FLYERS (7-4-1) at SABRES (9-2-1)
Philadelphia 5-4-1; Buffalo 8-2-0
This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season. The Flyers won all four meetings last season, by a combined score of 20-9. Flyers captain Mike Richards had 9 points in the four games, including a 2-goal, 3-assist game in a 6-3 win Feb. 19. Teammate Jeff Carter had a pair of two-goal games.
Can the Flyers solve Sabres goalie Ryan Miller
? The Buffalo netminder entered Thursday's games in the top five in the League in wins, goals-against average and save percentage.
One of the issues facing the Flyers coming into the season was how they would replace Mike Knuble as a net presence on the power play. After a slow start, it seems like Scott Hartnell
is emerging as the answer. After scoring just one goal in his first nine games, he has power-play goals in three straight, and the Philadelphia power play tops the League at 28.1 percent.
One of the reasons for Buffalo's strong start is its success in the faceoff circle. The Sabres lead the Eastern Conference and are fourth in the League at 52.6 percent. Paul Gaustad
leads the League at 69.9 percent, and Derek Roy
went 14-for-14 on draws in Wednesday's win against the Islanders. The Sabres also lead the League at 2.00 goals against per game; last season they were 14th at 2.79 goals against, and were 28th in faceoff success at 47.4 percent.
Who's Hot --
Gaustad has goals in two straight games. Goalie Ryan Miller
has allowed two goals or fewer in nine of 11 games. Richards has points in three straight and 7 points in his last five games. Rookie James van Riemsdyk
has 6 points in his last three games and at least a point in eight of 10 games.
Injury Report --
A flu bug is making the rounds of the Flyers' locker room. Matt Carle
, Daniel Carcillo, Arron Asham, Danny Briere
and Ryan Parent all missed practice Thursday, as did assistant coach Joe Mullen. Carter and Ian Laperriere
also have been suffering but were well enough to practice. Briere, who has a pulled leg muscle, was questionable for the game anyway, while Parent would not have played due to a groin strain. For the Sabres, defenseman Andrej Sekera
is out due to illness, while defenseman Toni Lydman and goaltender Patrick Lalime are out with groin injuries.
Stat Pack --
Philadelphia goalie Ray Emery is 5-1-1 at home, but just 2-2-0 on the road. Emery is 10-4-1 lifetime against the Sabres. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller
is 5-0-0 at home this season, with a 1.65 GAA.
Puck Drop --
The key for the Sabres will be staying out of the penalty box. Of the Flyers' 44 goals this season, 16 have come on the power play. The Sabres went into Thursday's games ranked 14th on the penalty kill at 81.0 percent.