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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, February 28th (All times eastern)

Ottawa Senators (36-22-6) at Philadelphia Flyers (31-25-7), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Ottawa Senators will play their first game of the season with Bryan Murray behind the bench, as they visit the Philadelphia Flyers for tonight's battle at the Wachovia Center.

The Senators fired head coach John Paddock on Wednesday and announced that Murray, the team's general manager, will return as the head man. Murray was at the helm last year when Ottawa reached the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in club history, but after the playoffs decided to take the GM job and hire Paddock as the team's head coach.

Through 64 games, Paddock led the Senators to a record of 36-22-6, good for first place in the Northeast Division and the third-best point total in the Eastern Conference. However, Ottawa has won just 11 of its 26 games since the beginning of the new year, allowing Montreal and New Jersey to gradually gain ground in the division and conference, respectively.

In 16 seasons as a head coach, Murray has won 665 games, and has a record of 100-46-18 with Ottawa.

The Senators were blanked by Boston, 4-0, on Tuesday for their second straight loss. It was also the club's sixth setback in eight games and ninth in its past 13.

Martin Gerber allowed three goals on 28 shots for Ottawa, which led the Eastern Conference for most of the season but is now two points behind New Jersey for the top spot. The Sens still lead the Northeast Division by a point over Montreal.

While Ottawa made its big trade acquisition on February 11, getting Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore from Carolina, it also added forward depth on Tuesday by getting Martin Lapointe from the Blackhawks for a sixth-round pick.

The Sens have lost four of their last five on the road and are 17-10-3 away from Ottawa this season.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, dug itself a big hole in the Eastern Conference courtesy of a recent 10-game losing streak. The Flyers will attempt to move up the standings when they debut deadline acquisition Vaclav Prospal tonight.

Philadelphia was at the top of the Atlantic Division in early February before going 0-8-2 over 10 games. The Flyers stopped the bleeding with a 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Monday.

Danny Briere netted the deciding shootout tally against his former team, scoring in the third round of the extra session. Briere's game-winner was the finishing touch of an impressive comeback.

Philadelphia's 10-game slide matched a franchise record set last season, and the club was in danger of losing its 11th straight after falling behind 3-0. However, Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell and R.J. Umberger scored in regulation to stage the comeback.

After the game, the Flyers announced they had acquired Prospal from Tampa Bay for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a conditional draft pick in 2009. Prospal heads back to Philadelphia where he began his NHL career during the 1996-97 season.

The 33-year old has already set a career-high with 29 goals and has also added 28 assists in 62 games for the Lightning this season. He will also help fill the injury void created by Mike Richards (torn left hamstring) Joffrey Lupul (high right ankle sprain) and Simon Gagne (concussion).

The Flyers are now fourth in the Atlantic Division with 69 points and are two points behind Buffalo for eighth in the East.

Philadelphia will try to halt a six-game home losing streak tonight and are 13-12-6 as the host this year.

The Flyers are 2-1 against the Senators this season, but Ottawa has still taken five of seven, six of nine and seven of the last 12 meetings with Philadelphia. However, the Sens have dropped three of five and four of their previous seven tests in Philly.

02/28 10:34:37 ET


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