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Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montr?al Canadiens @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Philadelphia Flyers (39-20-14-6) at Montreal Canadiens (40-29-7-4).

TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Getting a much-needed boost with the return of two veterans from the injured list, the Philadelphia Flyers can take sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division when they visit the reeling Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

The Flyers are tied for first with defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey, but the Devils own the tiebreaker with three more wins. Philadelphia has three games remaining, while the Devils have only two.

Captain Keith Primeau and veteran defenseman Eric Desjardins are both expected to return to the ice against the Canadiens. Primeau has been out with a concussion since Feb. 12, while Desjardins missed 10 weeks with a broken right arm.

"They both looked great in practice, they both got knocked on their butt a few times and felt fine," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said Wednesday. "Right now, unless there's something unforeseen, they will be in the lineup. Getting those two guys back, two of our experienced leaders, is going to do nothing but help us."

The Flyers are coming off back-to-back losses, including Saturday's 3-1 setback to the New York Rangers. Tony Amonte scored the only goal for Philadelphia, while Robert Esche allowed three goals on only 11 shots.

"I am not happy with any goal I give up," Esche said. "I know the type of goalie I am capable of being. I have to get back to that."

The Canadiens have dropped four straight, including a 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Jose Theodore made only 10 saves while surrendering five goals in 40 minutes before being replaced by Mathieu Garon for the third period.

Montreal, which has already clinched a playoff berth, sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. While the Canadiens can't move up in the standings with just two games left, they only have a three-point lead over the eighth-place Islanders.

STANDINGS: Flyers - 98 points, 1st place (tied), Atlantic Division. Canadiens - 91 points, 4th place, 12 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - Mark Recchi, 26 goals, 48 assists and 74 points; Donald Brashear, 210 PIM. Canadiens - Richard Zednik, 25 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 43 assists and 63 points; Darren Langdon, 135 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 31): Flyers - Power play: 21.5 percent (64 for 298), 1st in NHL (tied). Penalty killing: 84.0 percent (224 for 338), 18th. Canadiens - Power play: 17.5 percent (54 for 309), 10th. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (246 for 299), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Esche (21-10-6, 3 SO, 1.99 GAA); Sean Burke (15-20-7, 1, 2.79). Canadiens - Theodore (32-27-5, 6, 2.25); Garon (8-6-2, 0, 2.27).

SEASON SERIES: Flyers, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 20; Canadiens, 4-1. At Philadelphia, Theodore made 22 saves and Zednik scored two power-play goals. Michael Ryder added a goal and two assists.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flyers - 15-10-11-3 on the road; Canadiens - 22-12-4-1 at home.

Associated Press
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