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Flyers bringing out the best in Ovechkin

by John Kreiser
There must be something about seeing orange-and-black jerseys that gets Alex Ovechkin's juices going.

"The Great 8" had his second two-goal game of the season against Philadelphia during Washington's 4-2 home win over the Flyers Tuesday. He also had a pair in a 6-5 OT loss in Philadelphia three weeks earlier. He now has 18 goals in 18 regular-season games against the Flyers -- his best per-game showing against any team. Philadelphia is the only team he's faced 10 or more times and averaged a goal a game.

But the Flyers aren’t his only victim. Ovechkin's not bad against teams that have "Thrashers" on the front, too.

He scored twice and added an assist Thursday in Washington's 4-2 victory at Atlanta, giving him 25 goals in 32 career games against the Thrashers. He has more goals against Atlanta than any other opponent -- and is tied with Vincent Lecavalier for the most goals ever scored against Atlanta. Lecavalier, however, needed 55 games to get those 25 goals.

More Ovi -- Ovechkin has only a three-goal lead in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy, but he's already running away with the lead in shots on goal. His 78 shots in 12 games were 27 more than runner-up Jeff Carter of the Flyers, who had 51 in 10. Even more distressing for goaltenders: Ovechkin's shooting percentage is 16.7 -- his career best is 14.3 in 2007-08, when he scored 65 goals.

Another amazing Ovi accomplishment: He entered the weekend 10th in the NHL in hits with 36. None of the nine players ahead of him has more that 4 goals, and all of them together have 19.

Road warriors -- "On the road again. Just can't wait to get on the road again ... "

Don't blame the New Jersey Devils for channeling their inner Willie Nelson. For the Devils, the road is the place to be.

Thursday night's 2-1 victory at Boston gave the Devils a 6-0-0 record away from the Prudential Center, the best road start in franchise history. The Devils had never started the season with more than four road wins.

In contrast, home has been a horror show. New Jersey is just 1-4-0 at "The Rock," and while the Devils have outscored opponents 18-11 on the road (not counting shootouts), they've been outscored 16-9 in their five home games.

Nowhere is the difference between the road Devils and home Devils more marked than on special teams. New Jersey's power play is running at 25 percent efficiency on the road (4-for-16), but is just 3-for-26 (11.5 percent) at home. The penalty-killers have allowed just 3 goals in 22 chances (86.4 percent) on the road, but have surrendered 5 goals in 18 tries at the Prudential Center (72.2 percent).

The Devils will need to fix their play at home by Thanksgiving. They play seven of their next 12 games away from home, but from Nov. 28 through Dec. 18, nine of the Devils' 10 games are at the Prudential Center.

Road worriers -- In contrast to the Devils, the Minnesota Wild would be happy to stay home for all 82 games.

The Wild have already made a couple sizeable road trips -- and paid the price. The Wild enter the weekend 0-9-0 on the road, making them the first team to go without a road victory that far into the season since 1996-97, when Pittsburgh lost its first eight road games and went 0-11-1 before winning away from home.

At home, Minnesota is 3-1-0, though the Wild dropped their most recent home game to Nashville on Wednesday night.

Handy Andy -- Who was the best free-agent signing of the summer? It's easy to make a case for Colorado's decision to sign goaltender Craig Anderson, who's been the centerpiece of the best start in Avalanche history -- one season after the Avs crashed to the bottom of the Western Conference.

Anderson tied an NHL record on Wednesday when he earned his 10th victory in October as Colorado rallied for a 3-2 win at Calgary. He tied the mark set by Detroit's Manny Legace with in 2005 (one of Anderson's wins came in the shootout; Legace's 10 wins were shootout-free). He can break the mark tonight when the Avs visit San Jose.

At 10-1-2, the Avs have gotten to 10 wins faster than in any season since moving to Colorado in 1995 -- they needed 14 in both of their Stanley Cup seasons -- and much faster than last season, when they needed 21 games to reach double figures.

Anderson is the biggest reason for their success. The Avs have been outshot in 11 of the 13 games, including 49-23 on Saturday in a 3-1 win over Detroit and 32-14 in Wednesday's 3-2 win at Calgary. But with Anderson posting a .940 save percentage, the Avs have thrived despite being outshot by 7.6 shots per game (25.6 shots for, 33.2 against).

Also impressive is that the Avs have enjoyed this kind of success coming off their worst season since moving from Quebec -- and while spending most of the month on the road. The Avs went 4-1-2 on a seven-game trip, and when they finish a four-game trip in Vancouver on Sunday night, they'll have played 11 of their first 15 on the road.

Half a loaf -- The good news for the Detroit Red Wings when they left Rexall Place Thursday night was that they got a point in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers in a game they trailed 4-0 and 5-1. The bad news is they can't find a way to beat the Oilers in a shootout.

Detroit has a point in each of its last 12 regular-season meetings with the Oilers. But The Wings own just seven wins in those games because they Oilers have won five times in the breakaway competition. Edmonton's last regulation win over Detroit was just over three years ago -- a 3-1 victory on Oct. 22, 2006.

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