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Flyers need to exorcise Devils in NJ

Just looking at the way things have gone for the New Jersey Devils lately, it would seem that tonight is a perfect time for the surging Flyers to find a way to win a game in North Jersey.

Just looking at the way things have gone for the New Jersey Devils lately, it would seem that tonight is a perfect time for the surging Flyers to find a way to win a game in North Jersey.

It's been a while, since 2004, or 11 straight losses in two buildings - the old arena in the Meadowlands and the new one in Newark - since the Flyers won there.

But even with the Flyers on a four-game winning streak and the Devils on a five-game losing streak and struggling to score, it's still the Devils and a big two points are at stake. So it won't come easy.

"It's a game with five games to go and two points that we need," coach John Stevens said. "The last time we played the Devils, hearing their comments, they seem to really get up for us. They play their best games against us. I know [Martin] Brodeur does.

"For us, it's a game we have to win and we're going to make ourselves aware of the Devils. But I really think we have to have the confidence in our game plan, our execution of fundamentals, and going out there with a game plan and committing to it. Having the confidence to implement the game plan from start to finish."

Before the last four games, tonight's game looked like nothing more than a way to slip farther from a playoff spot. But the Flyers have turned things around since losing back-to-back games to Toronto on March 11-12, followed by losses to Boston and Pittsburgh. Now, tonight's game looks like a way to challenge the teams above them in the Eastern Conference standings.

Daniel Briere seems to have found the offense the Flyers sought when they got him in the offseason - especially with the addition of Vaclav Prospal to his line. And instead of losing in critical moments, the Flyers are winning.

Last night, the Flyers were the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with 11 of the conference playoff contenders in action. Anything can happen over the next five games and where the Flyers end up will have a lot to do with how they play in the remaining games, starting tonight.

"Everyone was talking last week about how we were battling with Boston, Buffalo and Washington, and I think now this team has to look and say we're battling with the Rangers, the Devils and the Senators," said goalie Martin Biron, referring to the teams ahead of the Flyers in the standings by three points or fewer going into last night.

"We need three points from those guys, and three points, as we know, can be made up like this and lost like that," Biron said, referring to the Flyers' two remaining games vs. New Jersey. "That's what this locker room, I think, is definitely looking at right now."

History being what it is, the Flyers will have a hard time forgetting that they're playing the Devils and that the past is not on their side, unless they look at things the way Jeff Carter does.

"It's a whole new ballgame," Carter said. "I don't care what happened at the start of the year. I know we're playing good hockey right now."

Jones back

John Stevens was noncommittal about the possibility of Randy Jones (hip flexor) returning to the lineup tonight, but all signs point to him playing. Jones said he feels good and stayed for the whole practice yesterday.

The question becomes which defenseman comes out, considering that Stevens said he will only dress six. Usually, that has meant Lasse Kukkonen. Not tonight.

"Probably not," Stevens said. "I think [Kukkonen] has played great. This kid, for me, if you look at what he has done, he's a competitive guy who wants to play.

"He was out of the lineup for a while, but every day he went to practice and when the whistle blows and practice starts he's a player on our team and he tries to be the best player he can be. And I think he's played extremely well."

Ryan Parent or Jaroslav Modry might be scratched if Jones is in and Kukkonen plays. Parent's ice time has dropped lately. He played only 8 minutes, 53 seconds in Tuesday's overtime win over the Rangers in New York. And with Modry's veteran experience and mounting ice time (24:35 against the Rangers), Parent would likely sit. *