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Flyers eyeing playoff berth against Senators

By Alan Ferguson

Stats Writer

Philadelphia (42-25-10) at Ottawa (33-34-10) 7:00 p.m. EDT

OTTAWA (AP) -- The Philadelphia Flyers broke out of their recent

slump and moved back into the Eastern Conference's top four by

taking advantage of a struggling opponent.

They'll look to stay there and clinch a second straight playoff

berth against another team finishing a disappointing campaign.

However, winning in Ottawa hasn't proved easy for most opponents

lately, and it's been more difficult recently for the Flyers,

who seek just their fifth road victory in 10 seasons over the

Senators on Saturday night.

After three losses in four games, general manager Paul Holmgren

publicly criticized some of his players for their poor

performances. The Flyers responded with their best offensive

game of the season -- an 8-5 home victory Friday night over

Toronto.

Wrapping up a home-and-home series with the Maple Leafs,

Philadelphia scored five goals in the first period, and Jeff

Carter recorded his first NHL hat trick.

"We were sitting comfortably in fourth place, and sometimes you

lose that intensity," center Danny Briere said. "That was a

wake-up call, and we responded."

With the win, the Flyers moved one point ahead of Carolina for

fourth in the East, which carries home-ice advantage in the

first round. With a seven-point advantage over idle Florida,

Philadelphia needs a victory over the Senators to nail down its

second straight playoff appearance, but the Flyers have often

come up empty in their recent trips to Ottawa.

Since 1998-99, Philadelphia is 4-10-1 with five ties at

Scotiabank Place, and has one win in its last six road games

over the Senators. Philadelphia lost 4-1 in its previous trip

November 6.

Carter moved into second in the league with 44 goals, and Simon

Gagne and Scott Hartnell have each reached 30. Claude Giroux has

also tallied a goal in three straight games, but the Flyers have

only outscored opponents by a 31-26 margin in the past eight

contests while allowing at least three goals in each of the last

five.

In addition to scoring three of his eight goals in the last

three contests, Giroux has recorded three straight multipoint

performances, and has seven points in that span.

Although they will miss the postseason for the first time since

1995-96, the Senators have acted like a playoff team on their

home ice, where they look to win eight straight for the first

time since November 14-December 14, 2002.

Ottawa enters Saturday's game having lost four of its last five

to conclude a six-game road trip and dropping into last in the

Northeast Division. The Senators couldn't capitalize on Daniel

Alfredsson's early goal and 31 saves by Alex Auld in a 2-1

defeat to East-leading Boston on Thursday night.

"We were one shot away and it's disappointing, but the guys'

effort was definitely there," Ottawa interim coach Cory Clouston

said. "They make you pay. They're a very good team. A couple of

little turnovers like that and they make you pay."

A lagging offense can take much of the blame for the team's

recent woes as the Senators have scored 10 goals in the last

five games.

The Flyers have lost two of three meetings this season with

Ottawa, but are 4-2-1 in their last seven.

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