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Flyers recall Gratton, send down Nodl

Josh Gratton was promoted. Andreas Nodl was demoted. And goalie Marty Biron was still feeling ill. Those were the Flyers' developments yesterday.

Josh Gratton was promoted. Andreas Nodl was demoted.

And goalie Marty Biron was still feeling ill.

Those were the Flyers' developments yesterday.

Gratton, a hard-nosed winger, was recalled from the AHL Phantoms and will play on the fourth line today against the Alex Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals in a 1 p.m. matinee at the Wachovia Center.

Nodl, a winger who had three assists and no goals (but several near-misses) in 24 games with the Flyers, was sent down to the Phantoms.

As for Biron, he is still suffering from the flu and, although slightly improved, he was sent home from yesterday's practice in Voorhees. Flyers coach John Stevens said he was hopeful Biron could play tomorrow in New Jersey.

Antero Niittymaki, who wasn't sharp but didn't get much support in Tuesday's 5-2 loss in Montreal, will play today. He will be starting for the fifth time in the last seven games and sports a 2.84 goals-against average.

Gratton was with the Flyers earlier this season. He was scoreless in 11 games but 3-1 in fights.

"I think he just fits into the fourth-line role. He gets pucks deep. He establishes the forecheck. He doesn't just throw it away," said Stevens, whose club has just two regulation losses in its last 18 games. "I thought he played very well the last time he was here, and he's gone down with the right attitude."

Today, the Flyers will face Washington for the first time since last year's memorable Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Flyers won in seven games.

The Capitals, one of the league's bigger teams, will carry a five-game winning streak into this afternoon.

"They have a lot of energy. They look like they never get tired, and they like to win games 6-5, and they're going to try and score on you all the time, and it's going to be a tough game for us," winger Simon Gagne said.

"They're a good team. . . . I don't think they played as well earlier in the season as they expected to, but neither did we, and I've seen them play [well] as of late," Stevens said. "I actually pre-scouted a Montreal game when they played Washington. They play hard, just like they did last year. Their forecheck is very strong. They're one of the better cycle teams in the league because they use their size very well, and they've got some dynamic offensive players."

Ovechkin, who has 20 goals and 43 points, Nicklas Backstrom (34 points), and Alexander Semin (32 points, plus-20 in the plus-minus rating) lead the Caps.

The Flyers have done a nice job defending some of the league's top players, such as Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Ovechkin, however, provides a different kind of challenge.

"When you shut down a guy like Malkin, you kind of take him out of the game if he's not doing anything offensively," said Flyers winger Joffrey Lupul, who scored the overtime goal to beat Washington in Game 7 last season. "Ovechkin can change the tide of a game in many different ways. Just the energy he brings, the physical play. His shot is so good, he's a threat to score any time he's in the zone, so checking him is a little different. I mean, you can't rest for a second because he's




Washington is 7-9-2 on the road and 13-1-1 at home. . . . Washington has won four straight at the Wachovia Center. Prior to that, the Caps were 0-15-1 in their previous 16 visits to Philly. . . . Randy Jones, trying to get back with the Flyers after hip surgery, is still on a rehab assignment with the Phantoms. Stevens said there's a chance Jones will join the Flyers tomorrow in New Jersey. . . . Gratton on his recall: "I look at it as more of an opportunity to keep showing that I belong in the NHL." Gratton talked about a fight he had with Montreal's Georges Laraque earlier this season. "That didn't go too well, so maybe I'll stick a little more to my weight class, around 200-210 pounds. That might be a little smaller and wiser choice," he said. . . . Goalie Scott Munroe was reassigned to the Phantoms but will probably be recalled to serve as the Flyers' backup today.

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