SAN JOSE - For the second game in a row, the Flyers will face a high-powered offense when they take on the Sharks tonight in San Jose.

The Pacific Division leaders (14-5-4) have a lethal bite that averages 3.22 goals per game and boast a first line that includes snipers Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau. All three are in the NHL's Top 10 for individual scoring and they combined for 74 points in 23 games.

That's a lot for any defense to handle.

Aside from their regular in-zone obligations - in which they shut down the league's leading goal-scorer, Anze Kopitar, on Wednesday - the Flyers' defensemen have contributed in a more noticeable fashion: at the other end of the ice.

In 18 games this season, the eight defensemen currently on the Flyers roster have accumulated 57 points. To put that in perspective, they only posted 141 points in all 82 games last season - which ranked them in the bottom five of the league.

"We want to attack with five," Flyers coach John Stevens said yesterday after his team's practice at the HP Pavilion. "We want to get our 'D' up the ice to join every rush. We've got guys now that can get the puck through to the net.

"Our defense is doing a great job of getting more pucks to the net and I think our forwards are doing a better job of getting them pucks in the offensive zone. We seem to have guys with that skill set that can contribute in that type of environment."

A big part of that has been the addition of Chris Pronger. He is tied for third on the team in points and leads the Flyers with 13 assists.

But he isn't the only one. Braydon Coburn already has three goals on the season and added another two assists in Los Angeles on Wednesday to boost his points total to nine. Matt Carle has also stepped up with 13 points to balance out the Flyers' back-end attack; Kimmo Timonen led the Flyers' defensemen last year with 43 points.

"We lost some scoring punch up front over the summer," Carle explained. "I think we wanted to put a little more emphasis on our back end, getting involved offensively."

The Flyers' league-leading power play, converting 27.6 percent of the time, has also aided the defensive statistics. Stevens says the numbers have been cushioned by the fact that the Flyers are using two defensemen on both of their power-play units, instead of Mike Richards quarterbacking one of them like he did last season.

Tonight, all six sets of eyes will be glued on Thornton, Marleau and Heatley. But they will also keep the net in their peripheral. It's a big reason the Flyers are 12-5-1.

"We know what to expect from them," Carle said. "They are one of the powerhouses in the league. They're a big team, fast team. It's a good measuring stick for us to see where we're at."

Old stomping grounds

Matt Carle is familiar with the HP Pavilion in the serene Silicon Valley. Carle played parts of three seasons with the Sharks, who drafted him out of the University of Denver in 2003. They brought him up after his Hobey Baker Award-winning junior campaign at Denver was over in 2006 and he made the jump directly from the NCAA to the NHL and played in the Sharks' final 12 games and two playoff contests.

Tonight is his third career game against San Jose. He said it is a "tough building to play in," as the Sharks have sold out all eight home games so far this season.

Carle leads the NHL in plus/minus ratio as a plus-18. Carle's defensive partner, Pronger, is second at plus-14. Carle has never finished one of his three complete seasons as a double-digit plus.

"It's kind of a weird statistic," Carle said. "Sometimes it's just being in the right place at the right time. Other times, it gives credit to the defensive play that you're doing. I've been fortunate to play with a guy like Pronger, we've been clicking pretty well."

Quotable

Mika Pyorala said yesterday that his parents were in fact watching the Flyers-Kings game live on television in Finland when he scored his first NHL goal. He said his phone was full of "SMS [text] messages" when he looked at it after the game. Pyorala scored around 6:40 a.m., Finland time, which is 10 hours ahead of Pacific time.

"I'm glad that I got that," Pyorala said. "I hope it doesn't take that long to get the next one."

Slap shots

Ray Emery will get the start tonight in goal. John Stevens said Brian Boucher's fine performance Wednesday in Los Angeles gives the Flyers options on the rest of the five-game road trip. Emery will be opposed by Evgeni Nabokov. Backup Thomas Greiss beat the Flyers, 4-1, on Oct. 25 . . . Sharks defenseman Rob Blake skated yesterday but will be out at least another week with an upper-body injury. Jody Shelley (lower-body injury) will also miss tonight's game . . . The Flyers are 5-3-3 at HP Pavilion since it opened in 1993 but have not won a game there since Nov. 5, 1999.

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.