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Flyers-Canadiens Preview @NHLdotcom
Flyers-Canadiens Preview

GAME: Philadelphia Flyers (31-14-9) at Montreal Canadiens (24-22-6).

TIME: Sunday, 1 p.m. EST.

Cristobal Huet has gone from being a forgotten backup goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens to their starting netminder in less than two weeks.

He will try to win consecutive starts for the first time in nearly two years as the Canadiens host the Philadelphia Flyers.

The 30-year-old Huet was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings before the lockout that canceled the 2004-05 season as a stopgap measure while the Canadiens groomed Yann Danis to be their eventual starter.

After turning in solid relief performances Jan. 21 and 23 of struggling Jose Theodore, coach Bob Gainey has turned to Huet.

Huet has responded with a pair of strong performances as the Canadiens split a home-and-home series with the Boston Bruins. He had 35 saves in Saturday's 2-0 win, including a crucial save on Sergei Samsonov in the final minute that preserved a 1-0 lead.

"We showed a lot of guts and made some desperation plays, we had guys going down to block shots, it was crazy," Huet said of the frantic final minute. "I stopped the puck with my stick, then it almost hit me and went in, but it stayed out. I was a bit lucky too, I have to admit, but I'll take it."

It was Huet's first shutout since Feb. 23, 2004, when he shut out the Nashville Predators as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. He has not won consecutive starts since sweeping the Phoenix Coyotes in a home-and-home series March 9-10, 1994.

Huet has allowed three goals or less in his last nine appearances, including six starts, and has a .921 save percentage for the season.

The Flyers are in one of their worst slumps of the season, going 1-3-1 in their last five games after a 4-3 overtime loss Saturday to the New York Rangers that knocked Philadelphia out of first place in the Atlantic Division.

Already playing without center Peter Forsberg (groin), former captain Keith Primeau (concussion), and defensemen Eric Desjardins (shoulder) and Kim Johnsson (concussion symptoms), the Flyers lost center Petr Nedved (groin) and defensemen Chris Therrien (head injury).

"We are fighting through a lot of adversity," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We lost a couple more guys and guys are digging in."

Mike Knuble scored twice for his first multi-goal game since Dec. 17 and has 23 goals and 21 assists in 53 lifetime games against the Canadiens.

Philadelphia is 3-4-3 in its last 10 games after going 8-2-1 on an 11-game road trip.

STANDINGS: Flyers - 71 points, 2nd place, 1 PB, Atlantic Division. Canadiens - 54 points, 4th place (tied), 21 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - Simon Gagne, 35 goals; Forsberg, 47 assists and 62 points; Knuble, 62 PIM. Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 20 goals; Saku Koivu, 24 assists and 38 points; Steve Begin, 95 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Flyers - Power play: 17.7 percent (56 for 317), 15th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.9 percent (247 for 309), 24th. Canadiens - Power play: 18.4 percent (54 for 294), 11th. Penalty killing: 80.4 percent (262 for 326), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Robert Esche (13-6-3, 0 SO, 3.10 GAA); Antero Niittymaki (18-8-6, 2, 2.92). Canadiens - Huet (4-5-1, 1, 2.68); Jose Theodore (17-15-5, 0, 3.46).

SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 25; Canadiens, 5-3. At Philadelphia, Jan Bulis capped his first four-goal game by snapping a tie with 16:49 to play, and the Canadiens won despite being outshot 27-15.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flyers - 17-6-3 on the road; Canadiens - 15-7-2 at home.

Associated Press

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