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Friday, December 12th (All times eastern)

Philadelphia Flyers (17-3-7-1) at New Jersey Devils (15-5-6-0), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Atlantic Division race heats up tonight when the New Jersey Devils welcome the Philadelphia Flyers to the Meadowlands for the opener of a home-and-home.

Philly leads the division, and the entire National Hockey League for that matter, with 42 points -- six more than the defending Stanley Cup-champion Devils.

Both clubs enter the clash on rolls as well. New Jersey has won three straight and is 13-2-4 in the last 19 games. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is 3-0-2 in its last five and 13-1-4 in the last 18.

The Devils are coming off Wednesday's 1-0 victory over the visiting New York Islanders. Patrik Elias scored at 2:09 of overtime after being stopped on a penalty shot earlier in the extra session, and Martin Brodeur made 18 saves for his sixth shutout of the season and the 70th of his career.

Elias, who was denied by Garth Snow on his penalty shot attempt a mere 16 seconds into OT, ended a five-game personal goal-less drought. He leads the team with eight tallies and 14 assists overall.

Brodeur posted his second blanking in the past three games, and has allowed two goals or less in 13 of his last 15 outings. The reigning Vezina winner leads the NHL with six shutouts this season.

On the injury front for Jersey, former Selke winner John Madden left Wednesday's game after being hit in the face with a puck. He is questionable for tonight, but the way it sounded on Thursday it is likely that he'll be on the ice.

The Devils are 9-1-1 in their last 11 at the Meadowlands.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, is coming off Wednesday's 1-1 tie in Columbus. Sami Kapanen scored with 1:08 left in regulation to lift the Flyers to the hard- earned-point. Philly could have had more had it not been for a terrific 41- save effort by Blue Jackets' goaltender Fred Brathwaite.

Jeff Hackett stopped 19 shots for Philadelphia and will be in net again tonight. Robert Esche, who has been sharing the crease with Hackett all campaign, is currently nursing a groin strain.

Also injured is captain Keith Primeau, who sat out Wednesday in Columbus with a sprained wrist. He is expected to be back for this evening's tilt.

Philadelphia, 4-1-4 in its last nine away from home, will host the back end of this home-and-home Saturday night at the Wachovia Center.

The Flyers have had what many call a mental block against New Jersey in recent years, as they are 1-5-1 in the last seven meetings. That includes a 3-2 loss at the Meadowlands on October 30. The Flyers have lost three of their last four in East Rutherford.

12/12 16:21:27 ET


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