Game 16: Flyers at Florida Panthers Oh Hey Kris Versteeg.

Game 16: Flyers at Florida Panthers Oh Hey Kris Versteeg.

Having wrapped up the "annual bonding trip" portion of their road set in Florida, the Flyers are back in action Sunday afternoon at 5, when we'll either be celebrating the Eagles stay of execution or possibly setting things on fire. The Flyers are in Sunrise to face the Panthers, who are off to a good start, with a record exactly on par with that of the Orange & Black (8-4-3).

The Panthers are scoring a full goal per game less, but we're still in the zone where the Flyers' totals are perhaps a little artificially inflated by those 8- and 9-goal performances. They're keeping up well in their own end (9th in goals against per game) and very dangerous on the power play (4th overall), but susceptible on the penalty kill (26th).

Former Flyer Watch
Tonight's 2010 Flyers Reunion Spotlight is on Kris Versteeg, who in 15 games as a Panther has already eclipsed the goal, assist, and point totals of his 27 games as a Flyer.

Versteeg's numbers got a boost on Thursday, when he scored his first ever NHL hat trick in a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. He now has 8 goals, 9 assists, and 17 points, compared with a 7-4-11 line with the Flyers last spring. Versteeg just never got going in Philly, perhaps lacking a clearcut role after joining a stacked group of forwards. With all the names missing from last season's final roster, how often have you heard mention of Versteeg before this week?

Another former Flyer, Scottie Upshall, will miss the game due to injury. Remember Kevin Dineen? The former Flyers captain (and what an era that was) is the man behind the bench for the Panthers these days. We're happy to see him following in dad's footsteps.

Key Cats
Winger Tomas Fleischmann (5 G, 9 A) and center Stephen Weiss (5 G, 7 A) follow Versteeg in the tallies, along with defensemen Brian Campbell (14 A) and Dmitry Kulikov (12 A).

Jose Theodore has 11 of 16 Panthers starts in net so far, posting a 6-2-2 record on a 2.39 GAA and a .922 save percentage. He has one shutout on the season and is capably backed up by Jacob Markstrom. As of this posting, we haven't heard who'll start for Florida, but we assume Theodore will face Ilya Bryzgalov.

Photo: Steve Mitchell-US Presswire

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."