FLORIDA PANTHERS: 3-5-1 (7 PTS.) vs. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: 4-6-0 (8 PTS.)
Game Day Song: Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
The Florida Panthers will be looking to regroup after losing Tuesday night to the Winnipeg Jets with six seconds remaining in overtime by a score of 4-3. A game which saw the Panthers tighten up defensively, yet not enough to hold on for victory. The Panthers will also be looking to avenge themselves from the last meeting against the Flyers which saw Philadelphia pound them 7-1 as Flyer Matt Read picked up his first career hat trick. The Panthers who we reeling at the time, have turned their game around, gotten healthy, and have played much better since then. This will be game three of a four game road trip, and while they can’t be unhappy with three out of four points in two games, that can all change with a loss tonight.
The Panthers have allowed an average of 3.67 goals per game which is tied for second worst in the league will benefit from the presence of Erik Gudbranson who should make his season debut tonight. An interesting stat from Tuesday’s game against the Jets is that the Panthers allowed only three shots against in the first period, and two each in the third and overtime. However the Jets managed 14 in the second frame, and that’s where they picked up two goals to tie the game. The Panthers had won the previous two games firing 67 combined shots, while managing a season low 19 against Winnipeg on Tuesday. The power play was held scoreless as was Peter Mueller who’s four game goal streak came to an end. However, the play of rookie Drew Shore has continued to impress as he played another strong game with his hard skating, and driving to the net. His solid effort rewarded him with his second NHL assist on Jonathan Huberdeau’s goal in the first period which gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead. The trio of Shore, Huberdeau and Mueller has been making teams take notice, and is looking more and more like the surprise line of the year. If they can all find some consistency, and Shore can pick up his first goal to get some additional confidence, they’ll be a force to reckon with.
One player however who is struggling on the offensive side is center Stephen Weiss who after five games has no goals and two assists. He has taken only three shots on goal, and in his defence could have played hurt in the first couple games of the season, but if the Panthers top line is going to be successful, he’ll have to produce. One of the more consistent players in recent games has been veteran Tomas Kopecky. Tied for third in scoring with six points, it’s been Kopecky’s work along the boards, in the corners, and his forechecking that have been the most impressive. Playing on a line with Marcel Goc, and Alex Kovalev that trio has appeared responsible at both ends of the ice. Against the Flyers all the lines will need to play that same way and keep the game simple, staying out of the penalty box.
The Flyers have been one of many teams struggling with inconsistency, as well as injuries. Like all other NHL teams, it’s something that is widespread throughout the league and just makes for good excuses. Their defence has tightened up as well as seen by holding the explosive offence of the Tampa Bay Lightning to 22 shots and one goal on Tuesday en route to a 2-1 victory. Coach Peter Laviolette was pleased with the performance:
“Our defensemen did a good job with sticks on pucks and eliminating gaps,” coach Peter Laviolette told the team’s official website. “Our forwards did a good job reloading and coming back hard to our end. We blocked a lot of shots tonight and cleaned up the front of the net.”
Also improving for the Flyers has been the play of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov who has allowed 11 goals in his last six games and now has a .923 save percentage after making nine starts. Also noticeable in with the Flyers is their power play. In their six losses they converted only 2 of 30 chances, but in four of their wins they are 6 for 15. The Panthers as mentioned need to stay out of the penalty box and not play into that issue. The Flyers are one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL right now, averaging only 2.3 goals per game, and that includes the 7-1 beating of the Panthers on January 26th.
Matt Read is the leading scorer for Philadelphia with three goals and and four assists for seven points coming over 10 games. Note however he is scoreless in nine of those games. Claude Giroux is second in scoring with 6 points (3 G- 3A). The Panthers needn’t take the lack of scoring by Philadelphia lightly for obvious reasons, and will have to have another strong start, and work hard in all three zones.
* Looks like some line shuffling. Kris Versteeg and Peter Mueller have switched spots. Alex Kovalev is the healthy scratch with Jack Skille back in the lineup.
* This is the 79th meeting between the two clubs. The Panthers are 27-39-7-5 overall against the Flyers.
* Kevin Dineen and Gord Murphy both played with Philadelphia, while Craig Ramsey was an assistant and head coach.
* Tomas Fleicshmann needs two goals for 100 in his career.
* In seven games against the Panthers Flyer goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is 5-1-0-1 with a 1,40 GAA.
* Flyer defenceman Andreas Lilja played with the Panthers for two seasons, while Kris Versteeg for Philadelphia for 27 games, and Scottie Upshall played three seasons for the Flyers.
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