Feb 7, 2013, 5:19 PM EDT
Tonight is one of those nights when a loss really has the
potential to sway public sentiment over the boys in Orange & Black right as
fans are trying to feel good about the team again.
Coming off of a gigantic 2-1 victory on Tuesday against an
impressive Tampa Bay Lightning squad that’s had their number, the Flyers are searching
for their third win in a row, and perhaps more important, some momentum after a
slow start pinned them in the Atlantic Division cellar. Enter the Florida
Panthers, a sub-.500 opponent the Flyers completely destroyed by a final of 7-1
less than two weeks ago, and expectations for a W are understandably going to
Don’t expect the Panthers to be as submissive this time
around though. The group the Flyers pounded into submission back in January was
a shell of the current team, which has seen several key players return from
injury. Florida was without two-thirds of their top line in Stephen Weiss and
Kris Versteeg, but both are back in action, restoring some offensive punch to
Not surprisingly, the Panthers have looked like a much improved
team of late, posting a 2-0-1 record in their last three games. They were the
Southeast Division Champions just a season ago after all, so they should not be
The Panthers remain one of the worst defensive teams in the
NHL however. Florida is tied for second in the league with Winnipeg with the
second-highest goals against average at 3.67 per game. Whether it’s Jose Theodore
or Scott Clemmensen, they simply haven’t been able to find the answer in net,
speaking perhaps to a larger personnel or philosophical problem.
Theordore will get the call tonight. He has a 3-4 record
with a 3.32 GAA and .896 SV% on the season. He started their last tilt against
the Flyers as well, but was pulled after allowing three scores in the first
Philadelphia will turn to Ilya Bryzgalov again on the heels
of his sensational outing against the Lightning. Bryz stopped 21 of 22 shots,
including a few for the highlight reel, to bump his record to 4-5 on the
season. Some of that success against Tampa’s top-ranked top-ranked offense was due
to head coach Peter Laviolette’s strategic decision to use a left-wing lock on
the Tampa Bay forwards though, which the Flyers executed to near perfection.
Unlike their opponent though, the Flyers are not a lot healthier
for the match-up this time around, and are a little worse for the wear at that.
Wayne Simmonds is doubtful while managing a concussion, with Scott Hartnell and
Andrej Meszaros still on the shelf as well obviously. Simmonds lit the lamp
once and finished a +2 in the previous meeting.
The Flyers aren’t exactly in dire straits, but they still need
the points. They remain tied for last in the Atlantic with the New York Rangers
at eight points, and the Rags have a game on them. They’re also behind more
than eight other teams in the Eastern Conference standings, so even big picture
they’ve got work to do.
Which is why even though perception may not quite be reality
with the Florida Panthers, another loss might weigh heavy on the minds of some.
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