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Lightning-Flyers Preview @NHL

Danny Briere's possible return to the lineup probably couldn't come at a better time for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Briere is expected to play on Saturday night as the Flyers try to avoid a three-game slide and their 14th defeat in 17 matchups against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Philadelphia (4-5-3) opened this season 0-3-3, a skid capped by a 7-6 shootout loss to visiting San Jose on Oct. 22 in which Briere suffered a torn abdominal muscle that was expected to sideline him for three to four weeks.

But the center - and Flyers' leader with 31 goals last season - will be back Saturday, according to the team's official Web site.

"It's one of those things where I started feeling better and started skating," said Briere, who had three goals and four assists during the Flyers' sluggish start. "Everyday we pushed it a little bit more and more, and every step we took, the injury reacted really well.

"Unless there is a setback (Friday night), I believe I will be 100 percent tomorrow."

Philadelphia should benefit from Briere's return after losing consecutive contests following a four-game winning streak from Oct. 24-30. The Flyers fell 5-4 at home to Edmonton on Sunday before dropping a 4-1 decision at Ottawa on Thursday.

Flyers captain Mike Richards, who leads the team in assists (11) and points (15), set up Arron Asham's first goal of the season for Philadelphia, which faced a first-period deficit for the third time in its last six contests.

"(We've) got to show more patience from start to finish to keep these games close early so we don't have to play catch-up all night," said Flyers coach John Stevens.

The Flyers, though, have lost 13 of their last 16 against the Lightning since Dec. 18, 2003 - dropping seven of eight at home. The clubs split the four-game series last season with each winning one contest on its home ice.

Tampa Bay (4-4-4) has lost on the first two stops of its five-game road trip, falling 5-2 to the New York Rangers on Thursday. Those defeats followed a three-game winning streak .

Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, who surrendered a season-high three power-play goals.

"Our special teams hurt us a little bit, obviously," said St. Louis, who tops the team with seven assists and is tied for second with nine points. "It's kind of hard to bounce back from that."

Mike Smith has allowed a total of eight goals during the two losses, meaning Olaf Kolzig could get the start. If so, Kolzig will try to win his third straight versus the Flyers - he's 6-2-0 with a 2.58 goals-against average in his last nine starts against them.

Antero Niittymaki made 21 saves for Philadelphia on Thursday, but Martin Biron figures to be back in net. Biron, who has won three of his last four starts, is 8-3-0 with two ties and a 2.20 GAA in his last 13 outings versus Tampa Bay.

The teams swung a deal on Friday with Tampa Bay sending defenseman Matt Carle to the Flyers for defenseman Steve Eminger and forward Steve Downie.

Carle, acquired by the Lightning in July from San Jose, had a goal and an assist in 12 games. The former University of Denver standout won the Hobey Baker award as the nation's top college player in 2006.

Eminger had two assists and eight penalty minutes in 12 games for Philadelphia this season. Downie played in six games for the Flyers this year, with no points and 11 penalty minutes.

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