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Two of the league's hottest teams face off Sunday afternoon when the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Atlantic Division rival New Jersey Devils.
The second and third-place teams in the Atlantic behind the New York Rangers, Philadelphia (18-8-6) and New Jersey (18-9-3) have both been surging for more than a month. The Flyers have won 14 of 19 games (14-2-3) since Nov. 11 to amass 31 points - tied with Eastern Conference-leading Boston for the most in that stretch. Meanwhile, the Devils boast an 11-2-1 record since Nov. 15.
This is the fourth meeting of the season between these division foes, with the Flyers holding a 2-1 edge. Philadelphia won two October matchups, including a 6-3 victory Oct. 24 at the Prudential Center, but fell 3-2 in overtime at home on Dec. 4.
Philadelphia has recovered to win six of seven since that loss, and matched a season high in goals Saturday in a 7-1 home victory over Washington. Backup goalie Antero Niittymaki made a season-high 47 saves to help the Flyers rebound from Thursday's 5-2 defeat at Montreal.
"Niitty stood tall and gave us the momentum," said center Jeff Carter, who had two goals and two assists.
Niittymaki has compiled a 2.52 goals-against average in winning six of his last seven starts, including two of three in place of the flu-ridden Martin Biron. However, he is 0-5-3 with a 3.54 GAA in his last 11 appearances - including eight starts - against the Devils since April 1, 2006.
Scott Hartnell scored three times in the third period Saturday, recording his fifth career hat trick and his second in the last five games. The winger - who also had an assist Saturday - scored three goals in a Dec. 6 win at Carolina.
"It's been a good couple of weeks," said Hartnell, who has seven goals and three assists in his last six games. "I just want to keep going, stay positive, and stay confident."
New Jersey has received a similar offensive boost from Patrick Elias, who has seven goals and nine assists during a season-high nine-game point streak. He had two goals and two assists Friday as the Devils opened their four-game homestand with a 5-1 victory over Ottawa.
"Sometimes you go through these streaks," said Elias, who has notched 27 of his 36 points over his last 15 games. "We just have to keep it going. I'm having fun out there, making plays. When they go in, they go in. When they don't, I'll just keep working the same way."
Zach Parise had four assists Friday, while Scott Clemmensen made 24 saves to earn his 10th win in his last 12 starts.
Clemmensen made 29 saves in the Devils' Dec. 4 victory in Philadelphia - his only career appearance against the Flyers. Elias scored twice in that contest, giving him 23 goals and 56 points in 58 career games versus Philadelphia.
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