Flyers Try to Keep the Momentum Alive in Sunshine State Battle of the Shorthanded (Plus: The Return of Briere!)
Jan 26, 2013, 6:07 PM EDT
Wins such as the one the Flyers scored over the New York
Rangers on Thursday night can sometimes serve as the turning point for an
entire season. Granted we are only through four games of this year’s slate, but
the fellas in Orange & Black were beginning to gain an identity for being
soft after the first three, all losses. They were anything but that while
pummeling the Rags into submission, finishing their rivals off with a series of
potentially defining penalty kills in the third period.
The opening week of the schedule did not come without its
costs however. Scott Hartnell and Andrej Meszaros were both lost to injury for
a month or more, joining Zac Rindaldo on the ever-growing list of injured. Now
the shorthanded Flyers must embark on a four-game road trip amid hopes they can
not only survive these misfortunes, but continue to excel in the process.
In what could be a bit of a break, they arrive in the state
of Florida to find their first opponent in a similarly compromised state. The
Panthers are banged up as well, and should be missing several key players on
Saturday night including two members of their top line in Kris Versteeg and Stephen
Weiss. All of the absences have helped the 2011-12 Southeast Division Champions
get out to a 1-3 start.
Offense has been the Panthers’ downfall thus far, as they
rank 27th in the NHL in goals scored per game (1.75). They do have one of the
most exciting rookies in the league in their employ however in Jonathan
Huberdeau. The third-overall pick in the ’11 draft, Huberdeau exploded for two
goals and an assist in his NHL debut versus the Ottawa Senators last Saturday.
However, the 19 year old has been held in check since, with zero points in the
last three games and just five shots on goal.
Last season, Philadelphia was 2-1-1 against Florida thanks
in part to contributions from goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who was 2-1 with a
shutout and four goals allowed in three head-to-heads. The Panthers had the
last laugh though, taking the series finale by a final of 2-1 on March 20. The
Flyers managed to put 36 shots on Scott Clemmensen, but were unable to solve
the backup netminder. This time, Jose Theordore will be in the crease.
With so many bodies stuck in the trainer’s room for both
sides, it’s hard to predict who really has the advantage. The Flyers could
surely use a win tonight in their bid to climb back to .500, as they face Tampa
Bay on Sunday in the second half of a Sunshine State back-to-back, so running
into a shorthanded opponent tonight certainly shouldn’t hurt their outlook.
Right as we were going to post, PhiladelphiaFlyers.com
reporter Anthony SanFilippo revealed Danny Briere will make his first appearance
of the season in Orange & Black tonight! Briere had been out with a wrist
injury he suffered while playing overseas. It goes without saying this could
provide a huge boost.
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