Flyers Looking to Avoid Lightning Strike in Tampa Bay

Flyers Looking to Avoid Lightning Strike in Tampa Bay

Now that the Flyers found their sea legs, they’ll be putting
their defenses to the test against one of the hottest offenses in the league. The
Tampa Bay Lightning are out to an early lead in goals scored in the Eastern
Conference, and are tied with the San Jose Sharks for first in the NHL in goals
per game, averaging 4.75.

Fueled by a potent offense, Tampa Bay is off to a Lightning-fast
start, their 3-1 record good for first place in the Southeast Division. The
early success has been predicated largely on their ability to light the lamp,
hanging a six-spot on two opponents in four games already, and dropping four on
another.

It should hardly come as a surprise given the name
recognition of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier, all multiple-time
All Stars that have made the Lightning a top-10 offensive club for years. Now
all of a sudden they are being aided by rookie Cory Conacher, an undrafted 23
year old from Canada who already has two goals and five assists playing
alongside the big boys.

The Flyers’ depth on the blue line will be under the
microscope. They held up well over the last two games, as Ilya Bryzgalov
surrendered a goal a piece against the dangerous New York Rangers and
shorthanded Florida Panthers. The new additions are generally holding up well,
including Luke Schenn who is tied for the NHL-lead in hits after landing 11 on
red sweaters Saturday night.

However, it will not be Bryzgalov in the crease tonight for
the Orange & Black, but rather Michael Leighton making his first start of
the season. It may be just as well. While Bryz is off to a fantastic start, he
did not fare well versus Tampa Bay a season ago, posting a 1-2-1 record to go
with an abysmal .814 save percentage – his worst against any opponent in
2011-12.

It could be a high-scoring battle regardless of who is in
net. As we mentioned at the top, the Lightning are dangerous on offense, but
they have had trouble keeping the opposition off of the scoreboard. Tonight’s
netminder is Anders Lindback, a second-year prospect out of the Nashville
Predators system. He’s off to a rough start in his first starting goaltender
gig in the NHL, allowing 3.67 goals per game.

Plus, Philadelphia’s old friend Matt Carle will be skating
against his old teammates. Maybe he can return the favor and slip one into his
own net tonight – you know, like old times.

In other news, the Flyers announced Scott Laughton will head
back to juniors,
ending the first rounder’s cup of coffee for the time being.
The team seems to be discovering the right combinations lately, and while
Laughton showed he can play, there doesn’t seem to be any need to press him
into the action at this juncture.

Puck drops at 6 p.m., and with a W, the Flyers can climb
back to .500 in what is already becoming a tightly contest Atlantic Division.

More: Watch Matt Read's hat trick and other highlights from Saturday night's 7-1 victory over the Panthers

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Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers got some swagger back Sunday night.

But especially so on the power play, which entered Sunday's clash just 2 for 19 over the last six games.

Two markers on the man advantage helped the Flyers edge the Canucks, 3-2, at Rogers Arena in Vanvoucer (see Instant Replay).

“It all comes back to finding a way to produce – and they did that tonight,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who had called for his power-play participants to rediscover that swagger.

Hakstol’s club won for the first time in its last nine games in Western Canada. More importantly, the Flyers (28-24-7) moved within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently shared by Florida and Boston, in the Eastern Conference.

Thanks to the power-play success, the Flyers built a 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes and then hung on, atoning for a sub-par effort in a one-sided loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on Thursday night.

The Flyers converted two of three power plays while blanking the Canucks on all four of their man advantages. The loss prevented the Canucks (26-28-6) from getting closer to a Western Conference playoff berth.

“I thought we were playing some pretty good hockey of late, but the pucks weren't going in,” said Flyers center Brayden Schenn, who scored the winning goal on the power play at 2:38 of the second period. “Tonight, we tightened up defensively again from Edmonton's game and were able to score a few more goals. It's a huge two points going home."

Wayne Simmonds, also on the power play, and Jakub Voracek scored the Flyers’ other goals.

“We needed a win,” Simmonds said. “Especially after the game in Edmonton, this is good for the morale."

Shayne Gostisbehere assisted on all three goals, recording the first three-point night of his career.

Schenn’s winning goal came only a minute and 27 seconds after Voracek gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 1:11 of the second by sending Sean Couturier’s huge rebound into a gaping net behind Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller. Voracek’s goal was his first in 10 games. He had not scored since Jan. 25 against the New York Rangers.

How did long sought-after goal make him feel?

"Like I scored a goal,” deadpanned Voracek. “We won the game. That’s the way I looked at it. It doesn't matter who scored the goals. Special teams were huge tonight. I liked our power play. We were going all 60 minutes. This one kept us in the race."

The Flyers were a well-rested team thanks to a two-day break between games and a three-day break before the start of the road trip. The Canucks, on the other hand, were playing their second of back-to-back home games with only a day’s rest following a grueling six-game United States road trip. But there was still considerable suspense over the final 30 minutes.

Markus Granlund and Jannik Hansen tallied for the Canucks, who are known as comeback artists, at 3:43 and 12:42 of the second, respectively, before the Flyers shut Vancouver down the rest of the way. Voracek indicated the Flyers were not nervous in the final frame.

"I don't think we changed anything to be honest,” he said. We were pretty tight in the neutral zone. We didn't give them much. When we had a couple of breakdowns, [Michal Neuvirth] was on his act.”

Neuvirth stopped 18 of 20 shots as the Flyers outshot the Canucks, 28-20. He enjoyed a much better start Sunday, holding the Canucks scoreless in the opening period after allowing four goals on his first 12 shots on Thursday in Edmonton. One of his better saves came with just over a minute into the game as he got his toe on Markus Granlund’s dangerous chance from in close.

"I felt good,” said Neuvirth. “I have been practicing well and playing with confidence. The last game, it didn't work out. I put that one behind me and restarted my mind and got back to work tonight.”

“I thought he was excellent,” said Hakstol. “He was calm and settled in there. You can go back through that 60 minutes and you can pick out three or four pretty darned good saves.”

Neuvirth excelled while making his fourth consecutive start and sixth in the past seven games overall.

“It feels good,” he said of the heavy workload. “It feels better when we win.”

But he was not about to get too excited. The Flyers have a tough clash at home Wednesday against NHL-best Washington and a road game Saturday at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field against the rival Penguins as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

“We have a tough schedule coming and we have to be ready,” Neuvirth said.

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

All hail the pick swap.

When word got out that the Sacramento Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, Sixers fans on Twitter rejoiced.

On July 10, 2015, the Sixers traded away the rights to Artūras Gudaitis and Luka Mitrović, and, in return, received an unprotected 2019 first round pick, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and the right to swap first-round selections in the 2016 and 2017 drafts.

The Cousins move appears to significantly weaken the Kings, who are 24-33 and just 2.5 games better than the Sixers, so the pick swap looks healthier than ever.

But, for now, enjoy some samplings of Sixers Twitter from after the trade.

Here are some of the best tweets.