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Flyers-Blues Preview @NHLdotcom
Flyers-Blues Preview

GAME: Philadelphia Flyers (18-8-4) at St. Louis Blues (6-18-4).

TIME: Saturday, 8 p.m. EST.

The St. Louis Blues have learned the hard way that some losses are more costly than others.

The Blues hope to survive without two key players when they host the Philadelphia Flyers.

St. Louis will be without left wing Keith Tkachuk and goaltender Curtis Sanford, both of whom were injured in Friday's 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues have lost seven of their last nine games following their only winning streak of the season and allowed five goals for the fourth time in their last five games.

Now the Blues lose Tkachuk, considered a possible member of the U.S. Olympic team, for a least four weeks with broken knuckles on his right hand. He was hit by a shot taken by Blackhawks defenseman Jim Vandermeer early in the second period.

Going into Friday's game, Tkachuk had a seven-game point-scoring streak in which he had eight goals and seven assists after missing six weeks due to cracked ribs.

"He's been playing great hockey for us," said teammate Doug Weight. "Since he's been back, he's been really carrying us. I don't know what to say. It's disheartening."

The Blues also lost Sanford, who sustained a hip flexor pull in a second-period collision with teammate Eric Weinrich.

Since being recalled Nov. 12 from the AHL, Sanford had a 3-5-0 record with 3.00 goals-against average and two shutouts. It is uncertain how long Sanford will be sidelined.

The Blues waived struggling goalie Patrick Lalime on Monday. They replaced him with Jason Bacashihua, who stopped 14 of 16 shots Friday and likely will start this game.

Philadelphia, which has won four of its last five road games, has been successful despite a season-long spate of injuries. The Flyers are without Eric Desjardins (shoulder surgery), Keith Primeau (concussion), Simon Gagne (groin tear) and Joni Pitkanen (torn abdominal muscle).

The Flyers lost three more players in Thursday's 5-4 loss to Vancouver. Starting goaltender Robert Esche and rookie forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter did not finish the game. After aggravating a groin injury, Esche is questionable for this game.

"We just got to suck it up," said Sami Kapanen, who plays both forward and defense depending on the Flyers needs. "Obviously, it gets harder and harder when guys are going down. Hopefully, we'll get some of the guys back pretty soon."

Philadelphia has won six of its last seven meetings with St. Louis, outscoring the Blues 30-14. The Flyers have won four straight games at St. Louis since a 3-2 defeat Feb. 29, 2000.

STANDINGS: Flyers - 40 points, 2nd place, 4 PB, Atlantic Division. Blues - 16 points, 5th place, 29 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - Gagne, 23 goals; Peter Forsberg, 32 assists and 42 points; Pitkanen, 42 PIM. Blues - Mike Sillinger and Dean McAmmond, 9 goals; Weight, 17 assists and 23 points; Jamal Mayers, 53 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Flyers - Power play: 18.6 percent (36 for 193), 10th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 77.4 percent (144 for 186), 30th. Blues - Power play: 14.7 percent (29 for 204), 27th (tied). Penalty killing: 80.7 percent (143 for 177), 24th.

GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Esche (11-4-2, 0 SO, 3.14 GAA); Antero Niittymaki (7-4-2, 1, 2.98). Blues - Bacashihua (0-0-0, 0, 3.50); Sanford (3-4-0, 2, 2.89).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Flyers, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 30, 2003; Flyers, 7-2. At St. Louis, Mark Recchi and Jeremy Roenick scored two goals each in a Flyers romp.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flyers - 6-3-2 on the road; Blues - 4-10-2 at home.

Associated Press
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