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Old 12-07-2007, 05:01 PM   #106
Bronx33
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Default Flyers-Avalanche Dec 7, 2007, 9:00 PM EST



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Strong road play has helped the Philadelphia Flyers move atop of the Atlantic Division. Playing well at home, meanwhile, is keeping the Colorado Avalanche out of last place in the Northwest.

The Flyers seek their fifth straight road victory Friday night when they visit the Avalanche for the first time in almost four years.

Behind a strong performance from backup netminder Antero Niittymaki and a goal and an assist from Jeff Carter, the Flyers continued their impressive road play Wednesday with a 3-1 victory over Minnesota.

Niittymaki stopped 28 shots in a rare start and Scottie Upshall and Braydon Coburn also scored for Philadelphia (15-9-2), which hasn't won five straight away from home since a six-game run from Dec. 13-29, 2005.

The Flyers are among the NHL leaders with nine road wins while winning just six of 11 at home.

"The thing is we play a simple game on the road. That's the key," Niittymaki said. "We go home and we try too much, try to play a little silly game. I think this is the way we should play, just good defense and get great turnovers and score from there."

Niittymaki was helped by his penalty killers, who limited the Wild to one power-play goal in eight opportunities, including a pair of extended two-man advantages.

Philadelphia, which has alternated wins and losses in its last eight games, is tied with New Jersey and the New York Rangers atop the Atlantic and has games in hand on both teams.

Despite Niittymaki's stellar game, Martin Biron is expected to be back in net for the Flyers. Biron hopes to rebound from his last appearance - a 4-1 home loss to Dallas on Saturday in which he stopped 26 of 30 shots Biron has won three straight starts against the Avalanche - all while with Buffalo.

"Every time he's not his best, he's bounced back and been really good," Flyers coach John Stevens told the team's official Web site. "The impact on his game has a little bit to do with the way we play, as well."

Flyers leading scorer Daniel Briere has gone pointless in consecutive games for the first time this season. He has only two goals in 16 career games against Colorado.

The Avalanche (14-12-1) appeared on their way to a second straight road win with a 3-1 third-period lead Wednesday at Columbus before allowing four goals in an 8:48 span in a disappointing 5-4 loss.

Colorado had been 10-0-0 this season when leading after two periods.

"They seemed to get a lot of momentum off that second goal," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. "We played two rock-solid periods and then they got some life, scored a power-play goal right after and made it a different ballgame at that point."

The loss dropped the Avalanche to a Western Conference-worst 4-9-1 on the road. That, however, has been offset by their 10-3-0 home record, which ranks behind only Detroit and Tampa Bay for the league's best.

With Peter Budaj struggling Wednesday, Jose Theodore is expected to be in net for Colorado. Theodore is 1-4-0 with a 4.04 goals-against average in his last five starts.

The Avalanche have won three straight against the Flyers - all in overtime. This will be Philadelphia's first visit to Colorado since Dec. 27, 2003.
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