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Flyers face Sabres in first-round playoff rematch

by Adam Kimelman
FLYERS (6-4-1) at SABRES (6-4-0)


Last 10:
Philadelphia 5-4-1

Season series:
This is the first of four games between the teams this season. They split four regular-season meetings, but Philadelphia won in seven games in the first round of last spring's playoffs.

Big Story: The banged-up Flyers face a big road challenge, while the Sabres look to snap out of a funk that has seen them lose three of their last four.

Team Scope:

Flyers: The hottest line in hockey right now could be the trio of Claude Giroux centering Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell. In five games since being put together, they've combined for 11 goals and 12 assists.

Hartnell, however, has been the star, with 4 goals and 5 assists, and a four-game point-scoring streak heading into Wednesday's game. Hartnell had just 2 assists in his first six games prior to the line's construction.

"I had a tough training camp," Hartnell told "I didn't really feel good. My body didn't feel good … mentally, you start gripping the stick tighter. It's amazing what one game does.

"Coach (Peter Laviolette) put some confidence in you and starts playing you more, you have to take advantage of that opportunity. I dig playing with these guys and it's exciting."

Sabres: Ville Leino was signed as a free agent this summer to be a top-line center. Now, he's finally going to get to skate between the team's two best wingers. Leino was placed between Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville at Monday's practice, and it's likely that line stays together Wednesday against Philadelphia.

Leino has struggled to find chemistry on any line, and has just 1 goal and 1 assist in 10 games. His ice time has declined three straight games, including just 9:35 on Sunday against Florida.

"It's really tough to play with nine, 10 minutes a game and try to make something happen, feel comfortable out there," Leino said. "It's pretty much every time you feel into it, you're not playing. It definitely is not easy for me."

If he sticks between Vanek -- third in the League with 8 goals -- and Pominville -- second on the team with 14 points -- he'll certainly see an increase in his ice time.

"We'll see how it goes," Leino told the Buffalo News. "They're good players and I know they think the same way about hockey and their games and do the same kind of plays as I, so it should be pretty easy to read those guys."

Who's Hot:
Jaromir Jagr has 5 goals and 2 assists in his last five games and was named Third Star of the Week. … Pominville has three 3-point games this season; he had just two of them in 73 games last season.

Injury Report:
The Flyers will be without forwards Danny Briere and Matt Read due to upper-body injuries. Defenseman Chris Pronger will be out at least 1-2 weeks while recovering from an eye injury. … Sabres forward Jochen Hecht (concussion) is out, and it's likely forward Tyler Ennis (ankle) also will not play.

Stat Pack: Briere isn't just upset because he won't get to play against his former team. In his last 10 regular-season games against the Sabres, he has 5 goals and 7 assists, including 3 goals and 5 assists in four games last season.

Puck Drop:
Few players are more honest or entertaining for the media to cover than Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. However, his dealings with the robust Philadelphia media contingent were believed to be one reason for his subpar recent play. Goalie coach Jeff Reese had said talking to the media had become "a little bit of a distraction."

Prior to his solid effort Saturday against Carolina, Bryzgalov had lost four straight games, allowing at least four goals in each.

On Monday, the Flyers' public-relations department introduced a new policy where Bryzgalov would only be available to talk to the media after games. Later that day, they amended the policy to say he would not talk the day before a game or the morning of a game, but would be available at all other times.

On Tuesday, the policy was completely scrapped, and according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the request came from Bryzgalov and the coaching staff. Bryzgalov now is free to talk to the media anytime he wants.

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