No shortage of offense

Behind the league's top offense and exceptional goaltending, the Philadelphia Flyers are quickly putting an awful 2006-07 season behind them.

The Atlantic Division-leading Flyers look to continue their early-season success and open with four straight home wins for the first time in 12 years when they host the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

Philadelphia (5-1-0) set franchise records for most losses (48) and fewest points (56) last season, while going a NHL-worst 10-24-7 at home.

However, behind the stellar play of offseason addition Daniel Briere and goaltender Martin Biron, the Flyers have looked nothing like last season's club.

Philadelphia has scored 15 more goals than its opponents - the largest differential in the league - and is outscoring the opposition 19-3 during its four-game winning streak. The Flyers have not won five straight games since Dec. 22-29, 2005.

They'll wrap up their first homestand of the year Saturday night, as they try to open a season with four consecutive home wins for the first time 1995-96. Philadelphia did not win its fourth home game of 2006-07 until Feb. 10.

While the Flyers appear to have things turned around, left wing Simon Gagne believes the team will have a better idea of where it stands after facing Carolina.

"It's going to be the biggest test I think this year to see where we're at," Gagne told the Flyers' official Web site.

Philadelphia went 2-1-1 against the Hurricanes last season.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Philadelphia -155 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on Philadelphia -155 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

The Flyers defeated division rival New Jersey 4-0 on Thursday, as Biron made 38 saves to become the first Philadelphia goalie to record back-to-back shutouts since Brian Boucher in 2001. Biron stopped 31 shots in Tuesday's 4-0 win over Atlanta.

Biron, acquired from Buffalo in a February trade, has started each game for the Flyers this season and compiled a 1.50 goals-against average.

"There's no question Marty brings confidence to our hockey team,'' Philadelphia coach John Stevens said. "He's never rattled. You don't see any frustration. It looks like business as usual for him.''

Biron is 6-4-0 with one tie, one shutout and a 2.43 GAA lifetime against Carolina.

Briere, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter each have four goals on the season for the Flyers, who are averaging a league-best 4.17 goals per game.

Briere, who signed an eight-year, $52 million free-agent contract with Philadelphia in the offseason, leads the team with nine points. He had four assists in four games against the Hurricanes last season while playing for Buffalo.

Carolina (4-1-2) lost 4-3 in a shootout to Pittsburgh on Friday, snapping its three-game winning streak.

The Hurricanes suffered a big blow with 2:34 remaining in the second period, as right wing Scott Walker fell to his knees and was taken to the hospital with what was described as a torso injury.

Carolina responded poorly, allowing two goals in the following 2 1/2 minutes.

"Obviously after (the injury), I don't know what happened,'' defenseman Glen Wesley said. "It was bang-bang, but we can't use that as an excuse.''

Walker's injury was not said to be serious and he has been released from the hospital.

Goaltender Cam Ward had given up just nine goals in his first five games, but allowed all three Penguins shooters to score in Friday's shootout. Ward is 2-1-1 with a 3.74 GAA against the Flyers in his career.

Backup goalie John Grahame made 31 saves in his only start of the season, a 2-0 loss to Washington on Oct. 6, and is 4-3-0 with two ties and a 2.62 GAA in his career against Philadelphia.

Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour had two assists on Friday, giving him a goal and seven assists on the season. Brind'Amour, who spent more than eight seasons with the Flyers before being traded to the Hurricanes in January 2000, has two goals and eight assists in his last 11 games against his former team.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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