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Flyers open home-and-home with Capitals

by Corey Masisak

FLYERS (14-15-3) at CAPITALS (17-12-3)


Last 10: Philadelphia 4-5-1; Washington 5-3-2

Season series: This is the second of five meetings between the two teams. They also play Tuesday in Philadelphia as part of a home-and-home set.

Big story: This is the first time these teams have crossed paths since the Capitals crushed the Flyers 7-0 on Nov. 1, a game that included a fight between goaltenders Ray Emery and Braden Holtby.

Team scope

Flyers: Philadelphia won seven of eight after getting embarrassed by Washington the first time these teams played, and the Flyers were 10-10-2 at that point in the season. They've lost six of 10 since, and haven't been able to find much in the way of consistency.

The Flyers yielded 16 goals during a recent three-game skid before turning things around with a 2-1 victory Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens. Goaltender Steve Mason stopped 20 of 21 shots against Montreal in a much-needed performance after he allowed 12 goals on 112 shots (.893 save percentage) in his previous four appearances.

Capitals: Washington is 5-1-1 since a four-game losing streak threatened its place behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division. A an epic 10-round shootout Friday night ended with a loss to the Florida Panthers, giving the Capitals a four-point cushion over the group of teams fighting for third place.

Still, the team's actual play on the ice Friday left a lot to be desired against one of the worst teams in the League. Washington was outplayed for long stretches, and only secured a point because of two goals scored shortly after Panthers defenseman Eric Gudbransson was ejected for a hit on Eric Fehr.

Who's hot: After having no goals and seven points in his first 15 games of the season, Flyers captain Claude Giroux has six goals and 16 points in the past 17 contests. … Rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer, with the Capitals because of an injury to Michal Neuvirth, has stopped 101 of 106 shots (.953 save percentage) in three starts in the past week.

Injury report: Center Vincent Lecavalier (back) is expected to be out another two-to-three weeks for the Flyers. … John Erskine (upper body) hasn't played since Oct. 26 but is expected to return to the lineup for the Capitals. Brooks Laich (groin) could end up on long-term injured reserve to make room for Erskine. Neuvirth (lower body) was with Hershey of the American Hockey League on a conditioning stint Saturday night and could be close to returning. Defenseman Jack Hillen (leg) is out.

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