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Flyers-Hurricanes Preview @NHLdotcom
Flyers-Hurricanes Preview

GAME: Philadelphia Flyers (23-8-5) at Carolina Hurricanes (23-10-3).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Carolina Hurricanes won't have time to dwell on one of their worst games of the season.

In their second straight matchup with a division leader, the Hurricanes return home to meet the Philadelphia Flyers, who have points in nine straight road games.

Carolina begins play with the largest lead among any division leader, eight points over the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, is atop the Atlantic Division, three points ahead of the New York Rangers.

The Hurricanes faced off against the league-leading Ottawa Senators on Wednesday and came away with a 6-2 loss.

Carolina goaltender Martin Gerber was replaced by rookie Cam Ward after allowing goals to Daniel Alfredsson and Peter Schaefer in the first 32 seconds of the third period as Ottawa extended its lead to 5-1.

"When you're down two goals, you don't want to start a period like that," Gerber said.

Carolina is 1-3-0 this season when it give up six or more goals in game, with the lone win coming in an 8-6 victory against the Flyers on Oct. 28.

In that game, leading scorer Eric Staal recorded his first career hat trick. He was held off the scoresheet Wednesday, but returns to Raleigh riding a three-game home points streak with four goals and three assists in that span.

The Flyers didn't waste time in winning their third straight on a record 11-game road trip and fifth in a row overall on the road.

Former Hurricane Sami Kapanen scored 13 seconds into overtime Wednesday as Philadelphia cooled off rookie goaltender Michael Garnett and the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3.

"Obviously, it's tough playing that many games on the road," Kapanen said. "It helps that we won the first three games. It gives us confidence for the long stretch."

Kapanen scored 20 goals five times during seven-plus seasons with the Hurricanes franchise from 1995-2003.

Simon Gagne netted his league-leading 26th goal for Philadelphia less than three minutes into the game. He has three goals in four games after missing five from Dec. 10-19 with a groin injury.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 28): Flyers - 51 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division. Hurricanes - 49 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - Gagne, 26 goals; Peter Forsberg, 39 assists and 51 points; Donald Brashear, 47 PIM. Hurricanes - Staal, 26 goals and 51 points; Cory Stillman, 27 assists; Mike Commodore, 76 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 28): Flyers - Power play: 18.3 percent (42 for 230), tied for 12th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.2 percent (171 for 216), 28th. Hurricanes - Power play: 18.4 percent (44 for 239), tied for 9th. Penalty killing: 79.6 percent (164 for 206), 27th.

GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Antero Niittymaki (12-4-3, 1 SO, 2.80 GAA); Jamie Storr (no appearances). Hurricanes - Gerber (17-7-2, 2, 2.79); Cam Ward (6-3-1, 4.02).

SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 28; Hurricanes, 8-6. At Raleigh, N.C., Staal had his first career hat trick and former Flyer Rod Brind'Amour had a goal and two assists as Carolina set a single-game high for goals this season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flyers - 10-3-2 on the road; Hurricanes - 14-4-0 at home.

Associated Press
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