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GAME: Ottawa Senators (42-22-10-6) at Philadelphia Flyers (40-20-14-6).
TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.
Anyone expecting a continuation of the bad blood from the last game between the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers should think again.
There's just too much at stake.
The Senators and Flyers will meet at the Wachovia Center for the first time since their March 5 brawlfest in Philadelphia resulted in an NHL-record 419 penalty minutes.
Though many players have said there is still a lot of unfinished business between the teams, Thursday may not be the right time to settle matters. In the wake of the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident, the league is showing less tolerance for on-ice violence.
And if that's not enough of a deterrent, both the Senators and Flyers are right in the thick of the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and desperately need the two points.
"These games are always going to be as passionate as any game and full of intensity," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "But no one can afford to go through the fireworks, not this late in the season. None of that stuff can happen."
The Senators have used a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) to move within two points of Boston for the top spot in the Northeast Division with two games remaining. The Bruins tied lowly Washington 3-3 on Thursday.
The Flyers have split their last six games, but ended a two-game slide with a 2-0 win over Montreal on Thursday. They are two points ahead of New Jersey in the Atlantic Division with two games to play.
The hatred between these teams started in February when Ottawa's Martin Havlat was ejected from a game for taking a two-handed swing at Mark Recchi's head in frustration at the Philadelphia forward's dogged stick-checking.
Hitchcock later said Havlat was "a reckless player and someday someone is going to make him eat his lunch."
When the teams met last month, Flyers tough guy Donald Brashear tangled with Senators enforcer Rob Ray and the fights escalated from there. There were five separate brawls in the final two minutes that resulted in 16 players being ejected. In all, 20 players got fighting penalties and only five players remained on the benches when the game ended with the Flyers winning 5-3.
Officials needed about 90 minutes after the game ended to sort the penalties. The previous record for penalty minutes was 406 by the Minnesota North Stars and Bruins in 1981. The Flyers had 213 minutes and Ottawa had 206.
Afterward, Philadelphia general manager Bob Clarke, captain of the Broad Street Bullies teams of the 1970s, went toward Ottawa's dressing room, but was stopped by Flyers officials.
Though the venue and the combatants are the same, the circumstances have changed. Ill-advised penalties will almost certainly come back to haunt the guilty parties because Ottawa and Philadelphia boast the two best power-play units in the league.
"It's going to be a normal game," Havlat said. "They're trying to get ready for the playoffs, and the same for us. Everybody wants to be at their best. Everybody wants to play in the playoffs. Nobody wants to do any stupid things."
STANDINGS: Senators - 100 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Northeast Division. Flyers - 100 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Marian Hossa, 36 goals and 81 points; Daniel Alfredsson, 48 assists; Chris Neil, 178 PIM. Flyers - Recchi, 26 goals, 48 assists and 74 points; Brashear, 210 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 31): Senators - Power play: 21.6 percent (79 for 366), 1st in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.7 percent (282 for 337), 20th. Flyers - Power play: 21.5 percent (64 for 298), 2nd. Penalty killing: 84.0 percent (284 for 338), 18th.
GOALTENDERS: Senators - Patrick Lalime (25-23-7, 5 SO, 2.29 GAA); Martin Prusek (15-5-3, 3, 2.08). Flyers - Robert Esche (21-10-6, 3, 1.99); Sean Burke (16-20-7, 1, 2.73).
SEASON SERIES: Even, 1-1-1.
LAST MEETING: March 5; Flyers, 5-3. At Philadelphia, Claude Lapointe and Recchi scored 30 seconds apart in the first period for the Flyers.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 19-15-5-1 on the road; Flyers - 24-10-3-3 at home.