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Tough Weekend of Matinee Hockey Ahead for Flyers

Jan 21, 2012, 11:32 AM EDT

A look at Saturday afternoon's matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils.

The Flyers aren’t exactly coming off their best performance of the season, a 4-1 beheading at home under the axe of the division’s last place team. Today they face another divisional foe up in middle Jerz at 1PM, after which they’ll host the Bruins at 3PM.

We’re still far enough from the finish line that the outcomes of any two games aren’t likely too pendulous in their impact. But, we don’t have to look too far back to remember how quickly a good season can turn to garbage. Right around this time of year too…

Two wins this weekend, on the other hand, could help to right a listing ship entering the stretch run. Below, a look at what the Devils are packing.

Charting the Atlantic
New Jersey’s one of the quiet success stories of the Eastern Conference this season, just four points behind the Flyers with 54 points on a 26-18-2 record. Not bad for a team that missed the playoffs by 12 points last season. The Atlantic is a tight place, with only eight points separating the top dog Rangers (62) from the Devils in fourth (54).

The Devils are having a solid January. They lost against Boston on Thursday, but won their previous three and five of their last seven.

It’s been a while since the Flyers have seen the Devils. They grabbed a 3-0 win in opening night at the Rock, spoiling the evening for dozens of New Jerseyans. Then, in early November, there was that painful shootout loss at home that happened to coincide with the Union’s final playoff loss to Houston. Banner night, that.

The Killers
The Devils are a middle of the pack team in more than just the standings, ranking 17th in both goals and goals against per game, with the 21st ranked power play. But, they do boast the top penalty killing unit in the league, snuffing out just more than 90% of all opposing man advantages and ripping off 11 shorthanded goals. Adam Larsson runs the show on the blue line. Beast. For a Flyers team that struggled mightily in transition and gaining the zone on Thursday, that’s something to worry about this afternoon.  

Sniper Alert
Patrick Elias leads the team in scoring with 45 points, and Ilya Kovalchuk has the top mark in goals with 19. There’s been no sign of Koval-choke lately. The Russian sniper has 10 points on seven goals and three assists in his last seven games.

Their Little Pony
The team brought in winger Alexei Ponikarovsky on a Friday night trade, dealing away AHL defenseman Joe Sava and a fourth round pick. Pony will play today.

Pipers
Tom Gulitti (good Devils beat follow) says it’ll be Martin Brodeur between the pipes for the Devils. Not exactly the dooming sentence it once was. Still awaiting word on whether he’ll face Bob or Bryz at the other end. Bob played his ass off in the loss to the Isles, but Bryz notched the team’s only shutout in this building to start the Devils’ season. Who you hoping for today? Tomorrow?

Update: It’s Bryz.

Who Steps Up?
The top line’s struggles lately have had many wondering whether Peter Laviolette would split them up in hopes of re-igniting them. At least for now, he’s keeping them together, perhaps in part due to their request.

The rookies have been doing their part to keep the scoring coming, led by Sean Couturier and Matt Read.