Ottawa Senators (19-25-8 overall, 7-16-3 road)
Philadelphia Flyers (21-15-9 overall, 15-6-3 home)
7 P.M, CSP, RSN.
Season series tied at one.
The Ottawa Senators come into Philadelphia on Thursday, in what will be a battle of two sparking teams trying to catch fire.
The Sens are in the second game of a seven-day road trip that began with a huge victory of the Buffalo Sabres, 3-1 on Wednesday. Despite a record of 19-25-8 and sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference, the Sens are on a three-game point streak after hiring Cory Clouston as their new coach, with an overtime loss to Boston and home-and-home victories against the Sabres. Chris Neil is out for Ottawa with a lacerated right calf, suffered Saturday against the Sabres.
“It’s a very upbeat locker room right now,” said Alfredsson, who leads the team with 48 points.
Players to watch – Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Filip Kuba.
The Flyers, eight points back with three games in hand of the Devils in the Atlantic Division, are riding a mini hot streak of their own, pasting together back-to-back wins against Boston and Atlanta. Mike Richards and Scottie Upshall each missed the past three games with a viral infection, but both will be active for tonight’s game and will accompany Darroll Powe on the third line. Backup goaltender Antero “Frank” Niittymaki (2.48 GAA in 23 games) has been quietly promoted to the number-one goalie position, leap frogging a struggling Marty Biron, who is 0-2 since the All-Star break, with a GAA of 3.94. Since the break, Niitty is 3-1, with a GAA of 1.89.
“To me it’s just a maturing thing for him,” said Flyers goaltending coach Reggie Lemelin about Antero. “After four or five years that’s when you hit your peak and that’s where I think Niitty’s coming into that.”
Claude Giroux will get the start on the first line, centering Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble.
“He’s surprised me, to be honest with you. Not that I didn’t think he could get to that level, but I didn’t think he would be there already,” coach John Stevens told the Media on Wednesday. “He just seems to be a guy who is [defensively] responsible.”
Defenseman Ossi Vaananen will be a healthy scratch due to uninspired play since the All-Star break. Ryan Parent will take his place on the roster.
Gagne – Giroux – Knuble
Hartnell – Carter – Lupul
Powe – Richards – Upshall
Cote – Metropolit – Asham
Players to watch
Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux.
Keys to the Game
Special Teams – The Flyers lead the NHL with a 34.4 power play percentage as home against a 21st ranked Senators road power play percentage of 16.7%.
Scoring First – Ottawa is second in the NHL with an 8-1 record when leading after the first and are dead last in the NHL at 1-15 when trailing after one. The Flyers are 17-1-2 when leading after the first.
The Flyers have a very friendly schedule in February and a dreaded one in March, meaning the Bullies need to string together as many wins as possible against non-playoff teams before taking on the March gauntlet.
The Sens have yet to win three straight this season and are looking to put together at least one respectable run under new coach Clouston.