The Philadelphia Flyers relied on Robert Esche to end their longest losing streak in franchise history. They might continue to call upon the reserve goaltender as they attempt to turn their season around.
After ending a 10-game losing streak in their last outing, the Flyers look to post back-to-back victories for just the third time this season when they visit the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.
Esche made his seventh start of the season and first since Nov. 18 on Thursday, when he made a career-high 42 saves to help the visiting Flyers (9-24-4) hold off Tampa Bay 4-3 and pick up their first win since Nov. 30.
“Thankfully, we got the win,” said John Stevens, who is 8-18-3 since replacing Ken Hitchcock as Flyers coach in October. “There haven’t been a lot of smiling faces around here lately. The bottom line, I thought the work ethic and the fight on the puck was terrific.”
Esche made a second straight appearance after playing the third period of the Flyers’ 3-1 loss on Wednesday at Florida, the first game of Philadelphia’s season-high eight-game trip. Antero Niittymaki, who had made 16 straight starts, suffered a slight left hip strain and his status is uncertain.
Esche is 2-0 with a shutout and a 1.00 goals-against average in two career starts against Carolina, but has not faced the Hurricanes since Nov. 28, 2003. The Flyers lost 2-1 to Carolina on Dec. 19, but are 12-4-1 with four ties in the series since the 2000-01 season.
Philadelphia has the fewest points in the NHL at 22 and the worst road record in the Eastern Conference at 6-13-0.
“It’s been a struggle,” said Flyers captain Peter Forsberg, who had a season-high three assists on Thursday. “We have not played as good as we wanted.”
The Hurricanes (21-15-4) honored Rod Brind’Amour for his 1,000th career point before beating Anaheim 4-2 on Friday night. The win came one night after the Hurricanes suffered their lone loss in the last seven games.
Brind’Amour, who reached the milestone on Nov. 4, had a goal and an assist on Friday. He has three goals and five assists while contributing at least one point in the last five games.
Brind’Amour has three goals and nine assists in 20 games against Philadelphia since it traded him to Carolina in a deal for Keith Primeau on June 23, 2000.
On Friday, the Hurricanes fed off the return of David Tanabe, who was making just his second appearance since Nov. 24 because of a groin injury. Tanabe doubled his season point total with two assists.
“I was thankful to get a chance to play,” he said. “Just coming off the groin injury, it just seemed like the season was starting to get to me, but it was nice to get back in.”
After his eight-game point streak ended in Thursday’s 4-1 loss at Buffalo, Justin Williams had a goal and an assist Friday for Carolina.