Panaccio: The Flyers have a 'huge weekend' coming
The Flyers (23-17-4) will try for an 11th straight victory at the Wells Fargo Center when they face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning (26-14-4) on Saturday afternoon.
Puck drop is set for 1 p.m. (CSN) in South Philadelphia.
Here are five things you need to know for the game:
1. If it ain’t broke ...
The Flyers look completely different from the team that got off to the worst start in franchise history. They’ve won nine of their last 11 games, have scored at least three goals in 11 of their last 12 and have reeled off 10 consecutive victories at home.
Heading into Saturday’s matchup with Tampa, the Flyers have a pair of skaters that could find their way back into the lineup soon. Earlier this week, general manager Paul Holmgren said Erik Gustafsson, who has been sidelined with a left knee sprain, should be available at some point this weekend.
Another player head coach Craig Berube could turn to is Tye McGinn. McGinn was called up on Friday after the Flyers placed Zac Rinaldo on injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain.
Right now, it wouldn’t make much sense for Berube to mess around with the chemistry of his roster. If Gustafsson is re-inserted on the blue line, he would likely replace Andrej Meszaros, who is coming off a three-assist performance. As for McGinn, he would most likely serve in a fourth-line role if he dresses on Saturday.
Superstitious fans would say it would probably be best for Berube to leave Meszaros in the lineup and play Jay Rosehill with Chris VandeVelde and Adam Hall against the Lightning, considering the Flyers have been playing their best hockey in recent memory. You know how the old saying goes. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
2. Bolt of energy
Martin St. Louis is a major reason why the Lightning are an Eastern Conference-best 9-2-1 against the Flyers since the 2010-11 season.
The Flyers simply can’t find a way to shut down the speedy forward. In 44 career games against the Orange and Black, St. Louis has scored 14 goals and assisted 43 more.
To add fuel to the fire, St. Louis, like Claude Giroux, was recently left off Team Canada’s roster for the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi.
St. Louis has been playing with a chip on his shoulder, and that’s bad news for the Flyers. The Lightning captain has collected 22 points in his last 14 games against the Flyers.
Keep in mind, Steven Stamkos is still sidelined with a leg injury. Tampa’s offense has been revolving around St. Louis, although Valtteri Flippula and Teddy Purcell have helped pick up some of the slack as of late. The Flyers can’t afford to lose track of St. Louis, however. He’s leading the Lightning with 41 points (19 goals) this season.
3. Solving Lindback
Ben Bishop is still on the shelf with a sprained right wrist, so Tampa head coach Jon Cooper is starting Anders Lindback in goal against the Flyers.
If you took a quick glance at Lindback’s stat line this season -- 4-9-1 with a 3.18 goals-against average and .877 save percentage -- you would think it would be an ideal matchup for the Flyers.
Yes, Lindback has struggled over his last four games (3.63 GAA), but the netminder always seems to have his best stuff when facing the Flyers.
Lindback is 3-3-0 with a .917 save percentage in six career starts against the Flyers and owns a 1.76 GAA over his last four starts against them.
In the Flyers’ first meeting with Tampa this season -- a 4-2 loss on the road -- Lindback picked up the win after turning aside 19 of 21 shots fired his way.
4. Hot on the PK
It’s never a good thing to take a lot of penalties, but being a man down hasn’t been an issue for the Flyers as of late.
After killing off all four penalties they took against Montreal on Wednesday, the Flyers improved to 19 for 19 on the penalty kill over their past six games.
Assistant coach Ian Laperriere has down a superb job with the Flyers’ PK units. Entering the weekend, they had moved to seventh in the NHL at 84.6 percent.
5. This and that
• Matt Read (concussion-like symptoms) will not play this weekend.
• In addition to Bishop and Stamkos, the Lightning will also be without Keith Aulie (hand). J.T. Brown (upper body) and Radko Gudas (lower body) are questionable.
• The Flyers’ stretch of not allowing a power-play goal in six straight games is tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the longest active streak in the NHL.
• Tampa has allowed multiple power-play goals in back-to-back games.
• Giroux and Jakub Voracek have combined for 27 points during the Flyers’ home winning streak.