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Esche sprains knee, MRI scheduled for Tuesday

2/3/2004

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Philadelphia Flyers lost a lot more than
a game.

The Flyers, fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference,
lost goalie Robert Esche to sprained left knee in their 2-1 loss to
the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.

Esche was hurt in a collision with teammate Simon Gagne in a
scramble near the Flyers' goal at 2:48 of the second period. Esche
remained in the game for the next 1:35 before being replaced by
Neil Little, recalled from Philadelphia of the AHL on Friday.

"It's sore," Esche said. "My foot was on the goal post and
Simon just slid into me. I hurt it immediately."

Esche, who stopped all 10 shots he faced, will have an MRI exam
Tuesday to determine the extent of the injury.

"It's a temporary injury," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said.
"He will be back. He's not out for the season."

Tampa Bay's Pavel Kubina and Ruslan Fedotenko scored on the
Lightning's first two shots on Little.

"Right now we are playing confident hockey," Kubina said.
"Our special teams are working. So is our power play and penalty
killing. We showed it tonight."

Kubina scored on a power-play slap shot seven minutes into the
second period, and Fedotenko made it 2-1 at 8:42.

"Philly is one of the toughest teams to beat at home and now we
have beaten them twice in their building," Kubina said. "It is
fun right now for the whole team."

Michal Handzus scored for the Flyers, who had five-game unbeaten
string snapped.

Handzus opened the scoring at 2:14 of the second period, lifting
a loose puck high over goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.

"Nick needs to be a big part of this success as we go down the
stretch," Lightning coach John Tortorella said, "Tonight, he
stood tall. He made some big saves at key times."

Game notes
Philadelphia RW Tony Amonte returned after missing two
games because of a sprained right knee. ... Tampa Bay increased its
Southeast Division lead over idle Atlanta to 13 points. ... The
Flyers had killed 18 straight penalties before Kubina's goal. ...
Tampa Bay RW Martin St. Louis extended his career-high scoring
streak to 10 games with an assist on Fedotenko's goal. ... The
Lightning are 3-0 against Philadelphia this season.