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Sabres-Flyers Preview

GAME: Buffalo Sabres (22-10-1) at Philadelphia Flyers (19-8-4).

TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EST.

Martin Biron looks to win his 14th straight start when the surging Buffalo Sabres face the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center.

Biron made 30 saves to defeat Pittsburgh 4-3 on Saturday night, making him the first to win 13 consecutive starts since Detroit's Chris Osgood in the 1995-96 season. The last goalie to win 14 starts in a row was Pittsburgh's Tom Barrasso in 1992-93.

"It's definitely about team," Biron said. "If the guys don't get that fourth goal, then we're not where we are right now. We've had a lot of one-goal games."

Buffalo has won six in a row and is 14-1-1 since a Nov. 12 loss to Ottawa. The Sabres have won their last eight one-goal games.

"I don't think we're a team that's going to blow anybody out of the water, but I think we can hang tough with the best of them," said coach Lindy Ruff, whose team hasn't dropped two in a row since a four-game losing streak from Nov. 2-9.

With eight straight wins on the road, the Sabres are closing in on the NHL record of 10 consecutive road victories first set by the 1983-84 Sabres and matched by St. Louis in 2000 and New Jersey in 2001.

Biron has a 2.34 goals-against average and .918 save percentage since his winning streak began, and his numbers against the Flyers are just as impressive. He is 6-3-2 against Philadelphia with a 1.52 GAA and .952 save percentage, allowing one goal in seven of his 11 starts.

The Sabres are one of the best power-play teams in the league, and have scored six power-play goals in the last three games. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is the worst penalty-killing team in the NHL, allowing at least one power-play goal in each of the last five games.

The Flyers, though, are playing well, defeating the Blues 5-2 on Saturday night for their third win in four games. Mike Knuble and rookie R.J. Umberger each scored twice and Peter Forsberg added two assists.

Knuble has three goals in the last two contests and has scored a goal in each of his last four games against Buffalo. Forsberg has a four-game point streak against the Sabres, recording three goals and two assists during that span.

Philadelphia is missing nine players because of injuries, including leading scorer Simon Gagne and starting goalie Robert Esche.

Backup Antero Niittymaki has filled in admirably for Esche. He stopped all 16 third-period shots against the Blues and is 3-2-1 with a 2.07 GAA since taking over the starting role.

"Our goalie was terrific," coach Ken Hitchcock said after Saturday's victory. "You need him to win on the road anyway and we did a lot of good things in the first two periods, and then we tried to sit on it in the third."

STANDINGS: Sabres - 45 points, 2nd place, 3 PB, Northeast Division. Flyers - 42 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Ales Kotalik, 15 goals; Teppo Numminen, 20 assists; Kotalik and Tim Connolly, 25 points; Afinogenov, 38 PIM. Flyers - Gagne, 23 goals; Forsberg, 34 assists and 44 points; Donald Brashear, 41 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sabres - Power play: 22.1 percent (43 for 194), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.6 percent (143 for 171), 9th. Flyers - Power play: 18.6 percent (37 for 198), 8th. Penalty killing: 77.6 percent (149 for 192), 30th.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Biron (15-4-1, 3.04 GAA); Mika Noronen (1-2-0, 4.26). Flyers - Niittymaki (8-4-2, 1 SO, 2.91); Jamie Storr (no appearances).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Flyers, 2-1-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 24, 2004; Flyers 2-1. At Philadelphia, Jeremy Roenick scored twice and Esche finished with 25 saves.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 11-5-0 on the road; Flyers - 12-5-2 at home.

Associated Press
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