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Senators and Flyers open home-and-home series

by Adam Kimelman

SENATORS (21-15-5) at FLYERS (23-11-4)

TV: SNET-East, TVA, CSN-Philadelphia

LAST 10: Ottawa 7-2-1; Philadelphia 5-4-1

Season series: This is the second of four meetings between the teams this season. On Oct. 18, Philadelphia rookie forward Matt Read had a goal and three assists and the Flyers got goals from seven players as they won 7-2 in Ottawa.

Big Story: Saturday's game is the start of a weekend home-and-home between the teams; they play in Ottawa on Sunday. In their last meeting, the teams combined for three fights and 54 penalty minutes. Has any of the bad blood carried over?

Team Scope:

Senators: If the season were to end today, Ottawa would be right where it finds itself Saturday -- in Philadelphia starting the first round of the postseason. For a team that missed the playoffs last season, sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference right now is a nice place to be, but the players know there's still a lot of work to be done.

"We've done what we wanted to do," Jason Spezza, the Senators' scoring leader, told the Ottawa Sun. "At this point we wanted to be in the playoff mix. We've played a few more games than other teams, I know, but we feel like we've done a lot to get ourselves in the mix. Now the work really begins."

Spezza is right about that -- Ottawa will play nine of its next 11 games on the road, starting Saturday in Philadelphia.

"We talked about it at the start of the year ... you can get yourself out of the playoff picture in the first half, but you can't get yourself in the playoffs," Spezza said. "You can have the start we had last year and have no hope of making the playoffs. We've done our job to this point, but there's still a lot of work to go."

Flyers: Already missing top blueliner Chris Pronger for the remainder of the season and playoffs with a concussion, Philadelphia suffered what potentially could be a crushing blow to its defense corps.

Kimmo Timonen, fourth on the team in average ice time per game at 21:44 and tops among the Flyers' blueliners with a plus-12 rating, was limited to just nine shifts totaling 5:32 of ice time Thursday against Chicago. Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren told reporters Thursday that Timonen is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. However, is reporting the injury to be to his left hand.

The report states Timonen was hit in the hand by a shot during the Winter Classic and aggravated the injury against the Blackhawks.

Timonen has played in 223 consecutive games, a streak that dates to the 2007-08 season. Since joining the Flyers in July 2006, he's missed just five regular-season games.

"He quietly comes in here and every day, he shows up, and works hard without a lot of fanfare," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Yet his production on the ice and his value in the locker room as somebody who has been around and a leader on this team, it's hard to express how much he means to the team."

Who's Hot: Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson has goals in two straight games and was the leading vote-getter among forwards in NHL All-Star Fan Balloting. … Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk had two goals Thursday against the Blackhawks, including the game-winner with 32.8 seconds left. It was his first two-goal game since Oct. 27.

Injury Report: The Senators are without forwards Peter Regin (shoulder) and Jesse Winchester (concussion). Defenseman Chris Phillips is scheduled to return from a concussion. … Timonen is not likely to play Saturday. Forward Jaromir Jagr will miss his second straight game Saturday with a groin strain. He hopes to play in the rematch on Sunday.

Stat Pack: The Flyers are 5-1-0 on the front-end of back-to-back games, but just 3-2-1 in the second game. The Senators are 4-4-0 in the first game of back-to-backs, and 3-2-3 in the second game.

Puck Drop: Things are looking good today for Ottawa -- four straight wins has the Sens fifth in the Eastern Conference -- and in the future. Mika Zibanejad, who started the season with the Senators, is a hero today in his native Sweden for scoring the overtime goal that gave Sweden its first World Junior Championship gold medal in 31 years.

The sixth pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, Zibanejad had just one assist in nine games before being returned to his Swedish Elite League team. That also freed him up to play in the WJC.

"He's a huge hero. The whole team is," Alfredsson told the team's website. "Reading the Swedish papers this morning ... there's headlines in every paper. It's been 31 years and they've come close so many times. It's great for Swedish hockey. They've done a great job of really overhauling the whole program and they've seen the results the past few years.

"This validates all the work they've put in and it's a huge boost for Swedish hockey."

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