Flyers Notes

MONTREAL - Since being moved onto the Flyers' No. 2 line last week, right winger

Joffrey

Lupul

looks re-energized playing alongside

Jeff Carter

and

Scott Hartnell

.

The three players live near each other in Old City and have a chemistry - on and off the ice.

"I think they're really enjoying the fact they get to play with each other now," coach

John Stevens

said before last night's game in Montreal.

Entering last night, Lupul had two goals and two assists in the four games since being moved to Carter's line.

Carter has been "hot the whole year, and anyone could probably do the job on his wing right now," Lupul said. "For me, it's nice to be given a little more ice time, and it's a challenge because you're going against other teams' top lines and top defense pairs . . . and it's fun to be challenged like that."

Stevens said the new-look line has been "very good for us. Three big guys with very different skill sets. Hartsy's great on the wall, Jeff's great with speed through the middle, and Loops can score from distance, as we saw the other night" in a 5-2 conquest of Colorado.

"On top of that, the three of them are great friends. They hang out together, and I think they're excited about the opportunity to play together."

Lupul said he has a "little more room" playing alongside Carter (22 goals entering last night) because opponents sag on the high-scoring center.

"They have to respect his speed," Lupul said.

Lupul, Carter and Hartnell have also excelled as part of the second power-play unit. Lately, they have been just as effective as the first unit, composed of

Mike Richards

,

Simon Gagne

and

Mike Knuble

.

"That's a luxury we have as a team, throwing two units that are pretty equal," Lupul said. "Most teams kind of have one unit, load it up, and they play a majority of the power play. We've got two solid ones, so that's a big advantage for us to always have fresh guys on the power play."

Overlooked

With all the points they register, the strong defense provided by Gagne and Richards is sometimes overlooked.

But entering last night, Gagne was tied for the NHL lead with a plus-20 rating, and Richards was tied for seventh at plus-16.

"We sat down at training camp and told our leadership groups that if we're going to be a good team and try to go further than we have before, it's going to have to start with them being two-way hockey players - and they have," Stevens said.

They have been particularly effective in shorthanded situations, in which Gagne leads the league with eight points and Richards is second with six points.

Breakaways

Antero Niittymaki

made his fourth start in the last six games last night, as

Marty Biron

is still battling the flu. . . . The Flyers should be happy

Mats Sundin

signed with Vancouver. The Rangers were the other team he was considering, and the Flyers play New York five more times. . . .

Randy Jones

, on a rehabilitation assignment with the Phantoms, set up the club's first goal in its 3-2 overtime win over Binghamton on Wednesday.

- Sam Carchidi