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Bruins set for stern challenge from Flyers

By Alan Ferguson

Stats Writer

Boston (47-17-10) at Philadelphia (41-23-10), 7 p.m. EDT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Without their leading goal scorer, the

Boston Bruins picked up another key win in their drive for the

top seed in the Eastern Conference.

In the arguably one of the toughest matchups remaining, the

Bruins will look to maintain their newly regained consistency

and try for a fourth straight road win over the Philadelphia

Flyers on Sunday night.

Phil Kessel, who has a team-best 31 goals, is expected to miss a

second consecutive game with an undisclosed injury, but his

teammates responded in his absence Saturday night with a 7-5 win

in Toronto. Boston took command with four straight goals to end

the second period, snapping a season high five-game road losing

streak, and six different Bruins scored with former Flyer Mark

Recchi tallying a pair.

Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick each had three assists and were

among 12 players to register at least a point.

After winning five of six coming out of the All-Star break,

Boston went 6-9-4 and allowed New Jersey and Washington to gain

ground in the East standings.

Thanks to consecutive victories, the Bruins (48-17-10) have

pushed five points ahead of the Capitals and are six in front of

New Jersey with eight games remaining in their attempt to grab

the conference's top playoff seed for the first time since

2001-02.

Boston's schedule appears advantageous with only three remaining

opponents currently in playoff contention - the Flyers, New York

Rangers and Montreal. In addition to their three straight wins

in Philadelphia, the Bruins are 6-1-1 there since Feb. 19, 2004,

but have dropped their last two overall meetings with the

Flyers.

With his team holding a more comfortable lead in the conference,

Bruins coach Claude Julien is focused on preparing his team for

the postseason. Boston, which will make its second straight

appearance after winning its first Northeast Division title

since 2003-04, hasn't advanced past the first round in 10 years

and lost in seven games to Montreal last season.

"Just because we're in a playoff spot doesn't mean that

everything's OK. Our play in the last month and a half hasn't

been up to par. We need to get better in our game," Julien said.

"It's about fine-tuning ourselves and getting some momentum

heading into the playoffs."

The Flyers come into Sunday's game looking to maintain their own

spot in the East's playoff race, sitting fourth with 92 points.

In winning four of its last five, Philadelphia (41-23-10) has

moved one point ahead of red-hot Carolina in the battle for

home-ice advantage but is only six in front of Montreal in

eighth.

The Flyers, who are also six points back of New Jersey in the

Atlantic Division, rallied for a 4-3 shootout victory Saturday

night against the New York Islanders. Trailing by two entering

the third period, Philadelphia scored three straight goals but

allowed the Islanders to tie it at 3-all before prevailing in

the tiebreaker.

"We had to battle back and find ways to play better," said Mike

Richards, who clinched the shootout win. "It's nice that we can

come back and win in that situation."

Scott Hartnell extended his point streak to four games with a

goal and an assist, giving him seven goals and 13 points in his

last 10. Jeff Carter is on a six-game streak with three goals

and four assists in that time.

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