SABRES (5-17-1) at FLYERS (8-10-2)
TV: MSG-B, BELL TV, CSN-PH
Last 10: Buffalo 3-7-0; Philadelphia 5-3-2
SEASON SERIES: It's the first of three times this season the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres will meet. The Sabres won two of the three games the teams played last season, but in their only game in Philadelphia, the Flyers won 3-2.
BIG STORY: The Flyers continued their strong play with a 5-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday that moved them out of seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and put them two points behind the third-place New York Rangers for the final automatic spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Sabres still are trying to adjust to how interim coach Ted Nolan wants them to play, especially defensively. Practice has involved lots of work on positioning and communicating.
"If one hand knows what the other hand is doing it's much easier," Nolan said. "We have to communicate, we have to talk, we have to stop and start in our defensive zone. Some things change but some things stay the same. Strong defensive hockey wins lots of games."
Sabres: After sending out three young players Tuesday, the Sabres will give two others a chance Thursday against the Flyers.
Nolan told reporters in Buffalo that Luke Adam and Brayden McNabb, recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League, would be in the lineup Thursday. Adam played left wing on a line with center Zemgus Girgensons and right wing Steve Ott, while McNabb split time with a few different defensemen.
Adam is tied for the AHL lead with 13 goals in 15 games, while McNabb has 12 points and a plus-5 rating in 15 games. Nolan said strong play is why they're skating with the Sabres now.
"He [Adam] is having a great year in the American league," Nolan said. "When kids do that they have to be rewarded. That's what the American Hockey League is about. He's being rewarded for his play. McNabb the same way; he's playing real well in a different way. We want to reward guys down there and keep guys up here on their toes because there's always somebody coming in the back door. You never know where they're going to come from."
Flyers: With back-to-back 90-point seasons, Sean Couturier was considered one of the most offensively gifted players in the 2011 NHL Draft class when the Flyers chose him with the eighth pick.
However, that offense hasn't been seen as much a quarter of the way through his third NHL season. After scoring 13 goals as a rookie, he had four in 46 games last season, and snapped a 25-game goal drought when he scored in the second period of the Flyers' 5-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.
"I feel 20 pounds lighter just getting that in," Couturier said Wednesday. "Sometimes you think too much when things aren't going your way. In the first period [when he missed an open net], maybe you think too much about that chance I had."
Couturier has contributed in other ways -- he's the Flyers' best defensive forward and his plus-2 rating is the best among the team's forwards who have been in Philadelphia all season. Now the hope is this sudden burst of offense can bring him some added confidence.
"It's huge for [Couturier] to get a goal," coach Craig Berube said. "He goes out and does a great job checking for us and playing a good role against teams' top lines and penalty kill, faceoffs and little things.
"To get rewarded with a goal here and there, and he's had opportunities to score a goal and it hasn’t gone in, I think he'll start putting it in a little bit now. Sometimes you get that first goal and feel better and more confident."
Who's hot: Flyers captain Claude Giroux has two goals, three assists and a plus-5 rating in the past five games; in his first 15, he had had seven points, all assists, and a minus-11 rating.
Injury report: The Sabres and the Flyers report no injured players.
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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