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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, February 16th (All times eastern)

Philadelphia Flyers (30-22-5) at Montreal Canadiens (30-19-9), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Philadelphia Flyers hope to break out of a lengthy winless drought when the slumping club begins a home-and-home series with the Montreal Canadiens tonight at the Bell Centre.

The Flyers have lost five consecutive games and are just one defeat shy of matching their longest skid of the season, which took place from December 13-22. In its most recent contest, Philadelphia was handed a 5-3 setback by visiting Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Joffrey Lupul had a goal and an assist for the Flyers, while Steve Downie and Jeff Carter also lit the lamp in the loss. Martin Biron made just 23 saves between the pipes, however, and lost his fourth straight start.

Defense and goaltending have been a problem for Philadelphia during its current slide, as the team has surrendered four goals or more in four of those five losses.

The Flyers could be getting some help to their blueline corps, though, as veteran defenseman Derian Hatcher is slated to return to action tonight after sitting out Thursday's loss with a sore knee. Teammate Braydon Coburn, who has missed the last three games after rupturing an artery in his left buttocks during a 2-0 home loss to the New York Rangers last Saturday, may also be back this evening.

Philadelphia will again be without star left wing Simon Gagne for a fourth game in a row, however, due to a concussion.

Montreal had lost three straight games before rebounding with an overtime victory at Florida on Wednesday. Alex Kovalev scored the deciding goal 1:43 into the extra session to lift the Canadiens to a 2-1 decision.

Christopher Higgins also scored for the Canadiens and Saku Koivu assisted on both Montreal goals. Habs goaltender Carey Price delivered a strong outing, as the rookie stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced.

Price is expected to start tonight's test as well, and Montreal will have veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik back in the lineup after sitting out five straight games with the flu.

The Canadiens will play five of their next six at home but have struggled at the Bell Centre this season, having recorded just a 12-10-5 record as the host.

Montreal has dominated this series as of late, however. The Habs have taken four straight encounters with Philadelphia, including a pair of games this season, and are 8-1-1 against the Flyers since the start of the 2005-06 campaign.

These teams conclude the home-and-home set Sunday at the Wachovia Center.

02/16 10:19:04 ET


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