Maple Leafs host Flyers as Burke era gets underway

Sports Network

11/29/2008 11:39:19 AM

(Sports Network) - Playing their first game after officially naming Brian Burke team president and general manager, the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Philadelphia Flyers in tonight's meeting at Air Canada Centre.

Burke was introduced this afternoon as the franchise's new GM after signing a deal reportedly worth $17 million over six years on Thursday.

Burke will replace Cliff Fletcher, who was hired as interim general manager following the firing of John Ferguson in January. Burke spent the past three- plus seasons as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks and led the team to a Stanley Cup title in 2007. He stepped down on November 12 after declining to sign a contract extension.

He will become the 13th general manager in the Leafs' 92-year history and the first American to have that honor.

Burke inherits a club that is just 7-9-6 this season and one that is also in the midst of a five-game losing streak. Toronto was handed its most recent setback on Thursday, as it dropped a shootout decision in Ottawa. Jason Spezza scored the winner in the shootout as the Senators downed the Leafs, 2-1, at Scotiabank Place.

Spezza was the first shooter and he banged his wrister off the right post and into the net. After Alex Auld made saves on Nikolai Kulemin and Lee Stempniak, Daniel Alfredsson sealed the win as his wrist shot beat Vesa Toskala.

Kulemin scored in regulation while Toskala stopped 34 shots for the Maple Leafs, who matched their longest losing streak of the season having also been defeated in five straight from October 11-21.

The Leafs are just 3-4-4 as the host this year and have dropped two straight and three of their last four on home ice.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, had a season-high winning streak halted Friday afternoon, as it lost in overtime to visiting Carolina. Sergei Samsonov scored the game-winner with 1:07 left in OT to give the Hurricanes a 3-2 decision in the finale of a home-and-home series. The Flyers had won their sixth straight contest in the opener of the set Wednesday at Carolina.

Jeff Carter and Joffrey Lupul each had a goal and an assist for the Flyers, while Martin Biron made 27 saves in defeat.

Simon Gagne was held off the scoresheet to have his nine-game point streak snapped. Carter, however, registered a point in his fifth straight contest and now leads the NHL with 16 goals on the year.

Despite the loss, the Flyers have still notched a point in nine straight games, going 7-0-2 during that run.

Both Carter and Biron suffered shoulder injuries in Friday's setback. Carter is expected to play tonight, while Biron is questionable and may give way to backup netminder Antero Niittymaki, who beat the Hurricanes on Wednesday.

Also, forward Danny Briere is expected to miss his ninth test in a row this evening, as he continues to recover from a groin injury. Briere could be ready to return Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Philadelphia is 6-3-2 as the visiting team and has won three straight on the road.

The Leafs have won two straight and eight of the last 10 encounters with the Flyers and Philly has been defeated in three of its previous four stops in Toronto.