Skip to main content


Flyers-Thrashers Preview @NHL

Philadelphia Flyers coach John Stevens earned his first NHL win over the Atlanta Thrashers earlier this season, but not many more victories have followed.

Now, Stevens' team will try to avoid matching the worst losing streak in the history of the franchise when it visits the Thrashers on Sunday.

Stevens took over for the fired Ken Hitchcock on Oct. 22, and won his coaching debut 3-2 in a shootout over Atlanta four days later. Peter Forsberg scored in both regulation and the shootout to lift the Flyers (11-32-5) to victory.

Philadelphia is 18-2-1 with two ties in its last 23 meetings with the Thrashers, including three straight victories. The Flyers have had trouble stringing together any wins this season, however, with 19 losses in their last 22 games. With 27 points, they are the only NHL club below 40.

They have dropped nine straight contests, and are trying to avoid tying their team-record 10-game skid, set earlier this season from Dec. 2-27.

Philadelphia got outshot 17-4 in the first period and 35-18 overall Saturday en route to a 2-1 defeat to the New York Rangers.

Joni Pitkanen tied the game in the second period for the Flyers, who allowed Jason Krog to score the game-winner in the third. Despite another loss, Stevens was optimistic.

"The thing that I liked the most is the amount of emotion we played with," he said. "We just seemed like we were connected in the hockey game. We seemed like we really fed off of the physical play."

Robert Esche made 33 saves in his first start since Jan. 9. Antero Niittymaki may get the start Sunday, as he is 4-0-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average in four career starts versus the Thrashers - his best record against any opponent.

He has struggled lately, though, going 0-13-2 with a 3.96 ERA in his last 15 starts. Whichever goaltender gets the nod Sunday will face an Atlanta offense with numerous scoring threats.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice Friday, including 2:59 into overtime to give the Thrashers (28-15-8) a 5-4 win over the New York Islanders as they opened a six-game homestand.

"There was one point on the table and that's a huge point," said Thrashers coach Bob Hartley, whose team is 13-6-4 at home this season. "We definitely want to make a statement that blueland will be a tough place to win for the visiting team."

Marian Hossa has five goals and two assists in the last four games to boost his team-leading season totals to 31 goals and 34 assists. He injured his left knee early in the second period Friday, but returned to start the third and scored just 19 seconds later.

"It was a nice way to get back and give the team a little jump," said Hossa, who is expected to be in the lineup Sunday.

The Southeast Division-leading Thrashers have won four of their last five games.

The Flyers got defenseman Denis Gauthier back Saturday after he was sidelined since Nov. 11 due to shoulder surgery, but they lost another player on the blue line. Defenseman Randy Jones separated his right shoulder and is expected to miss at least a week.

View More