Center Mike Richards could become the third player in Flyers history to win the Selke Trophy, given to the NHL's best defensive forward.

Bobby Clarke (1982-83) and Dave Poulin (1986-87) are the only Flyers to win the award.

The award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association after the regular season ends on April 12.

Richards, who leads the league with seven shorthanded goals, figures to be a strong contender, along with last year's winner, Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk (plus-32), and San Jose's Patrick Marleau (plus-20), among others.

Datsyuk is viewed as the favorite, but Richards' work when the Flyers are shorthanded - he set an NHL record this season with his third career goal in three-on-five situations - will garner him lots of support. So will the fact that he has shut down several of the league's top scorers. Witness his work Sunday against Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the Flyers' 3-1 win.

A player's plus-minus statistic is a good barometer of his defensive play. Entering last night, Richards was at plus-23, which tied him for 10th among NHL forwards.

Before the game against New Jersey, Flyers coach John Stevens lauded Richards' "commitment to play hard all the time in all situations. He plays against top players every night . . . and he still has the ability to be one of our best offensive players."

Stevens said Richards is "the guy we want on the ice killing the penalty, five-on-three. He's the guy we want on the ice taking the key face-off. He's the guy we want on the ice protecting the lead or trying to catch up."

Breakaways

By scoring two power-play goals in each of the previous two games, the Flyers advanced to No. 6 in that category (with a 21.6 percent success rate), and they were also sixth in the league in the penalty kill (83 percent success rate) before last night. . . . Entering the night, the Flyers were 15-17 in one-goal games while the Devils were 21-7. . . . Simon Gagne has at least a point in 10 of his last 11 games. . . . In last night's first period, Scott Hartnell committed his 50th minor penalty this season, tops in the league. . . . When the Flyers host Florida on Thursday, it will be "Wig Night" in honor of Hartnell's long, curly locks. The first 5,000 fans and all children ages 14 and under will receive a bushy brown wig, resembling Hartnell's trademark hair.

- Sam Carchidi