Flyers look to solve struggles vs. West

Feb 22 2011 - 5:15pm

PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers have had few weaknesses during their remarkably consistent season, one that has them leading the NHL in wins, atop the Eastern Conference, and without back-to-back losses in nearly two months.

One of their few flaws: They have won just seven of 15 games (7-5-3) against Western Conference opponents, and they have their worst record (2-3-1) against teams from the Pacific Division.

On Tuesday, in Scottie Upshall's first game at the Wells Fargo Center since he was dealt to Phoenix nearly two years ago for Dan Carcillo and a second-round 2011 draft pick, the Flyers will be tested by one of the West's top teams, the streaking Coyotes.

Phoenix (32-19-9) has won seven straight, is 8-2 in its last 10 road games, and sits atop the Pacific with 73 points. The Coyotes are third in the West.

"Behind the New Jersey Devils, they're probably the hottest team in the league," coach Peter Laviolette said after Monday's practice in Voorhees, "so I think you have to respect the fact they're going to come in here and play a good hockey game. We have to make sure we're ready to do our work."

Phoenix has nine players with between 10 and 16 goals, with Upshall leading the way at 16. Ilya Bryzgalov (26-14-6), who has a 2.58 goals-against average and .918 save percentage, has been solid in the nets.

"They're playing well; they have a good coach and good goaltender, and they have a system they obviously believe in," Flyers goalie Brian Boucher said, "so it's going to be another tough test for us."

The Flyers (39-15-5) are expected to use Sergei Bobrovsky, the rookie who has impressive numbers -- a 23-9-3 record, a 2.44 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

Flyers winger Scott Hartnell said Western Conference teams have "different styles, for sure. The East is a lot tighter and (has) bigger guys, I think. In the West, it's a little bit more open. But we need to have a big effort coming off a big road trip here at home."

Carcillo, who scored the game-winner against the Rangers on Sunday, is looking forward to facing his former team.

While acknowledging "there's probably only three or four guys that I really know on that team now," Carcillo said he will always have fondness for Phoenix.

"They gave me my start, and I'll always be grateful for that," he said. "Wayne (Gretzky, the former Coyotes coach) was a big part of it. He's not there now, but I'll always be grateful to him -- and to the organization because they gave me a chance to play. There's always something there."

Phoenix has allowed a total of 11 goals in its last seven wins.

"They've been this good for over a year now," recently acquired Flyers winger Kris Versteeg said. "It's no fluke. They play a team game. All four lines roll."

Versteeg will be playing his first home game since he was acquired from Toronto last week. He has played primarily on a line with Mike Richards and James van Riemsdyk.

Laviolette said Versteeg was going through a "learning curve" and getting adjusted to his new team, but that he was pleased with the winger's play.

"The more comfortable he gets, the more impact he'll have offensively," Laviolette said.

Laviolette figures to keep Hartnell on a line with the sizzling Jeff Carter (seven goals in last 10 games) and Claude Giroux. They combined for six points in Sunday's 4-2 win over the Rangers.

Hartnell, of course, has spent almost the entire season on the Flyers' most productive line, with Danny Briere and Ville Leino.

"Just trying to keep things fresh around here," Laviolette said of the switch, which has Andreas Nodl on Briere's unit.

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