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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Flyers, Thursday 3-11

The Bruins (29-24-12) will face off with the Philadelphia Flyers (35-26-4) tonight at the Wachovia Center in a Winter Classic rematch. January 1st at Fenway, Marco Sturm’s overtime goal proved to be the game winner in the highly hyped New Year’s Day game on Yawkey Way. Tonight, it’s just another regular season game between two teams fighting for playoff positioning in the middle of the Eastern Conference standings.

Bruins fans everywhere have been paying more attention to the action off the ice this week than on, as news of Marc Savard’s health remains grim and news of the league’s decision to not discipline Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke has everyone up in arms. Savard, according to GM Peter Chiarelli and other front office folks, has not improved since sustaining the hit to the head in Sunday’s loss to the Penguins. He is still suffering from intense headaches and nausea, sleeping most of the days away. His return to the ice this year looks more and more doubtful as time goes on and improvement doesn’t come. Fans certainly have next Thursday circled on their calendar, when Cooke’s Penguins make a trip to Causeway St. to face what will hopefully be a vengeful Bruins squad, hungry to make their mark and retaliate.

But before that battle, the B’s have to focus on tonight’s opponent, the Broad St. Bullies. Philly has a four-point advantage on Boston in the standings, sitting comfortably in the sixth spot in the East, while Boston clings to a three-point lead over the Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot. Let’s jump into some juicy details about tonight’s skate in the City of Brotherly Love:

  • This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between these two storied franchises. The Flyers took the first two games, with Boston earning the overtime victory in the Winter Classic.
  • On the injury front, beyond the loss of Marc Savard indefinitely, the team was without captain Zdeno Chara in Tuesday’s overtime loss to Toronto. Chara, who is nursing a lower body injury, skipped yesterday’s team practice as well, but was seen on the ice for this morning’s pre-game skate and is considered a game-time decision for tonight. Also out of action during yesterday’s practice was center Steve Begin, who was given a “maintenance day” by the coaching staff. Begin was also on the ice this morning and should suit up tonight. Andrew Ference remains back in Boston, sidelined with a groin injury.
  • For Philadelphia, the team lost their starting goaltender Ray Emery for the remainder of the season, just before the trade deadline. Instead of picking up some insurance for the net, the Flyers will instead ride the hot hand of Michael Leighton, who they picked up on waivers from Carolina earlier in the year.
  • Leighton (16-7-2, 2.71GAA) will likely be in net tonight, backed up by Brian Boucher (4-12-1, 2.89GAA).
  • Scoring for the Flyers is led by a pair of centers, Jeff Carter (31G, 26A) and Mike Richards (26G, 28A), followed by veteran defenseman Chris Pronger (8G, 40A).
  • Simon Gagne, the team’s leading scorer the past two seasons, has notched game-winning goals in his last two games, topping Toronto Sunday, and then the Islanders on Tuesday. Gagne has been battling injuries all season, but is still nearly a point-per-game winger.
  • Physical play will likely be at the forefront this evening, as the Flyers currently lead the league in penalty minutes, at 1,100 total.

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