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Flyers go for fifth straight in crucial game for Leafs

by Adam Kimelman
FLYERS (38-21-7) at MAPLE LEAFS (30-30-7)
Last 10:
Philadelphia 7-3-0; Toronto 2-7-1
Season series: This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season, but the first in Toronto. The Flyers won both previous meetings, including a 4-3 victory Feb. 9 that saw Philadelphia get goals from Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn in a 1:14 span in the second period to turn a 2-2 game into a 4-2 Flyers lead.
Big Story:
Can the injury-plagued Flyers win a fifth straight game? Or can the reeling Leafs show the desperation needed to pick up two vital points?
Team Scope:

Flyers: Brandon Manning on Thursday against the Panthers became the sixth player to make his NHL debut with the team this season, and the 12th rookie overall to dress for them.
Manning, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound defenseman, was inserted into the lineup in place of Pavel Kubina, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Manning, an undrafted 21-year-old in his first professional season, had three shots and was a plus-2 in 14:59 of ice time Thursday, playing on the third pairing with veteran Andreas Lilja.
"Mandog (Manning) was terrific," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He moved the puck, he generated some offense and defensively he held his own out there. Coming in for the first time is never an easy thing and I thought he did a terrific job. Played regular shifts, regular minutes, and he looked good out there doing it."
Manning said he got most of his nervousness out during the morning skate. And playing with Lilja also helped -- the two had played together with AHL Adirondack when Lilja was down there on a conditioning stint.
"The guys were great helping me get dressed," Manning said. "I actually got in a game with (Lilja) this year in Adirondack so that helped. … I think I was just trying to keep it pretty simple out there."
Maple Leafs: Saying the last week and a half has been a strange one for Carter Ashton would be putting it lightly.
Ashton, taken with the 29th pick of the 2009 Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning and playing in his first professional season, was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline. He was assigned to the AHL Toronto Marlies, but got a call late Tuesday night telling him he was to get on the first available flight to Pittsburgh to join the NHL team. He made his NHL debut Wednesday against the Penguins, playing 9:30.
"I got traded a week ago and just got settled into my hotel and then got the (NHL) opportunity," Ashton told the Toronto Sun. "The last week has been kind of a whirlwind, but it's been a great opportunity. It was exciting. I'll definitely remember this one."
After meeting up with the team, Ashton tried to cram in as much as he could about his new teammates and the game plan from coach Randy Carlyle.
"It was a hectic day trying to learn the systems and going over some video," Ashton said.
With All-Star forward Joffrey Lupul out at least three weeks with a shoulder injury and Colby Armstrong day-to-day with a broken nose, Ashton likely will get more time to adjust to another new setting.
Who's Hot:
In his last eight games, Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is 6-2-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. And in the two losses, the Flyers were shut out. … Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski has a five-game point-scoring streak. He has 3 goals and 4 assists in that span.
Injury Report: The Flyers likely will be without forward Jakub Voracek (head) and defensemen Kimmo Timonen (lower body), Andrej Meszaros (lower body) and Pavel Kubina (upper body). … Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul is out for at least three weeks (shoulder). Forwards Colby Armstrong (broken nose) and Mike Brown (lower body) and defenseman Cody Franson (facial laceration) are questionable for Saturday.
Stat Pack: The Maple Leafs enter the weekend 29th in the League with a 77.3-percent success rate on the penalty kill. They haven't been higher than 27th in the League or had a better kill rate than 78.5 percent since the 2006-07 season.
Puck Drop:
Danny Briere has passed from frustration to exasperation to "retirement" during his current 21-game goal drought. In fact, he's scored in just one of his last 27 games -- a hat trick Jan. 7 against Ottawa.
"Yeah, I think I'm retiring from scoring goals," he said following Thursday's game against the Panthers. "It's just not happening anymore."
The drought isn't the longest of Briere's career -- he went 31 games without a goal spanning the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 season -- but after scoring a career-best 34 goals last season, he has just 13 this season.
However, Briere was lauded for another strong game Thursday. He had a pair of assists, three shots on goal and drilled the post with one excellent chance. Knowing he's doing things other than scoring has allowed him to stay positive.
"I've had chances," he said. "The chances are there, I just can't finish these days. But I'm not too worried about that. It's going to turn around at some point. Looking at the last four or five games, our line (Briere, Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds) has created a lot of chances and that's all you can worry about."

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