Senators-Flyers Preview

The Associated Press

After a slow start to the season, the Philadelphia Flyers are starting to pick up steam.

They're surely feeling good about their chances of keeping things going with Simon Gagne back in town.

The Flyers aim for a fifth win in seven games Saturday in their first meeting of the season with the visiting Ottawa Senators, who could again be without the injured Craig Anderson.

While Philadelphia (10-11-1) dropped six of its first eight games, coach Peter Laviolette's club has since gone 8-5-1 to get back in the mix. The Flyers have proven especially formidable since Feb. 18, going 4-2-0 while averaging 4.3 goals.

"We have to move forward and make up some ground. We did some damage (to ourselves) early on in the first eight games of the season," Laviolette told the team's official website. "We have to continue to fight to win hockey games and fight to put ourselves back into a position where we qualify for the playoffs and have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup."

Philadelphia is coming off Wednesday's 4-1 win over Washington. Claude Giroux tallied a goal and an assist and Scott Hartnell set up two scores, but it was Gagne who dominated the headlines.

The veteran forward, who spent the first 10 years of his career with Philadelphia, added his first goal of the season one day after he was acquired from Los Angeles for a conditional draft pick. He was a healthy scratch in his last four games with the Kings.

"It felt almost like I never left," said Gagne, who hadn't worn a Flyers sweater since the 2010 Stanley Cup. "Just walking in the building before the game, knowing everyone. The nice welcome I got during the warm-up and after the first five minutes of the period. It's almost like coming back home. Everything started here."

The Flyers have gone 9 for 27 on the power play over the last six games, including a 2-for-3 effort Wednesday.

"We're back home, we're rested and we should focus on the positive things we did (Wednesday) night and in games past and move forward from there," Laviolette said. "We want to have a real good month here."

After winning a season-high five straight, the Senators (12-6-3) concluded February with Thursday's 2-1 overtime loss at Boston. Robin Lehner stopped 44 shots in his season debut while Anderson missed his third straight game due to a sprained ankle.

"I thought we played a really good road game," Lehner told the team's official website. "One point is always good, but you always want to take the two points and today wasn't the day."

Anderson, who's gone 7-1-1 over his last nine starts versus Philadelphia, practiced Friday but it doesn't sound like he'll play this weekend.

"I can skate, I can stop, I can push, I can do a lot of things that a forward can do," he said. "I haven't taken the step yet to see what a goalie can do. I think that's going to be the next step is see how it is (Saturday) and see if I can get into the butterfly at all."

Neither Lehner nor Ben Bishop, who has a 1.69 goals-against average in winning his last four games, have faced the Flyers.

Philadelphia's Ilya Bryzgalov had allowed 15 goals over a four-start stretch before making 23 saves Wednesday. While he's gone 2-3-0 with a 3.66 GAA against Ottawa - his highest mark against any opponent - Bryzgalov could catch a break given the Senators' woes in opposing arenas.

Ottawa was outscored 13-5 in going 1-4-1 on the road in February. The Flyers have outscored the Senators 39-22 while going 7-2-1 at home since 2007-08.

Danny Briere has eight goals and 11 assists over his last 18 games versus Ottawa. Hartnell, in contrast, has just three points over his last 14 meetings in the series.