Hartnell, Giroux probable tonight in crucial matchup vs Panthers

Coach John Stevens told the media this morning that he expects forwards Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux to play tonight against the Florida Panthers, at the Wachovia Center at 7 p.m.  Hartnell was sent home from practice yesterday with a serious case of pink eye and Giroux underwent tests to find a possible stomach ulcer.  The tests were negative, but it did reveal he has some acid reflux issues and he will be fine.

“He looked pretty bad,” Joffrey Lupul said of Hartnell’s eyeball. “Worse than normal.”

Giroux told the media that the stomach pain he has felt for days now does not affect his on-ice play, as he doesn’t even notice it when he’s playing.

“I went to the doctor just to check it out. I’ll be fine,” he said. “It didn’t really matter when I was playing. When I’m on the ice, I don’t think about it.”

The Panthers come to town looking to keep their hot streak going and keeping their focus on securing the eighth and final playoff spot, which they are currently tied with the New York Rangers. Florida has won four of its last five.

The Flyers come into the matchup down in the season series 0-2-1 against Florida.  They have lost their last three of four and seem to be coasting before the final playoff push.  The Flyers need just one point to clinch a playoff berth but need seven out of a possible eight points, in the final four games of the season, to clinch the fourth spot and home ice advantage in the Eastern Conference.  Philly is currently tied with Carolina for the fourth spot with 95 points, but have a game in hand.

“The good thing about the position that we’re in is we don’t really have to scoreboard-watch as long as we take advantage of the games that we have in hand,” Flyers captain Mike Richards said in published reports.

Marty Biron is likely to start in goal for the Flyers, since Antero Niittymaki went on Saturday and rarely gets back-t0-back starts.  Biron is 6-11 with a 2.75 gaa against Florida in his career and has lost five straight against the Panthers with two coming already this season.

Craig Anderson is likely to get the nod from Florida.  Tomas Vokoun has lost seven of his last eight games and had the start on Sunday.  Anderson beat the Flyers on March 26, leading his team to a 4-2 win with 40 saves.

OUTLOOK

The Flyers offense is suffocated by the Panthers’ defense.  They manage to get off a ton of shots, but can’t penetrate enough around the net to make them count.  Florida blocks a lot of shots and plays a tight defensive style that gives the Flyers fits.

To win, Philly will need an early lead and a better game from Biron, who was a rebound machine the last time the teams met. The Flyers out-chanced Florida, but the game was given away by Biron in the third period, after being tied 2-2.

After the contest ends tonight, Florida will become big fans of the Flyers.  The Flyers have two remaining games with the Rangers, whom the Panthers need to lose in order for them to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

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Filed under 2008-09 season, Injuries

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