PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Goaltender Robert Esche gets the
start against his former team Friday night as the Philadelphia
Flyers host the Phoenix Coyotes.
Esche was acquired from Phoenix on June 12, 2002 with Michal
Handzus for goalie Brian Boucher and a draft pick. He was
Phoenix's sixth-round pick in the 1996 draft and played parts of
three seasons there.
In his first season in Philadelphia, Esche was 12-9-3 with 2.20
goals against average in 30 games as Roman Cechmanek's backup.
This season, he has split time with Jeff Hackett and is 7-2-2
with a 1.88 GAA in 11 games.
Esche is facing the Coyotes for the third time. In a 6-2 win in
Philadelphia on October 31, 2002, he stopped 18 shots. On
December 28 at Phoenix, Esche gave up four goals on 33 shots in
a 4-0 loss.
The Flyers are the only unbeaten home team in the NHL at 11-0-2
and Esche has been key to the start. He is 6-0-1 with a 1.69
GAA at the Wachovia Center and unbeaten in his last eight home
starts dating to March 22.
However, Esche is not the only former Coyote that has aided
Philadelphia's big start. Jeremy Roenick and Tony Amonte, who
were teammates in Chicago but not in Phoenix, have combined for
43 points this season.
They have spent most the season as a linemate of Mark Recchi,
who had two goals on October 18 in a wild 5-4 victory at
Roenick, played in Phoenix from 1996-2001, added a power-play
goal and two assists, while Amonte, whose stint with the Coyotes
ended after 59 games last season, chipped in two assists.
Roenick and Recchi had a hand in Philadelphia's latest win, a
5-2 home win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They each had a goal
and an assist as the Flyers avoided back-to-back losses for the
second time this season.
The Coyotes have won two in row following an 11-game road
Phoenix ran its unbeaten streak to four games with Thursday's
3-2 win at Buffalo. The Coyotes continued to excel at 4-on-4
situations as Branko Radivojevic scored with 4:03 remaining.
Prior to scoring Phoenix's 10th-leading 4-on-4 goal, Radivojevic
assisted on former Flyer Chris Gratton's third goal in as many
games. Gratton and Boucher are two former Flyers that played
key roles in the win.
Boucher made 34 saves Thursday, but Sean Burke, who played 11
games as a Flyer during the 1997-98 season, is expected to
oppose Esche. He is 15-16-4 lifetime against the Flyers.
Philadelphia is 22-8-0 all time at home against the Coyotes.