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Thrashers-Flyers Preview @NHL
Thrashers-Flyers Preview

GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (4-8-1) at Philadelphia Flyers (7-3-1).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

Simon Gagne is having fun on his way to a potential career year for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Gagne will try to help the Flyers extend their home winning streak to six games when they meet the Atlanta Thrashers at the Wachovia Center.

Gagne had two goals in Philadelphia's 8-1 rout of Washington on Thursday. He has 12 goals in 11 games this season after taking 57 games to score 12 in 2003-04 before finishing with 24. His career best is 33 goals in 2001-02.

"I'm enjoying playing the game again," Gagne said. "I'm having fun."

Gagne has 10 goals in 18 career games against Atlanta.

Since losing their home opener Oct. 5 against the New York Rangers, the Flyers have won five straight in Philadelphia, outscoring the opposition 29-13. The home winning streak is the Flyers' longest since reeling off 11 in a row from Oct. 27-Dec. 5, 2003.

Philadelphia will be without defenseman Eric Desjardins, who suffered a concussion on an elbow to the head from Chris Clark of the Capitals on Thursday. Desjardins joins injured center Keith Primeau, who is sidelined indefinitely after taking a hit Oct. 25 from Montreal's Alexander Perezhogin.

Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock believes players are still making adjustments as the league adapts to new rules aimed at increasing the game's speed.

"Any blow to the head, the league reviews it," he said. "You can argue and fight it, they're still going to make up their own mind. ... If they decide it warrants a suspension, they will do it."

Atlanta is coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to Washington on Friday. Bobby Holik tied it for the Thrashers midway through the third period, but neither Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa or Bondra could score in the shootout.

Holik has two goals and three assists in his last six games. In 63 games against the Flyers, the former New Jersey Devil and Ranger has 22 goals and 17 assists.

The Thrashers have dropped four of their last five road games.

Philadelphia is 13-3-3-1 all time against Atlanta, including 7-2-1 at home.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 4): Thrashers - 9 points, 5th place, 10 PB, Southeast Division. Flyers - 15 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Thrashers - Bondra, 6 goals; Hossa, 10 assists and 15 points; Eric Boulton and Andy Sutton, 38 PIM. Flyers - Gagne, 12 goals; Peter Forsberg, 19 assists and 22 points; Donald Brashear, 22 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 4): Thrashers - Power play: 21.2 percent (20 for 94), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 76.2 percent (74 for 97), 29th. Flyers - Power play: 20.2 percent (18 for 89), 9th (tied). Penalty killing: 76.6 percent (59 for 77), 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Thrashers - Mike Dunham (2-2-1, 0 SO, 2.32 GAA); Steve Shields (1-2-0, 0, 4.69). Flyers - Robert Esche (5-2-1, 0, 2.88); Antero Niittymaki (2-1-0, 0, 4.59).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Flyers, 3-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 21, 2004. Flyers, 5-4. At Philadelphia, Gagne scored the game-winning goal on a penalty shot with 61 seconds remaining.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Thrashers - 2-4-1 on the road; Flyers - 5-1-0 at home.

Associated Press
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