SENATORS (8-5-2) at FLYERS (9-4-1)
Last 10 -- Senators 5-3-2; Flyers 6-3-1.
Season series -- This is the first meeting of these teams this season. They play again in Philadelphia on Dec. 10. The Flyers visit Ottawa on Jan. 3, their first game after the Winter Classic, and again on March 23. Ottawa won three of four games last season, including a shootout victory at Philadelphia in their last meeting on April 4. The Flyers rank sixth in the Eastern Conference and the Senators are seventh.
Big story -- The Senators are stumbling despite being mostly healthy, while Philadelphia is flying high, winning four in a row despite having five regulars out of the lineup.
This is the first time the Senators will oppose Flyers goalie Ray Emery, who took them to the 2007 Stanley Cup final, then struggled with emotional problems and played last season in Russia. Emery, who attended Ottawa centre Jason Spezza's wedding last summer, is 9-3-1, ranks 10th in the league with a 2.27 goals-against average and is tied for eighth with a .922 save percentage.
Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire, the No. 8 pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft who came to Ottawa from Columbus in March, is 6-4-1, ranks 20th with a 2.71 GAA and has a .898 save percentage.
Ottawa leads the NHL in misconducts and average penalty minutes per game. Coach Clouston told them to shut up and play after Saturday's come-from-ahead loss to New Jersey, when the Senators had 39 PIMs, including two misconducts, and the Devils got all three goals on power plays.
Senators -- Ottawa's 3-3-2 record in its last eight games includes four that were decided in overtime or shootouts. The Senators lost in overtime to Nashville and won in overtime against Tampa Bay. They lost a shootout to Boston and beat Edmonton in a shootout on Tuesday night. The Senators are weak defensively and in goal, ranking 19th in goals-allowed per game, while they are 11th in goals per game. The top line of Jason Spezza between Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson has 39 points, the second line has 23, the third line has 16 and the fourth line has 15 points with Shean Donovan at right wing, or 13 with Ryan Shannon there.
Second-liners Jonathan Cheechoo (one goal) and Alexei Kovalev (four goals, points points) have been disappointments. GM Bryan Murray said this week he's looking to make trades and that he's short at least one good player.
Flyers -- For the first time in four games, the Flyers hope to be able to play their top line of rookie left wing James van Riemsdyk, dynamic right wing Danny Briere with centre Jeff Carter, who scored 46 goals a year ago.
Most interesting will be Emery's first appearance against his old team.
"I don't follow them that closely," Emery said this week. "I talked to a few guys there. I don't keep in touch with management or anything like that. It's just a team I used to play for."
Who's hot -- Van Riemsdyk has 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) to tie Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly for the NHL rookie-scoring lead. Defenceman Matt Carle leads the NHL with a plus-14 mark. … Alfredsson had a point in nine straight games prior to being blanked by the Oilers. Alfredsson leads the Senators with 18 points on six goals and 12 assists. … Drop and give me 20: The Flyers are over .500 in shootouts for the first time in history thanks to Coach John Stevens policy of dividing the team in half for shootout drills. Losing team does pushups. The old ways still work in hockey.
Injury report -- Ottawa defenceman Anton Volchenkov has missed the past five games after dislocating his elbow Oct. 28 against Florida. Philadelphia's Simon Gagne had hernias surgery on Nov. 3 and will miss the next 6-8 weeks. Van Riemsdyk suffered a broken pinkie that split open when he was hit by a shot from Carter on Saturday against St. Louis. It took 20 stitches, but he's going to try to play. Briere suffered a right quadriceps injury Oct. 27, then had the flu and is likely to return Thursday. Defenceman Ryan Parent has played only part of one of the past eight games because of a groin injury. He's doubtful for Thursday. The bad news: he had a groin injury at the end of last season. Defenceman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen suffered a concussion Saturday and is likely to be held out a week, in accord with the team's head-injury guidelines. Briere, Tollefsen, Parent and van Riemsdyk all practised Tuesday.
Stat pack -- The standings don't reflect it, but the Flyers are the sixth-best team in the NHL, yet fourth in their division. They rank 14th in points but are sixth with a .679 percentage of points earned per game. No team has played fewer than the Flyers' 14 games. They lead the NHL by scoring on 26.6 per cent of their power plays, are second with 3.57 goals per game and 34.4 shots per game, fifth in outscoring teams with a 1.27-to-1 ratio in 5-on-5 play. They are also ninth-best in allowing only 2.57 goals per game. The Flyers are good and hot right now.
Puck drop -- "They're a big, strong physical team. They're aggressive and they drive the net probably as well as or better than anybody. They always seem to have somebody on top of the goaltender. They've got some big, physical guys on the back end and Ray (Emery) is playing very well in goal. Especially in their barn, they always seem to play very well." -- Senators coach Cory Clouston describes the Flyers.