A recent stretch of poor play at home by the Philadelphia Flyers has tightened things up in the Atlantic Division.
The Flyers will try to snap a four-game home skid on Saturday night when they welcome the road-weary Dallas Stars.
This will be the first meeting between the teams in Philadelphia since a 2-2 tie on March 11, 2004. The Flyers are 1-1-0 with three ties against the Stars dating back to 2001.
Philadelphia (14-8-2) had allowed just seven goals en route to winning their first six home games from Oct. 13-Nov. 12. During their losing streak at the Wachovia Center—including one defeat in a shootout and one in overtime—the Flyers have conceded 20 goals.
With 30 points, the Flyers are tied with the New York Rangers atop the tightly bunched Atlantic as just six points separate all five teams. Last season, it took Philadelphia 56 games to reach 15 wins as it went on to post the worst record in franchise history.
While the Flyers have struggled in front the home fans recently, they’ve excelled on the road. Mike Knuble had a goal and two assists and Martin Biron made 40 saves as Philadelphia beat Carolina 3-1 on Wednesday for its third straight road win.
Two nights earlier, the Flyers suffered a 6-3 loss at home to Boston, but coach John Stevens wouldn’t say if he tried a different strategy.
“It’s important we continue to hold our players accountable to the system and the standard we want to play, and just challenge them to get ready both individually and as a group,” Stevens said. “I thought they were good in both departments tonight.”
The Flyers’ Derian Hatcher also scored his first goal of the season in his first game back after missing 13 following knee surgery. Selected eighth overall by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1990 draft, the veteran defenseman spent 12 seasons with the franchise from 1991-2003 and was a member of their Stanley Cup-winning club in 1999.
Dallas (13-9-4) dropped to 2-2-0 on its season-high six-game road trip after falling 4-1 to Pittsburgh on Friday. Mike Ribeiro scored his 10th goal to move into a tie with Niklas Hagman for the team lead, and backup goaltender Mike Smith finished with just 24 saves.
“We unfortunately couldn’t get things rolling,” Smith said. “We were chasing all game.”
Though they’ll be playing for the sixth time in nine days, Stars coach Dave Tippett didn’t think his team was tired.
“The lack of energy should be at the end of the game,” he said. “We always talk about when you’re chasing a game from behind, it takes energy.”
Marty Turco probably will start in goal for Dallas, and he will try once again to beat a team from Pennsylvania. Though Turco is the Stars’ all-time leader with 182 career wins, he has three ties lifetime against the Flyers and is winless in two career starts versus the Penguins.
Mike Modano, the all-time leading American scorer in NHL history, has 13 goals and 13 assists in 27 career games versus the Flyers. He hasn’t registered two points in one game versus Philadelphia since March 16, 1993.
Modano, though, had the game-winning goal in Dallas’ 3-2 home win over Philadelphia on March 13.