Home woes for Flyers

DAVID W. UNKLE -- For SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- With Thursday night's win against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Flyers improved to 14-9-4 when Mike Richards records at least one point ... if only the Flyers could be as consistent as their $69-million, future-captain when it comes to playing at the Wachovia Centre.

After beginning the 2007-08 season with six straight home wins, the Flyers went 0-3-2 and 0-2-2 with one win sandwiched in-between. Richards meanwhile has tallied at least one point in each of the last 16 home games for the Flyers (10G, 16A) including his assist on Joffrey Lupul's third period goal in last night's 4-1 win over the Leafs that tied a Flyers' team record for consecutive point-scoring at home.

It hasn't helped them necessarily in the win column, but the Flyers powerplay units are on fire. With Lupul's second period marker, the Flyers have scored at least one powerplay goal in each of their last nine games (15 for 57, 26.3%) and are ranked second in the NHL.

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Right or wrong, expect Flyer netminders to start feeling some heat if the team can't shake the inconsistency that has plagued them since the end of October. Martin Biron's win last night snapped a four-game winless streak (0-2-2) and was only his second win in his last eight games. In years past, there was always a viable alternative at the end of the bench.

This year, backup Antero Niittymaki is an unspectacular 3-4-0 with a .901 save-percentage and third-stringer Brian Boucher is on a one-way deal with the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms and is subject to recall waivers.

One option: General Manager Paul Holmgren might look to get a goaltender when he thins out the team's abundance of defencemen after the holiday trade-freeze, which ended at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 28.

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How nice would Patrick Sharp's 19 goals and 32 points look on the Flyers' roster right now? Sharp fell out of favour with then-head coach Ken Hitchcock and was dispatched to the Blackhawks in December 2005. The Flyers received Matt Ellison (who tallied one point in seven career games with the Flyers) along with a third-round draft pick for Sharp who now leads the NHL with nine shorthanded points (7G, 2A) and is among the league's top goal scorers.

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And last but not least, the Flyers took a huge step towards shedding the head-hunting label that rightly or wrongly has been affixed to the Orange and Black when they traded Ben Eager to the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 18.

Eager, a poster-child for questionably illegal potshots since his days with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL, contributed little to the Flyers this season. His parting contribution as a member of the Flyers reached a new low on Dec. 11 when he loitered around the Pittsburgh dressing room to taunt head coach Michel Therrien following the Flyers' 8-2 thrashing of the Penguins.

In traditional fashion, Eager opted not to share similar sentiments with Pens' enforcer Georges Laraque.

It will be interesting to see how Eager's act plays in the Windy City under the tight leash of the Chicago coaching staff. Assistant coaches Mark Hardy and John Torchetti promptly dispatched Sean Avery from Los Angeles and the former Kings' agitator offers something that Eager does not -- the ability to dent the twine. In 23 games with the Flyers this season, Eager was scoreless and was a minus-8.

David Unkle can be reached at: topcatsports@canoemail.com


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