The Flyers have an opportunity for atonement tonight, and they need to make the most of it.
Sputtering Philadelphia hosts the hapless Florida Panthers tonight at 7 P.M. at the Wachovia Center. It is the second time the teams meet within a nine-day span. In the team’s previous matchup on Oct. 16, the Panthers took down the Flyers 4-2, with the help of a late Radek Dvorak shorthanded goal, followed by a Steve Reinprecht empty netter. The contest highlighted the Flyers’ inability to hold a lead or take advantage of the struggling Panthers.
The Flyers enter Saturday’s contest with a respectable but unacceptable 4-2-1 record. The team is riding a one-game winning streak (4-3 shootout victory over the Bruins) and are looking to keep the momentum going with a win tonight.
It will be interesting to see how the Flyers come out against the Panthers, whom they feel robbed them of a victory a little over a week ago. The Flyers have typically shown dominance early, but waver late in the second period and early in the third to allow the game to become a one-goal shootout, rather than the Flyers muscling out a lead and holding it securely, which they hope to do today.
The Panthers (2-5-1) are coming off a hard-fought 3-2 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, which should put the fatigue factor in place for tonight’s contest. Florida has been unable to establish any offensive consistency early on in the season, averaging just 2.12 goals per game. This inability to score has given them just one win in their last six tries.
Look for coach John Stevens to massively switch up the line combinations in order to jump-start a lackluster Flyers’ offense, moving James van Riemsdyk to Jeff Carter’s wing and Simon Gagne to Claude Giroux’s wing. Mike Richards will center Scott Hartnell and Arron Asham.
Yet despite not hitting its stride yet offensively, the Flyers still average 3.43 goals per game, ranking them sixth in the NHL. Richards and Carter lead the Flyers with 8 points.
Blair Betts remains injured and will not play until Tuesday.
Laperriere – Giroux – Gagne
JVR – Carter – Briere
Hartnell – Richards – Asham
Carcillo – Pyorala – Powe
Healthy scratch: Riley Cote. IR: Betts.
The Flyers’ biggest issue this season has been it’s soft and inconsistent defense. Giving up an average of 3.00 goals per game, the Flyers’ blue liners have given up 22 total goals to just 25 scored. The last five games have been decided by just one goal or more and the Flyers have just one win when leading after the first period.
With Ryan Parent still out with a groin injury, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and Danny Syvret will remain the team’s third pairing. Tollefsen recorded a career-high two assists in Thursday’s contest against the Bruins.
Coburn – Timonen
Carle – Pronger
Tollefsen – Syvret
Goaltender Ray Emery will start his eighth straight game with back up Brian Boucher going on Sunday. Emery is 4-2 with a 2.79 GAA.
The Panthers are a mess offensively averaging a little over two goals per game. Led by Steve Reinprecht’s six points, the best players on Florida have yet to look like it. David Booth has just two points and is a minus-5 and Cory Stillman, despite having a solid game in Pittsburgh, has just three assists on the year. The Panthers’ power play is hitting at just 14.3 percent, good enough for 26th in the NHL.
Actual lineup may vary depending on coach’s game-time decision.
Booth – Weiss – Frolik
Stillman – Reinprecht – Horton
Campbell – Moore – Dvorak
Olesz – Kreps – Koistinen
Surprising enough, the Florida defense has been even worse than its offense, ranking 29th in the NHL in goals against per game with 3.62.
Ballard – McCabe
Seidenberg – Leopold
Allen/Garrison – Kulikov
Tomas Vokoun made the start for the Panthers last night and has been selected to start tonight. Scott Clemmensen was expected to start might may be fighting illness or injury.