Philadelphia Flyers (17-20-3--37pts)
Buffalo Sabres (16-19-6--38pts)
TV: CSN - RADIO: 97.5 The Fanatic
1. SABRE MATCH
Today is the third and final meeting of the season between the Flyers and Sabres… The series is tied, 1-1, with each team winning on their home ice, including the last meeting on Mar. 10 which was a 3-2 win by the Flyers… The Flyers are 7-2-1 over the last two seasons against Buffalo and have an even more impressive 7-1-0 record in their last eight games played at Buffalo dating back to the 2007-08 season… The Flyers have scored four of their five goals in the series on special teams, three goals on the power play and one shorthanded goal.
2. ABOUT THE TEAMS
This is the 10th and final daytime start for the Flyers this season - they own a 5-4-0 record, having won five of their last seven starts before 3 pm… This is Buffalo’s eighth afternoon game - they are 2-4-1 in the first seven… The Sabres come into today having earned at least a point in the standings in five of their last eight games, but have dropped their last two games… The Flyers come in having lost three straight games that followed four consecutive victories… A win in regulation could see the Flyers leap over Buffalo in the standings - the Sabres sit the 11th spot in the Eastern Conference standings with 38 points, while the Flyers sit 12th with 37 points - The Rangers currently hold the eighth seed in the East with 44 points.
3. THIS, THAT & THE OTHER
The Sabres have scored four of their seven goals in the series in the third period… Kimmo Timonen leads the team in the season series with three points, all assists, while Thomas Vanek leads the Sabres with five points (2g-3a)… The Sabres have had 15 of their last 22 games decided by one goal… Claude Giroux has taken 1,009 faceoffs this season and won 546 faceoffs - both numbers lead the NHL… The Flyers have had 191 man-games lost due to injury, while the Sabres have 107 man-games lost so far.
4. Player to watch FLYERS: Danny Briere - (C) #48
Should Danny Briere return to the Flyers line-up tonight, it would be his first game since missing the last 10 games due to a concussion… Briere has 13 points (5g-8a) in 26 games this season… Against the Sabres, Briere has 15 points (7g-8a) in 21 career games… He was a part of the Sabres organization for four seasons (2002-03 thru 2006-07), appearing in 225 games, where he posted 92 goals and 230 points.
5. Player to watch SABRES: Kevin Porter - (C) #12
Porter has five of his seven points on the season in his last five games… He owns three goals in that five-game span, and against the Flyers, Porter has two points, both assists, in four games… The 27-year-old served as captain of the team's AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans before his recall to the Sabres and posted 44 points (15g-29a) in 48 AHL games this season.
"It's about getting pucks to the net; getting traffic and sometimes you get lucky bounces, but like I said we just have to support each other better, get more traffic and get a little more hungry in front of the net."
Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said Thursday that the team would need an "epic ending" to make the playoffs. Days later, the Flyers have an even steeper hill to climb.
After dropping their third straight, the Flyers hope to solve their punchless offense and start making a move to get into postseason position Saturday when they visit a Buffalo Sabres team looking to make a playoff push of its own.
Philadelphia (17-20-3) has been outscored 11-3 during its skid after totaling 18 goals during a season-high four-game winning streak. The slide leaves the Flyers with eight games to try to climb back into position for their sixth straight postseason appearance.
They're in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, seven points back of the final postseason berth. Buffalo (16-19-6) is in 11th and six points behind.
Hartnell indicated a sense of urgency when he spoke before Thursday's game against Ottawa, but Philadelphia was outshot 24-14 in the first two periods and needed a strong performance from goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to keep things close before the Senators pulled away in the third and won 3-1.
The Flyers haven't converted any of their 13 power-play opportunities in their last five games.
"To make the playoffs, you've got to win games, and right now we're not winning games," said Claude Giroux, who scored Thursday but has been held to 12 goals in 40 games after scoring 28 in 77 last season. "We've got to find a way to win those games."
Philadelphia's struggles on the ice have impacted the club off it. Bryzgalov has been criticized for shutting his eyes and yawning on the bench during a loss to Winnipeg last weekend. He was later anonymously accused by some teammates of sleeping - or at least pretending to doze off - during a team meeting.
Bryzgalov scolded the media for the report and called it "embarrassing."
"That was never happening," he said.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette could be in danger of losing his job three years after leading the team to the Stanley Cup finals.
"We are in the business of winning hockey games," Laviolette said. "Not getting that done is frustrating."
The Sabres can relate, having suffered through similar offensive troubles while losing consecutive games in regulation for the first time since late February. Buffalo is 0 for its last 19 power-play opportunities, including 0 for 2 in a 5-1 loss against Montreal on Thursday.
The Sabres were outshot 42-15 in the rout, leading interim coach Ron Rolston to pull Ryan Miller after facing 32 shots through two periods.
"He played well. There was nothing he could do," Rolston said. "We didn't have enough effort. We didn't have enough going. We had too many passengers."
These teams have split two meetings this season, with the Sabres winning 5-2 at home Jan. 20 behind two goals and three assists from Thomas Vanek. The Flyers had taken at least one point in each of their previous nine trips to Buffalo, going 7-0-2.
Bryzgalov is 5-1-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average in his last six games versus Buffalo, while Miller is 1-2-1 with a 3.52 GAA in his last five appearances four starts against Philadelphia.
Vanek has six goals and nine assists in his last 10 against the Flyers but was held without a point in the last meeting, a 3-2 Philadelphia victory March 10.
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