|BUF||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
|PHI||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||6|
The Philadelphia Flyers know they have three other 20-goal scorers to fall back on if Jeff Carter isn't producing. With Thomas Vanek out, the Buffalo Sabres don't have as many reliable options behind their leading scorer.
They're hoping Drew Stafford is turning into one.
|Stats: Game Notes For Tonight|
|Roster: Interactive Depth Chart|
Stafford will look to continue his recent hot streak Thursday in Philadelphia as the Sabres and Flyers meet in a battle of teams chasing home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Carter is among the NHL leaders with 34 goals, but Philadelphia (30-16-9) has three other forwards with at least 20 - Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Scott Hartnell - to help make it one of the league's top-scoring teams.
The Sabres (30-22-6) also have one of the NHL's leading goal scorers in Vanek, who's found the back of the net 32 times. Yet, they'll be without him for at least three weeks because of a fractured jaw, and have only one 20-goal scorer - Derek Roy - behind him.
If Stafford keeps producing like he has recently, though, he'll hit the 20-goal mark soon enough. The right wing had two goals in a 4-1 win at Toronto on Tuesday to give him a career-high 17, with eight of those coming in his last 11 games.
"As long as I'm contributing, especially now with Thomas out, we're going to need all the goals we can get and if that's what I'm going to be contributing, than so be it," said Stafford, taken 13th overall by Buffalo in the 2004 draft.
"I know it's not going to happen every night, but we have a lot of guys in here who can contribute in the goal-scoring department, so I'm just trying to do my part in that aspect as well as trying to be solid everywhere else."
Roy, who centers Stafford's line, has been the Sabres' most dangerous scorer other than Vanek. He hasn't been scoring as much lately, though, compiling a goal and four assists in his last 10 games.
Buffalo, however, hasn't needed much production lately to win in front of Ryan Miller. The veteran goaltender is 5-2-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last eight starts.
He could have a tough time dealing with high-scoring Philadelphia, which put up five goals in each of its two wins over the weekend. Hartnell and Gagne both scored in a 5-1 home rout of the New York Islanders on Saturday, and the Flyers put up four goals in less than nine minutes to start the second period in a 5-2 road win against the New York Rangers on Sunday.
"We won two very big ones for us," said Martin Biron, who made 73 saves in the victories. "We feel pretty good about the situation we're in."
Philadelphia has 69 points and is fourth in the East, with the Sabres and three other teams close behind in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Flyers won both games over the weekend without a goal from Carter. They're 11-14-3 when he doesn't score and 19-2-6 when he does.
Carter scored twice in Philadelphia's first meeting against the Sabres this season, a 3-0 win in Buffalo on Nov. 21, as Biron stopped all 40 shots against his former team. Carter has six goals in five meetings with the Sabres since the start of last season.
Buffalo has won five of its last six trips to Philadelphia.
|Mar 20 '09||PHI 6 at BUF 4||M. Knuble|
|Mar 10 '09||BUF 2 at PHI 5||M. Richards|
|Feb 19 '09||BUF 3 at PHI 6||M. Knuble|
|Nov 21 '08||PHI 3 at BUF 0||S. Hartnell|