Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Flyers remain hot despite mounting injuries

Remember when the Flyers started off the season winless in their first 6 games? Seems like a distant memory now as the team has won 13 of its last 18 and ascended into second place in the Atlantic Division, a mere 3 points behind the Rangers, a team that has played 3 more games than the Flyers. The streak is amazing considering they have done it with Danny Briere on the shelf for most of the season and Martin Biron out for the last few games.

While Briere still figures to be out a few more weeks, the Flyers are hoping that Biron, who has been battling the flu, will take the ice again Tuesday night against the Senators. Biron will be a welcome sight on the ice because, while Antero Niittymaki has played well, the sooner Marty can establish himself as the number one goaltender the better. If there is one knock against the Flyers, it's the fact that they don't have a true, number one, superstar goaltender that they can ride. Biron has shown flashes of greatness, like in the playoffs last year, but he has had trouble being consistent in goal.

While one Flyer returns to the ice tonight, another will be leaving: Scottie Upshall will be sidelined for 10 to 14 days with a knee sprain. Upshall could be joined on the sidelines by Glen Metropolit who has been dealing with back problems. All of these injuries leave the Flyers thin at forward and force them to rely on AHL guys like Josh Gratton, Jon Kalinski, Darroll Powe and Andreas Nodl. And, when they are really desperate, they move Lasse Kukkonen from defenseman to 4th line center.

The Flyers have made a remarkable run to get themselves back into the mix at the top of the Eastern Conference, a run that looks even better considering all the injuries. When the Flyers finally do get to full strength, they figure to have tremendous depth and three solid scoring lines that will be difficult for other teams to deal with. Right now the Flyers are relying on Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Mike Richards to carry the load offensively so when Danny Briere gets back it should open things up even more for one of the best offenses in the league.

Health permitting, this Flyers team looks poised to make another deep run into the playoffs. That's quite a statement considering how terrible they looked at the beginning of the season.

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