Game Day Preview: Florida Panthers At Philadelphia Flyers

Florida Panthers (3-5-1) at Philadelphia Flyers (4-6-0) 7 p.m. (ET)

Jan 26, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Scottie Upshall (19) collides with Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Bruno Gervais (27) in the first period against at the BB

A loss in overtime can be tough to get over, but that is exactly what the Panthers must do tonight when they face the Philadelphia Flyers. Florida must put Tuesday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to Winnipeg in the rear view mirror and focus on the daunting task ahead. The Philadelphia Flyers have struggled out of the gate this season but have strung together two straight wins, both against Southeast Division opponents. Philly beat the Caroline Hurricanes 5-3 on Saturday night then proceeded to stifle Tampa Bay’s red hot offense in a game the Flyers won 2-1. Philadelphia would love to continue its feast of the Southeast division tonight against the Panthers.

These two teams already played in South Florida, a game which Florida lost disastrously 7-1. At the time, Florida was in the midst of a five game losing streak which they have since recovered from, getting progressively healthier and playing well enough to come into tonight’s match riding a three game point streak. Tonight’s game will be the third out of a four game road trip for for Florida. The Panthers began the trip with a 4-3 win Sunday in Buffalo and more recently a 3-2 overtime loss in Winnipeg, a game in which the Panthers gave up two separate one goal leads. A win tonight and their road trip will already be considered a success but even escaping the game with one point would have to be view positively.

Series History:

The Panthers have had more success against the Flyers playing in Philadelphia than they have had playing at home in South Florida. The Panthers have beaten the Flyers twice in the last two seasons and both wins have come in Philadelphia. Dating back to the 2010-11 season, the Panthers are a measly 2-6-1 against the Flyers.

Philadelphia dominated the Panthers in their only matchup of this season 7-1 in Florida on Saturday January 26th. Matt Read recorded a hat-trick for Philly and the Panthers suffered from poor performances from Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen. Theodore stopped 6 of 9 shots before being pulled in favor of Clemmensen who did not fare any better allowing four goals on 17 shots faced. The Panthers actually outshot the Flyers 31-26 but struggled to solve Philly keeper Ilya Byrzgalov.

Players to Watch:

As mentioned above, the Panthers had trouble beating Bryzgalov in their last meeting. This could be a problem again as Bryz has been hot in the Flyers last two wins, stopping 39 of 42 against Carolina and 21 of 22 against the Lightning. Bryzgalov has had his struggles since signing with the Flyers last year, but he remains a type of player who can take over a game and steal a win.

Mar 8, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Zac Rinaldo (36) in the middle of a fight with Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) during the 3rd period at the Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Florida Panthers, 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Szagola-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Read’s only three goals on the season have come against the Panthers yet he leads the team with seven points. Read may  just be saving all his goals for when he plays the Panthers. Right behind Read is Flyers star Claude Giroux with three goals and three assists. Giroux is always dangerous and always a threat to score or create a goal whenever he touches the ice.

Erik Gudbranson will be making his debut for the Panthers tonight. It will be nice to have the big youngster back in the lineup and it will be interesting to see if he has made any improvements from last season. Gudbranson struggled at times last year only registering eight points in 72 GP while finishing the season at minus 19, last on the Panthers. I thought he did make some huge strides during the Panthers playoff series against the Devils. It seemed like Gudbranson developed into a physical force right before our eyes as that series progressed.

Injury Report:

For the Panthers, Ed Jovanovski, Scottie Upshall and Sean Bergenheim remain out.

The Flyers are without two offensive stalwarts. Scott Hartnell has been out since with a broken foot since getting hit with a slap shot in a game against the Devils, January 22nd. Wayne Simmonds has been out with a concussion after being hit illegally in the Flyers Feb. 1 game against the Capitals.

Here is the Panthers projected lineup per NHL.com:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Peter Mueller

Jonathan Huberdeau - Drew Shore - Kris Versteeg

Tomas Kopecky - Marcel Goc - Jack Skille

Shawn Matthias - Jerred Smithson - George Parros

Erik Gudbranson - Brian Campbell

Filip Kuba - Tyson Strachan

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Pre Game Points:

  • Alex Kovalev is out of the lineup today and will be replaced by Jack Skille. Head coach Kevin Dineen has made it clear that he will try to get some of his veteran players rest whenever possible. With the depth of forwards the Panthers have, this should not be too hard to do. Skille will provide energy and fresh legs as he has not played in the Panthers last two games.
  • It appears Gudbranson will be paired with Brian Campbell tonight on the teams top defensive pairing. This is an exciting development as it indicates the team  probably feels pretty good about the play of Gudbranson.
  • Tyson Strachan is still in the lineup as Keaton Ellerby is the healthy scratch to make room for Gudbranosn. Ellerby has shown a willingness to get involved offensively but the team probably feels that Strachan is more reliable on the defensive end.
  • In my preview for the last Panthers-Flyers matchup, I mentioned how much I hate the Flyers. The 7-1 stomping the Panthers received in that game courtesy of Philadelphia did nothing to change how I feel. Needless to say a win tonight would be excellent, for the team, and for my personal sanity.

Enjoy the game tonight and follow us on twitter @fansidedtherat. I will be tweeting random thoughts/opinions/observations throughout the game.

Topics: Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers

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