Surging Flyers set to host Thrashers
THRASHERS (23-21-8) at FLYERS (26-22-3)
: Atlanta 5-3-2; Philadelphia 7-3-0.
: The Thrashers won, 1-0, in Atlanta on Nov. 28, the fifth loss in six games for the Flyers and one game before John Stevens was removed as coach. The Flyers continued spiraling downward for another two weeks. They are 7-4-1 in January but 3-3 in their last six games. Atlanta had a nine-game
winless streak from Dec. 19-Jan. 5 and is 5-4-4 this month.
: The Eastern Conference standings are so tightly packed that the Flyers are in sixth place with 55 points and the Thrashers are in 11th with 54 points, five places separated by one point. Both these teams hit bottom in December and have been playing better hockey this month. Thrashers star Ilya Kovalchuk's contract expires at the end of this season and no progress has been reported in talks between the team and his agent. A trade is a possibility, but it would likely reduce the Thrashers' chances of making the playoffs.
: Starting goalie Kari Lehtonen underwent disc surgeries in July and October and has yet to play for Atlanta. He started a conditioning assignment with the AHL Chicago Wolves Saturday by giving up five goals in a 5-4 loss. He did not play in Sunday's win and is eligible to remain with Chicago through Feb. 6. Center Slava Kozlov's streak of 251 consecutive games ended Saturday when coach John Anderson made the 37-year-old a healthy scratch. He has missed two games. Kozlov has eight goals and 23 points and is minus-14.
: Philadelphia is third in the NHL with 23.4-percent success on the power play, but it went 2-for-16 against Pittsburgh and Carolina and 6-for-36 over the last five games. The Flyers are 23rd in penalty killing at 79.4 percent. Coach Peter Laviolette devoted Monday's practice to special-teams drills, dressing his penalty killers in extra foot and shin padding so his power-play shooters could fire at will without hurting teammates and so the penalty killers could practice proper technique safely. The Flyers score slightly more than opponents in 5-on-5 play so improved special teams could be the difference in whether they qualify for a playoff berth.
: Flyers center Jeff Carter
has six goals in five games, while defenseman Chris Pronger
has 12 points in the past 10 contests. Goalie Ray Emery is 3-2 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .916 save percentage since returning from December abdominal surgery. He has surrendered three goals in his past four games. Thrashers center Rich Peverley has five points in six games. Colby Armstrong has three points in four games.
: Flyers defenseman Ryan Parent underwent back surgery Monday and is out six weeks. Defenseman Danny Syvret
has a separated shoulder and is day-to-day. Thrashers defenseman Christoph Schubert will miss 2-4 weeks with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Mark Popovic has missed 25 games with a
foot injury and is day-to-day. Lehtonen is on conditioning assignment in the AHL.
: Fact: The Flyers are twice as good as they were in the first few weeks after Peter Laviolette. In the first 10 games, they averaged 1.8 goals per game, surrendered 3.4 goals and were 2-7-1. Since then, they are 11-4-1, have averaged 3.6 goals per game and surrendered 2.6 goals. The Thrashers were 0-for-13 on the power play before Maxim Afinogenov scored against Anaheim Tuesday. They've converted only once in their last 17 chances.
: "It will be a day-to-day basis. It's very hard for me as a coach to not play a guy I really like as a person and have great respect for him and his professionalism. I did what I thought was best for the team at this point and maybe what's best for him because I know he's going to come back and be a force." -- Thrashers coach John Anderson on Slava Kozlov