PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: 8-4-3 (19 pts.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 8-4-3 (19 pts.)
GAME TIME: 5:00 P.M. EASTERN
OPPOSITION SITE: BROAD STREET BUZZ
The Florida Panthers come into this game looking for their first seven game point streak in two years (November 2009) as they host the Philadelphia Flyers in a Sunday evening game. Both teams come into this game with identical 8-4-3 records with 19 points each. While the Panthers have scored less goals than the Flyers (57-44) they’ve given up less as well (39 to Philly’s 46). To say these two teams are evenly matched is for once, a statement that you can actually believe.
Florida is coming off an impressive 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday which saw Kris Versteeg pick up his first career hat trick, and add to his team leading eight goals. Versteeg who played in 27 games for the Flyers last season picking up 11 points including 7 goals, has been a perfect addition to this Florida Panthers team, that is beginning to make believers out of the naysayers. Also lending a helping hand is Versteeg’s former Chicago Blackhawk teammate Brian Campbell who has 14 assists that include 10 on the power play which now ranks fourth in the NHL. Both Versteeg and Soupy have been instrumental in that success.
In addition to Soupy, the rest of the defence has contributed to Florida’s success as the unit has combined for 46 points and that includes the 6 goals from Jason Garrison and his new found rocket launcher. Garrison has already exceeded his goal total of five from last season. Should he keep this up, he’s on pace for 32 goals. When this unit plays tight and limits their own mistakes, they also minimize the action that their goaltender gets. A perfect recipe for success, and Jose Theodore has benefited quite nicely from the play in front of him. Theo has also been making some key saves, and is beginning to stifle the doubters about his play. When you look at Theo’s stats after appearing in 11 games they are extremely impressive. 6-2-2 with a 2.39 GAA, and a handsome .922 SA. In his last two games, he’s 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA and a .955 SA.
The Flyers come into town with a 4-1-1 road record and are coming off a 2-1 loss in overtime to Tampa on Wednesday. Since then they’ve been enjoying Florida sunshine, and the Panthers hope to catch them with their minds still on the golf course. Coming into this game, the Flyers had killed off 19 of the last 20 penalties against them, with the only goal being one scored by Tampa Wednesday which tied the game, sending it to overtime. Also, during that game the Flyers only managed 15 shots, which is a season low for them. The Panthers have been giving up an average of 33 so far this year, and you can’t give the Flyers that many chances.
Evgeny Dadonov was called up to take the place of Scottie Upshall who is out with what is hoped to be a minor injury suffered in the Jets game on Thursday. Dadonov had four points including three goals while playing for the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL. While his speed will fight right in, his skill and shot will be needed for seconday scoring. Depending on how many games Upshall misses, this could be a glorious chance for the youngter to stick.
One of the major issues that has haunted Philadelphia for years has been goaltending. They feel that Ilya Bryzgalov who was signed in the summer as a free agent will change their fortunes. Breezie is 3-0-1 in his last four games, allowing only seven goals. For the year he’s 6-4-2, but his other numbers are a bit gaudy. His GAA is 2.85 and his SAA is .895. Both numbers have to come down for the Flyers to be successful.
Goal scoring for Philadelphia isn’t an issue as they lead the league with 57. Claude Giroux the 23 year old forward is the team leader with nine followed by three players with six each, including Jaromir Jagr. Yes that Jaromir Jagr. With 9 assists Jagr currently has 15 points and seemed as interested in playing as ever. It will be in the Panthers best interest to keep this high powered bunch off the power play for reasons besides the fact that Florida hasn’t done well in killing penalties this season.
Returning to the lineup on Wednesday night for Philly was Chris Pronger who had missed six games with an eye injury suffered in Toronto when a stick blade nicked his eye causing some blurred vision. This will be the first matchup between these two teams this season, as the Flyers won three of four including both games here in Sunrise.
* Florida trails in the series 26-36-7-4.
* REPEAT, this is the BEST Florida Panther start since 96-97, when they were 10-1-4.
* The top line of Weiss, Flash and Versteeg has 37% of the teams points with 43 combined. 18g-25a.
* Birthday boy Jason Garrison is tied for the NHL lead amongst defencemen (Nicklas Lidstrom) in goals with six.
* The Florida Panthers have a point in every game so far this month.
* Jose Theodore is 7-0-1 in his last 8 starts against Philadelphia.
* Jaromir Jagr leads all Flyers with 53 career points against the Panthers.
* Wayne Simmonds needs one point to reach 100 in his career.
* Florida Head Coach Kevin Dineen played five seasons for the Flyers. 88g-88a, 176 pts. and 555 PIMS.
* Scottie Upshall played for three seasons in Philly appearing in 134 games. 27g-27a and 145 PIMS.
* Kris Versteeg played 27 games for Philly getting 7goals and 4 assists.
* Florida Assistant coach Gord Murphy was selected in the 9th round by the Flyers in 1985 and played four seasons with them.
* Florida Assistant Coach Craig Ramsey was an assistant coach and head coach for Philadelphia.
* Flyers Senior Vice President Bobby Clarke was the Panthers first General Manager.
* Flyers defenceman Andreas Lilja played in 135 games for Florida. 7g-12a, and 146 PIMS.