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Flyers-Predators Preview

GAME: Philadelphia Flyers (15-6-3) at Nashville Predators (16-4-3).

TIME: Saturday, 8 p.m. EST.

The Nashville Predators have won a Western Conference-best 12 home games. Getting their 13th will not be an easy task.

Nashville is looking for its first home win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Predators are 0-2-2 all time against the Flyers at Gaylord Entertainment Center.

Nashville also is looking for its third straight win and fifth in six games.

The Predators are coming off a 2-1 win Thursday over the Minnesota Wild. Jerred Smithson's first career goal early in the third period snapped a 1-1 tie and Tomas Vokoun finished with 19 saves in the win.

The Predators also took a season-high 46 shots, the most in a game since Dec. 27, 2002 when they recorded 45 shots win a 4-2 win over the San Jose Sharks.

"I always encourage our players to shoot," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I just don't want them to get too fancy."

Nashville has scored power-play goals in nine straight games.

Philadelphia is looking for its first three-game winning since early November. Mike Knuble and Patrick Sharp scored in the Flyers' 2-1 win Wednesday over the New Jersey Devils.

"When you have a little bit of success, with that comes a lot of confidence," said Sharp, who has scored goals in his last two games. "It's only two games, but I have been feeling better lately and hopefully it will continue."

Sharp has five goals in 21 games, matching his output in 41 games during the 2003-04 season.

But the Flyers continue to be hampered by groin injuries. Center Peter Forsberg, out the last two games since a 5-3 win Nov. 25 over the Boston Bruins, skated Thursday but indicated he likely would not be ready to go.

"I thought it was going to be better than it was today when I skated hard. Its hard to say how long. I cant really say anything more," said Forsberg, the team leader in assists and points.

The Flyers also will be without starting goaltender Robert Esche, expected to miss the next week. Philadelphia did not recall a backup goaltender Friday night, but is expected to summon Jamie Storr from Philadelphia of the American Hockey League.

Storr, who played 10 seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and Carolina Hurricanes, is 5-6-1 with a 3.08 goals-against average in 12 games with the Phantoms.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 2): Flyers - 33 points, 2nd place, 4 PB, Atlantic Division. Predators - 35 points, 2nd place, 3 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - Simon Gagne, 23 goals; Forsberg, 31 assists and 39 points; Joni Pitkanen, 40 PIM. Predators - Steve Sullivan and Scott Hartnell, 9 goals; Kimmo Timonen, 13 assists; Steve Sullivan and Paul Kariya, 20 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 76 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 2): Flyers - Power play: 20.2 percent (32 for 158), 6th in NHL. Penalty killing: 76.0 percent (114 for 150), 30th. Predators - Power play: 18.1 percent (27 for 149), 13th. Penalty killing: 86.6 percent (136 for 157), 4th.

GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Antero Niittymaki (5-2-1, 0, 3.46); Storr (no appearances). Predators - Vokoun (14-4-2, 1, 2.38); Chris Mason (2-0-1, 0, 2.89).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Flyers, 1-0-1.

LAST MEETING: March 3, 2004; Flyers 5-2. At Philadelphia, Kim Johnsson had two goals and an assist for the Flyers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flyers - 5-3-1 on the road; Predators - 12-2-0 at home.

Associated Press
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