FLYERS (13-9-1) at THRASHERS (12-7-3)
Last 10 -- Philadelphia 5-5-0; Atlanta 6-2-2
Season series -- This is the first meeting of the teams this season. They'll meet again on Jan. 28 and March 21 in Philadelphia and on March 20 in Atlanta. The Flyers have a 14-game winning streak against the Thrashers, the longest current streak in the NHL. The Thrashers haven't beaten the Flyers since Nov. 18, 2005.
Big story -- Five Eastern Conference teams are tied with 27 points. The Thrashers are in seventh place and the Flyers are eighth, followed by the Lightning, Rangers and Islanders. This promises to be a wide-open affair as Atlanta leads the NHL with 3.54 goals per game and Philadelphia is fourth with 3.26. The Flyers have the third-best power play and the Thrashers are fifth. Philadelphia is fourth with 32.2 shots per game and Atlanta allows the most, 35.6. The Thrashers have been prone to slow starts, they've given up the first goal 14 times this season.
Flyers -- Daniel Briere returns after a two-game suspension, and the depleted Flyers' forward corps needs him after Jared Ross suffered a head injury and Ian Laperriere took a slap shot in the mouth to reduce the Flyers to three lines against Buffalo on Friday. Center Jon Kalinski, who has a goal and 3 assists with the AHL Adirondack Phantoms, gets the call-up.
Goalie Ray Emery has lost five of his last six starts. Brian Boucher, who was in net for the Flyers' last two wins, may get the call in Atlanta.
Thrashers -- The Thrashers can score in bunches, as they proved Friday night with five third-period goals that turned a 4-1 deficit into a 6-4 win at Carolina. Center Rich Peverley is the NHL's feel-good story of the year. The former St. Lawrence star started in the ECHL and ground his way through four minor-league seasons. He came over from the Predators on waivers last season and now leads the Thrashers with 8 goals and 16 assists for 24 points.
That wasn't the only important addition to the Thrashers. All three free-agent signings have worked out for Atlanta. Maxim Afinogenov has 10 goals and 23 points. Nik Antropov has 19 assists and 21 points and Pavel Kubina 3 goals and 11 points. Evander Kane, the No. 4 pick at June's draft, has 7 goals and 12 points.
Who's hot -- Flyers defenseman Matt Carle leads the NHL with a plus-18 rating. Left wing Scott Hartnell is tied for third with six power-play goals. Afinogenov has 7 goals and 15 points in the past 11 games. Tobias Enstrom has 7 points and is plus-7 in the past five games.
Injury report -- Flyers' center and penalty killer Blair Betts is out until late December with a shoulder injury. Third-line left wing Darroll Powe is out until January with a shoulder strain. Defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen has missed eight games with a concussion. First-line left wing Simon Gagne played nine games before hernia surgeries that have him sidelined indefinitely. Center Jared Ross suffered a head injury Friday against Buffalo. … Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen has been out all season but the Thrashers have gotten great work from Ondrej Pavelec and Johan Hedberg.
Stat pack -- The Thrashers and Flyers are as close in offense and defense as they are in the standings. Atlanta has scored 78 goals this season and Philadelphia has scored 75. Both teams have surrendered 63 goals. Philadelphia has scored 23 power-play goals and Atlanta has scored 20. But Atlanta kills penalties better, allowing only 14 goals while shorthanded while Philadelphia has given up 20.
Puck drop -- Rookies James van Riemsdyk and Evander Kane are in hot pursuit of New York Islanders center John Tavares in the rookie scoring race. Van Riemsdyk, a 20-year-old left wing, leads all rookies with four game-winning goals and is second among with 13 assists, 19 points and is third with 6 goals and a plus-7 rating. Kane, a 18-year-old center, is second with 8 goals, three-game winners and a plus-9 rating, and is one of only two rookies with a shorthanded goal.