps happening game after game."

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