FLORIDA PANTHERS: 31-22-12 (74 PTS.) vs. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: 37-21-7 (81 PTS.)
OPPOSITION SITE: BROAD STREET BUZZ
GAME DAY SONG: MAKE DAMN SURE
If you thought the Florida Panthers were the only team struggling with injuries, think again. The Philadelphia Flyers have their own to worry about, and instead of getting better like the Panthers have been, their list is getting longer. Already missing defencemen Andrej Mezaros and Kimmo Timmonen, and forward James van Riemsdyk, Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek could also be added to the list. For Jagr it could be a re-injury to the groin that he hurt during the Winter Classic, and for Voracek, he suffered a blow to the head after a hit by Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall. After seeing the hit it’s no wonder Voracek might not play tonight. Daniel Briere had this to say after the hit:
“I wanted to puke,” said teammate Danny Briere, who saw it from the bench. “You see someone lying on the ice like that — I haven’t seen the replay of the hit. I don’t know if the head was targeted or if it was a clean check. It’s still not fun to see when you’re on the ice and you see someone lying there shaking. It was a bad feeling in everyone’s stomach.”
Both Jagr and Voracek could miss tonight’s game. On the plus side for Philadelphia is the play of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov who has been much better lately. In his last nine games Bryzgalov is 6-2-0 and has won three starts in a row. The $51 million dollar netminder has turned around what was looking like a mediocre season, and has regained the number one job. Good news for the Flyers, but bad news for the rest of the NHL if that pace continues.
The Flyers will be going for their fourth consecutive win tonight after a stretch of 4-7-1 in what has been an inconsistent year to say the least. Besides the players already mentioned, the Flyers are also without Chris Pronger for the season, and Daniel Briere another player who has battled injuries, has also missed time. Adding to his frustration, Briere has gone 20 games without a goal after recording a hat trick against Ottawa on January 7th.
Fortunately for the Flyers their other players have been able to produce in as Claude Giroux who was also injured briefly leads the team in scoring with 24 goals and 53 assists for 77 points. I’m still mad at Jacques Martin for not pulling the trigger and trading Jay Bouwmeester for him years ago. Second in scoring is gritty forward Scott Hartnell who has 31 goals and 28 assists for 59 points. The Flyers and their rough and tough style never seems to change, and they typically make you earn everything by being a hard team to play against. In spite of their injuries and the problems that they’ve had in goal, they’re fifth in the East, and a certainly not a pushover.
The Panthers will be coming off a three day rest after a come from behind win over the Ottawa Senators. The key for Florida is going to be scoring first. Or at least not letting the Flyers score too early. Climbing that mountain game after game is a struggle, and one you don’t want to be making on a nightly basis at this time of year. Adding to that pressure is the slim lead the Panthers have over Winnipeg (2 points), which gives them no room for error. Between scoreboard watching and injuries of their own, the Panthers can ill afford to let up.
They’ve had a habit of not seeming prepared to play at the start of games, and they know it. It’ time to start turning the tables on that, and take control of a game early. Be the team to set the tone and dictate the pace of the game, rather than the other way around.
The Panthers will once again be without leading scorer Kris Versteeg who remains out with a lower body injury. This will be the fourth game he has missed, and won’t be in the lineup on Friday against Pittsburgh either. The Panthers have had some poor results lately against the Flyers having lost the past four in a row, including a shootout loss on January 24th when Claude Giroux scored the game winner. In goal tonight the Panthers are going with Jose Theodore. It’s my prediction that he gets the bulk of the starts the rest of the way.
* The Flyers lead the series 41-24-7-1.
* Jaromir Jagr has played the Panthers 54 times and his numbers are, 30-33-63.
* Eight different rookies have scored goals for Philadelphia this season. Matt Read leads Flyer rookie’s with 18 markers.
* The Flyers are second in the NHL in goals for with 213, and lead the league with 54 power play goals.
* The Flyers have been shorthanded more than any other team in the NHL. 260 times.
* The Flyers have lost 306 man games to injury. The Panthers have lost 291.
* Florida has been in first place 97 days this season, 57 of them were consecutive.
* Since coming to Florida Jerred Smithson has won 61% of his faceoffs.
* The Panthers have come back from two goal deficits to win in three of their lat six games.
* The Panthers are 14-0-1 when scoring a power play goal, and not allowing a power play goal.
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