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Hurricanes-Flyers Preview

GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (30-10-4) at Philadelphia Flyers (28-10-7).

TIME: Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Carolina Hurricanes already have defeated two of the top teams in the NHL in the past week.

The Hurricanes will get the chance to knock off another and notch their eighth straight win when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers.

Carolina is coming off a perfect three-game homestand. After beating two of the Western Conference's top three clubs, 3-2 over Detroit last Tuesday and 5-4 over Nashville in overtime on Friday, the Hurricanes defeated the West's worst team on Sunday with a 4-2 win over St. Louis.

Carolina has 64 points, one more than the Flyers, but one fewer than the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators.

Hurricanes center Erik Staal endured a season-high, eight-game scoring drought before recording his second hat trick of the season on Sunday.

Staal lost part of his tooth and had to get stitches in his lip after taking a high stick in the mouth during the first period. The second overall pick in the 2003 draft returned to score Carolina's final three goals, including the go-ahead tally.

"I actually felt pretty good at the start of the game, my legs were there," said Staal, who also assisted on the first goal. "It was tough to get a stick up on me, but I kind of wanted to rebound and respond."

Staal's three goals and four assists over the last three games helped him earn NHL offensive player of the week honors Monday.

Erik Cole assisted on Staal's final two goals, giving him five points in the last three games. Backup goalie Cam Ward stopped 31 shots to improve to 8-3-2 on the season.

The Hurricanes converted 3 of 11 power-play opportunities against the Blues and have scored at least one extra-man goal in 14 consecutive games.

Carolina, already with a 14-point lead in the Southeast Division, needs two wins to match its season-high, nine-game winning streak from Oct. 22-Nov. 11.

While six of the Hurricanes' last seven wins have come at home, the Flyers will be playing their second contest at the Wachovia Center since returning from a franchise-record, 11-game road trip.

Philadelphia went 8-2-1 on that trek and in its first game back, lost 4-3 in overtime to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

Peter Forsberg notched the game-tying goal in the third period against his former team, but the Flyers were outshot 9-0 in the extra session.

"It feels a little weird to play against the team you played for so long," said Forsberg, who spent 10 seasons with the Avalanche franchise. "On the other hand, you have to be professional and move on."

Forsberg also had an assist in the game to bring his career point total to 801. Mike Knuble had a goal and two assists while Simon Gagne added three assists for the Atlantic Division-leading Flyers.

The Hurricanes have not won in nine trips to Philadelphia since Oct. 7, 1999.

STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 64 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Flyers - 63 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Staal, 29 goals and 59 points; Cory Stillman, 34 assists; Mike Commodore, 82 PIM. Flyers - Gagne, 31 goals; Forsberg, 45 assists and 60 points; Donald Brashear, 53 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 19.5 percent (58 for 297), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.0 percent (196 for 245), 24th. Flyers - Power play: 18.6 percent (51 for 274), 11th. Penalty killing: 79.6 percent (210 for 264), 25th.

GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (22-7-2, 3 SO, 2.72 GAA); Ward (8-3-2, 3.66). Flyers - Antero Niittymaki (17-6-5, 2, 2.77); Jamie Storr (no appearances).


LAST MEETING: Dec. 29; Flyers, 4-3, OT. At Raleigh, N.C., Gagne recorded a goal and an assist for the Flyers and Sami Kapanen scored in overtime.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 10-6-3 on the road; Flyers - 13-5-4 at home.

Associated Press

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