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Flyers Looking to Avoid Lightning Strike in Tampa Bay

Jan 27, 2013, 5:02 PM EDT

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Now that the Flyers found their sea legs, they’ll be putting
their defenses to the test against one of the hottest offenses in the league. The
Tampa Bay Lightning are out to an early lead in goals scored in the Eastern
Conference, and are tied with the San Jose Sharks for first in the NHL in goals
per game, averaging 4.75.

Fueled by a potent offense, Tampa Bay is off to a Lightning-fast
start, their 3-1 record good for first place in the Southeast Division. The
early success has been predicated largely on their ability to light the lamp,
hanging a six-spot on two opponents in four games already, and dropping four on
another.

It should hardly come as a surprise given the name
recognition of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier, all multiple-time
All Stars that have made the Lightning a top-10 offensive club for years. Now
all of a sudden they are being aided by rookie Cory Conacher, an undrafted 23
year old from Canada who already has two goals and five assists playing
alongside the big boys.

The Flyers’ depth on the blue line will be under the
microscope. They held up well over the last two games, as Ilya Bryzgalov
surrendered a goal a piece against the dangerous New York Rangers and
shorthanded Florida Panthers. The new additions are generally holding up well,
including Luke Schenn who is tied for the NHL-lead in hits after landing 11 on
red sweaters Saturday night.

However, it will not be Bryzgalov in the crease tonight for
the Orange & Black, but rather Michael Leighton making his first start of
the season. It may be just as well. While Bryz is off to a fantastic start, he
did not fare well versus Tampa Bay a season ago, posting a 1-2-1 record to go
with an abysmal .814 save percentage – his worst against any opponent in
2011-12.

It could be a high-scoring battle regardless of who is in
net. As we mentioned at the top, the Lightning are dangerous on offense, but
they have had trouble keeping the opposition off of the scoreboard. Tonight’s
netminder is Anders Lindback, a second-year prospect out of the Nashville
Predators system. He’s off to a rough start in his first starting goaltender
gig in the NHL, allowing 3.67 goals per game.

Plus, Philadelphia’s old friend Matt Carle will be skating
against his old teammates. Maybe he can return the favor and slip one into his
own net tonight – you know, like old times.

In other news, the Flyers announced Scott Laughton will head
back to juniors,
ending the first rounder’s cup of coffee for the time being.
The team seems to be discovering the right combinations lately, and while
Laughton showed he can play, there doesn’t seem to be any need to press him
into the action at this juncture.

Puck drops at 6 p.m., and with a W, the Flyers can climb
back to .500 in what is already becoming a tightly contest Atlantic Division.

More: Watch Matt Read’s hat trick and other highlights from Saturday night’s 7-1 victory over the Panthers