Homecoming: Flyers Come Back Home for Five Games Starting With the Panthers
Philadelphia Flyers (8-9-1) vs. Florida Panthers (4-7-4)
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
7:00 p.m. on CSN and 93.3 WMMR
Setting the Stage
This is the final of three meetings between the two teams. The Flyers won the first bout 7-1 in Florida on January 26 and lost 3-2 in a shootout at home on February 7.
The Flyers are coming into this game after a wild 6-5 win over the Penguins, capping a six-game road trip in which they split 3-3. They come home for a five-game home stand.
In their last two games, they scored a combined 13 goals with Jakub Voracek being on the score sheet for seven of them (3 goals, 4 assists). Bryzgalov also gave up five goals in that two-game stretch, but unfortunately all five were in the same game.
The Panthers are in the middle of a five-game losing streak. Three of those losses came in overtime, and they've given up 21 goals in those five games combined.
What to Expect
The Flyers have scored 13 goals in their last two games while the Panthers boast one of the worst defenses in the NHL. Florida has allowed an average of 3.73 goals per game, the most in the NHL and the Flyers have climbed to 7th in scoring with 2.83 goals per game.
Voracek is scorching hot, scoring seven points in the last two games and 15 in the last 10 games he's played. He leads the Flyers with 18 points (6 goals, 12 assists). Matt Read has a team-high seven goals but he could be out tonight after being injured in the first period yesterday. Wayne Simmonds has six goals and Claude Giroux has 15 points.
Tomas Fleischman leads Panthers scorers with 10 points. Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau has a team-high six goals.
The Masked Men
The Flyers haven't specified a starter yet. Brian Boucher is expected to make his second start of the season because of Ilya Bryzgalov's recent activity. After giving up five goals in a 6-5 win against the Penguins, Bryzgalov could see a day off. But reports from this morning's skate prove a possibility Bryzgalov is back in net against the Panthers. Boucher has made only one other start this season, stopping 25-of-28 shots in a loss to Montreal. He's stopped 35-of-39 shots faced in four periods of hockey this season.
Jose Theodore will make his third start against the Flyers this season. His first go-around was miserable, but he had the upper hand in the 3-2 shootout win earlier this month. But he hasn't been good as of late, allowing 15 goals in his last four starts. He also has the pressure of Jacob Markstrom getting called back up and breathing down his neck.
Keys to the Game
1. Stay Hot, Top Line. Voracek is on a hot streak like no other. Even though they may lose linemate Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds will step in at the top line to keep them at a high level. Claude Giroux seems to have woken up, completely the deadly trio.
2. No Let Downs. Beating your most hated rival on Rival Night on national television is a huge emotional roller coaster. It also can suggest a let-down, especially when playing the following night. Philadelphia needs to just keep playing the way they have the last two games and not look past the Panthers. If they do that, they will win.
3. Capitalize on Theodore. Jose Theodore is not playing well at all. And even though he had a great outing the last time these two teams met, his recent body of work has forced the Panthers to call up their top goalie prospect. This could be the beginning of the end for Theodore if the Flyers just play their game.
"He's fast and he's quick, and that's a dangerous combination. I think when he got through the first eight games or so and got to the speed he needs to be at, he becomes a pretty dangerous player because he's skilled as well."
-Head coach Peter Laviolette on Jakub Voracek