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Game 24, Preview and Open Thread: Southern Comfort? Philadelphia Flyers at Atlanta Thrashers

Philadelphia Flyers (13-9-1, 25 pts) at Atlanta Thrashers (12-7-3, 27 pts)
Phillips Arena - 7:00 PM EST - Atlanta, GA
TV: CSN Philly HD, Yahoo! Online
Radio: 610 WIP, XM 207
This is the open game thread.
Behind Enemy Lines: Bird Watchers Anonymous

As was the case against the Islanders on Wednesday night, the Flyers will take on a seemingly inferior team tonight that is tied with them in the Eastern Conference standings. This time it's the Atlanta Thrashers, who host Philadelphia for the first time on the year. The good news tonight is that the Flyers have won 14 straight against the Thrashers. Of course, the bad news is that many of those wins came with the help of goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who never lost to Atlanta during his Flyer career.

With Niittymaki now elsewhere, John Stevens will turn to another backup goaltender tonight. Brian Boucher looks to continue his hot play in hopes of picking up Ray Emery, who has not looked hot over the last two weeks or so. For the record, Stevens said that was the original plan and not a decision made after Emery's loss yesterday. Boosh, on the other hand has looked very sharp in each opportunity he's seen over that time period.

The Flyers will need a solid performance out of Boucher tonight considering these aren't your grandpa's Thrashers. Atlanta leads the league in goals per game with 3.54 and they're third in the league in total goals scored with 78. They're led of course by the always dynamic Ilya Kovalchuk, who has 14 goals in just 16 games this season. Following Kovy's lead are Maxim Afinogenov -- a player who almost didn't have an NHL job this season -- and second-year Thrasher Rich Peverley, who is on pace to shatter his personal best scoring season.

You also can't ignore the Atlanta youth movement, one that consists of 18-year-old rookie Evander Kane and 19-year-old sophomore Zach Bogosian. Luckily for the Flyers, Bogosian is in the midst of a five-game scoreless drought while Peverley has just one goal in his last seven.

Atlanta is a very good on special teams, ranked 5th in the league on the power play and third on the penalty kill. The Flyers have been under performing in each of those departments lately and they won't be able to afford that tonight.

Philadelphia planned on getting Danny Briere back tonight off of his two game suspension, but of course, the forward is out with the flu. Jared Ross made the trip with the team but probably will not play thanks to the dirty hit laid on him by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta yesterday. Jon Kalinski has been called up from Adirondack and will probably play.

Atlanta goaltending mainstay Kari Lehtonen is out with an injury, but the Thrashers have been getting capable net minding from Ondrej Pavelec and Johan Hedberg. Pavelec played less than 24 hours ago in Carolina, so we could see Hedberg -- the Flyers 1994 9th round draft choice -- in goal tonight.

After the jump, questions to answer.

Questions To Answer

  1. Can the Flyers get out of their special teams slump?
  2. Do the Flyers limit Ian Laperriere's ice time just a day after his upper lip split in two thanks to a Jason Pominville slap shot?
  3. Can Boucher keep up his hot play?
  4. Do the Flyers beat Atlanta for a unbelievable 15th straight time, or can the Thrashers get their first win against Philadelphia since 2005?

Tonight's game will be broadcast locally on CSN Philly. No television in the Atlanta area, apparently. Outside of the Delaware Valley, catch a free live stream at Yahoo! (link above). As always, join us here for the conversation and LET'S GO FLYERS!