|PHI||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
|OTT||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
The Philadelphia Flyers and the Ottawa Senators have both reached the .500 mark in similar ways.
Both teams have used tighter defense and better goaltending to overcome dismal starts and look to continue those improvements Thursday in Ottawa.
Flyers (4-4-3) started 0-3-3, giving up 29 goals in those first six games. Philadelphia goaltenders Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki combined to allow seven goals in a four-game winning streak before having that snapped with a 5-4 loss Sunday to Edmonton.
"We gave up way more chances in the first five games than in the second five games. We dropped them by almost half," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "If you do a better job without the puck and checking and create the same amount of chances on offense, you're going to win a lot of hockey games."
The Flyers also have converted nearly twice as many power-play chances during the last five games, scoring on 9 of 23 opportunities after cashing in on just 5 of 31 through the first six games.
At 25.9 percent, Philadelphia ranks just ahead of Ottawa's 22.8 percent in NHL power-play conversion rates. The Flyers have scored on 14 of 52 opportunities with the man advantage, and the Senators have converted on 13 of 57 chances.
Scoring hasn't been a problem for the Flyers, who are averaging a NHL-best 3.91 goals - nearly half a goal more than the Detroit Red Wings' 3.50.
Simon Gagne and Mike Richards share the team lead with 14 points apiece. Gagne has a point in all but one game and scored a goal in all but three. Richards has a point in each of the last three games, and Jeff Carter, who has a team-leading nine goals, has scored in six of the past seven contests.
The Senators (5-5-2) allowed 25 goals in a 2-5-1 start, but have conceded just seven goals in going 3-0-1 in their last four games. Alex Auld, who has started the last six games after Martin Gerber injured his leg, may have supplanted Gerber as the No. 1 goaltender.
Auld, signed as a free agent this offseason, lost two of his first three starts, allowing eight goals. But in his last four games, he has yielded just six and is among the league leaders with a 1.96 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. Auld stopped 26 shots in a 2-1 overtime victory Tuesday over the Washington Capitals and is 2-0 in three games against the Flyers, allowing eight goals.
"He's confident in what he's doing. He's confident in the decisions he's making," defenseman Jason Smith told the Senators' official Web site. "If you go around and ask any player in the league, if you're feeling confident and you've got that edge, it's a lot easier to play."
With a close margin on the power play, a superior penalty kill for the Senators could give them an edge on special teams.
Philadelphia has allowed a power-play goal in all but two games, and opponents have converted nearly 20 percent (12 for 61). The Senators, meanwhile, have conceded only seven power-plays goals in 52 chances for an 86.5 percent kill rate.
Dany Heatley has a four-game goal streak, and leads Ottawa with eight goals and 14 points, but has been limited to three goals in his last seven games versus the Flyers.
Philadelphia went 3-0-1 against Ottawa last season, outscoring the Senators 15-7.
|Apr 04 '09||PHI 3 at OTT 4 - SO||M. Fisher|
|Feb 12 '09||OTT 5 at PHI 2||N. Foligno|
|Dec 23 '08||OTT 4 at PHI 6||S. Gagne|
|Nov 06 '08||PHI 1 at OTT 4||D. Heatley|