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Flyers shuffling off to Buffalo

What Buffalo hockey person doesn't remember Brian Campbell's hit on R.J. Umberger? The playoff blast will linger as one of the fiercest checks in Sabres history.

We find out tonight if the Philadelphia Flyers remember it.

The teams meet in HSBC Arena for the first time since the Sabres eliminated Philly in last season's playoffs. The hit was a touchy issue throughout that series, touchy as in nearly every time Campbell came close to the Flyers, they tried to reach out and touch him -- hard.

"I don't know. I don't know how everything will be," Campbell said after practice Monday. "In my view that was last year that happened, so you move on and whatever. We'll see. Everybody's looked at, seen it, knows it was a clean hit. He's back playing, which is good. Other than that, that's last year."

It's likely the Flyers will be more concerned with winning than exacting revenge on Campbell. They're off to a 1-3-1 start and are tied with Boston for last place in the Eastern Conference.

"I think they're going to be hungry to come in and win," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Obviously, losing a playoff series is something that is in the back of their minds, and they'll probably use some of that as motivation."

Scoring has been the Flyers' biggest concern. They opened the season with Peter Forsberg centering Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne, and that line scored eight goals in the first five games. The rest of the team had three goals.

So on Monday, Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock moved Knuble to the second line with Jeff Carter and Umberger, while Kyle Calder joined Forsberg and Gagne.

"You might as well see if there are other combinations," Hitchcock told Philadelphia reporters. "One of our obligations is to get other people going. I think that's very important. When you're on the road and you have just one line, it's too easy for the other team to play that one line."

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After starting the season 0 for 17 on the power play, the Sabres have started humming at a 5-for-15 clip the last 2 1/2 games.

"We knew it would get going," Sabres left wing Ales Kotalik said. "When the guys get along on the ice, get that feeling of each other back, it was just a matter of time when it would come back to what we did last year. It's where we want it to be right now."

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The Flyers will start Robert Esche in goal. He lost the season opener, 4-0, to the Pittsburgh Penguins, then watched from the bench as Antero Niittymaki started the next four. Esche has a save percentage of .810, while Niittymaki has stopped 90.1 percent of his shots while posting a 2.73 goals-against average.

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Hitchcock, who engaged in verbal sparring with Ruff during the playoffs, upon hearing that much of Buffalo was without power: "Maybe Lindy and I can have a candlelight dinner together."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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