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Flyers prepare for Capitals, Green

Used to be that when the Flyers got ready to play the Washington Capitals, most of the talk was about Alex Ovechkin.

Used to be that when the Flyers got ready to play the Washington Capitals, most of the talk was about Alex Ovechkin.

The Capitals' Russian star is one of the best players in the league and is a handful for any team all by himself. Beyond Ovechkin there is Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom, not to mention Sergei Fedorov, who can still play a little.

But there is another big threat on the Washington blue line left over from last year who just seems to get better and better and will command a lot of attention from the Flyers tonight in D.C. - defenseman Mike Green.

"He's a very dynamic player, he plays a lot of minutes, he's extremely gifted offensively and he has great chemistry with the other offensive weapons they have there," coach John Stevens said. "He keeps you on your toes. He's a fourth man on the attack all the time and if you go to sleep in your zone he's going to find a seam and they usually get him the puck coming in the weak side.

"He forces you to be very attentive defensively," Stevens said.

Green was a threat last season and during the Flyers' playoff series against the Capitals, when he had three goals and four assists in the seven games.

But this year Green has really taken off and is on pace to become the eighth defenseman in league history to score 30 or more goals in a season, joining the ranks of Bobby Orr, Phil Housley, Denis Potvin, Paul Coffey, Kevin Hatcher, Ray Bourque and Doug Wilson.

With 22 games left for the Capitals, Green has 22 goals and recently set a league record by scoring in eight consecutive games.

So the Flyers are going to have a big challenge tonight in a game they need to win after starting badly Saturday against Pittsburgh and losing on a fluke goal.

The Flyers are still sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, but with 25 games left, now is the time to buckle down and start taking points in critical games.

"We talked about it this morning," Stevens said. "There has to be a big commitment from all of us to have a strong finish. If you look at the month of March, we need both of our goalies playing great. They're both going to have an opportunity to get in the net and we, too, collectively as a group, from our goalie position right on through, need to bring our best games down the stretch."

Richards recognized

Mike Richards was taking the blame for key turnovers that led to two goals in Saturday's loss, but the NHL still sees the Flyers' young captain for what he is and named him their first star for his play last week.

Richards was the league's leading scorer last week, recording three goals and five assists in two games, including his league-leading seventh shorthanded goal.

"I don't think I've been a star before so it was nice to be that for the first time, nice to help your team throughout the week. I guess it's a good accomplishment," he said.

Carter better

Jeff Carter is battling the flu, but John Stevens said he will be in the lineup tonight. Carter participated in part of yesterday's practice before leaving to rest.

Briere pushed back

Danny Briere had been targeting tomorrow at home against Los Angeles to make his return to action, and while he hasn't completely ruled out that game, he said that Friday at home against Montreal is more likely.

"We had a pretty hard skate there at the end [of yesterday's practice] and we'll see tomorrow how it is, how [his healing abdominal surgery] reacts," he said. "Last week after Wednesday's skate, the next couple of days were a little tougher, but I'm hoping I'm kind of over that hump and that even after a tough practice and a tough skate I can recuperate enough to be fine the next day."

Briere said the delay is not considered a setback.

"Coming into last week I really felt better and better, and I really felt that by Wednesday this week I would be 100 percent, but those last few days have been maybe a little slower. There hasn't been any setbacks, but just a little slower to get to 100 percent."

Sent down

Both Josh Gratton and Jon Kalinski were reassigned to the Phantoms yesterday. Both have been on long-term injury, Gratton recovering from abdominal surgery and Kalinski from a severe leg contusion. *