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Leafs, Flyers aim to move up in East

by John McGourty

MAPLE LEAFS (15-19-9) at FLYERS (19-19-3)

Last 10 -- Toronto 3-5-2; Philadelphia 4-4-2.

Season Series -- This is the first of four meetings between the teams. They meet again in Toronto on Jan. 14 and April 6 and in Philadelphia on March 7.

Big Story -- One team, the Flyers, was expected to be among the best in the East and the other, the Maple Leafs, was expected to be near the bottom. Instead, they are both currently out of playoff position. Philadelphia is in 12th place and Toronto resides in 14th. Both teams have been beset by injuries. Toronto lost three key players in their 5-2 loss to Calgary Saturday -- Mike Komisarek, Wayne Primeau and Mikhail Grabovski.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs -- The Maple Leafs are like American politics -- no center. Primeau is out until late January with a knee injury and Grabovski will miss six weeks with a broken wrist. Center John Mitchell missed 20 games with a knee injury before returning last night against Florida. Center Rickard Wallin, no goals in 30 games, has been thrust into the lineup. Coach Ron Wilson used the same lines in the last two practices and then changed them early against Florida.

Flyers -- The Flyers play nine of their next 12 games at home, giving them an excellent chance to climb in the standings. Only five of the next 12 games are against teams currently in the top eight in their conference. The Flyers looked much better in four-straight wins at the end of 2009 and through 57 minutes of the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, but not so good in a 7-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

Who's Hot -- Flyers left wing Simon Gagne has five points in his past three games. Mike Richards has seven points in six games. Carter has five points in four games.

Injury Report -- Flyers goalie Ray Emery had abdominal surgery on Dec. 8 and was expected to miss up to six weeks, but he's back practicing and may return this week. Defenseman Ryan Parent has a back problem and has missed five games. He may try a cortisone shot this week to avoid season-ending back surgery. Defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefson missed 16 games with a concussion, then suffered an MCL sprain in his first game back. He's due to return soon.

Toronto's free-agent center Tim Brent was hurt in the preseason, underwent surgery and is lost for the season. Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson has missed 18 games with an elbow injury. He's practicing and should return before mid-month. Defenseman Mike Van Ryn missed the last 16 games of last season with a torn MCL, underwent three surgeries and is out for the season.

Stat Pack -- Both teams need to stay out of the penalty box. The Flyers lead the NHL with 17.1 penalty minutes per game. Toronto averages only 12.6 penalty minutes, tied for 13th. The Flyers are third in the NHL with 21 home power-play goals. The Maple Leafs are the worst in the NHL at killing penalties on the road, allowing 25 goals. Toronto is ninth with 16 road power-play goals. The Flyers are 29th in allowing 20 home power-play goals. Toronto's 70.2 road penalty-kill percentage is the worst in the NHL.

Puck Drop -- "We're one of those teams that every once in a while thinks we don't have to go to the ugly areas. We will have four or five goals and everybody thinks it's because we beat people one-on-one and make fancy plays. We have to turn it ugly again." -- Leafs coach Ron Wilson

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