Flyers-Panthers: 5 things you need to know

Flyers-Panthers: 5 things you need to know

April 8, 2014, 10:00 am
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Fresh off a big win over the lowly Buffalo Sabres, the Flyers (40-29-9) will begin a three-game road trip on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers (28-43-8).

Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. The game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet.

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Keep rollin’
The Flyers did exactly what they needed to do against the NHL-worst Sabres on Sunday. They took advantage of a banged-up club that looked more like its AHL affiliate, Rochester, and picked up an important two points with a 5-2 victory.

Next up for the Flyers are the Panthers, who own the second-least points in the league. With the Columbus Blue Jackets still pushing for the third and final automatic spot in the Metropolitan Division, the Flyers will need to carry over the momentum gained in their win over Buffalo and take it to Florida.

With a win over the Panthers, the Flyers clinch a playoff spot (see story).

Tuesday will mark the third and final meeting between the Flyers and Panthers this season. Each team has been victorious at home in the series as the Flyers won 2-1 at Wells Fargo Center on Oct. 8 and the Panthers skated away with a 3-1 victory on Nov. 25 in Sunrise.

One player to keep an eye on will be Matt Read, who has given the Panthers major headaches the past few seasons. Read has six career goals in eight games against Florida -- his second-most versus any opponent -- but hasn’t scored in this season’s contests.

Brandon Pirri has the hot hand for Florida. The centerman, who has never faced the Flyers in his career, has three goals and two assists during his current four-game point streak.

2. No Rinaldo
Don’t expect to see No. 36 running around laying body checks for the rest of the regular season. The NHL handed down a four-game suspension to Zac Rinaldo for his hit on Buffalo’s Chad Ruhwedel on Sunday (see story).

Rinaldo received a 10-minute match penalty for delivering a check to the head of Ruhwedel, who suffered a concussion as a result of the collision. It was a check Rinaldo, who was buzzing all game and even scored, shouldn’t have thrown. And he knew it.

“I shouldn’t have done it,” Rinaldo said (see story). “There was no need for it, we were up 4-0, there was no need for that but it is what it is, it’s part of the game.”

Rinaldo picked up three minor penalties in the game before being tossed in the third period. He was promoted to the third line against the Sabres and was actually productive at times for Sean Couturier and Read.

Now the Flyers have to find a replacement for Rinaldo for the remaining four games of the season. Steve Downie -- if he’s healthy -- would be the logical choice. But if Downie is unable to go, Tye McGinn will likely be re-inserted to the lineup. It also means Jay Rosehill will continue to see (limited) ice time with the fourth line.

3. Everybody scores!
With the way the Flyers’ offense started the season, it’s hard to believe six players on the roster have reached the 20-goal plateau.

Brayden Schenn became the latest Flyer to join the team’s 20-goal club after finding the back of the net twice against Buffalo. Schenn, who shifted to the left wing on the second line for the game, has now beaten his previous career high in goals by eight.

The Flyers could have a seventh player with at least 20 goals as early as Tuesday night. Vinny Lecavalier, who has picked up three goals in his last five games, has 19 this season.

Even more impressive, the Flyers could finish the season with 10 players who’ve scored in double digits. Mark Streit and Michael Raffl are stuck at nine tallies each.

“We have great offensive depth,” Matt Read said (see story). “Any line can score any night. It’s something that to go deep in the playoffs, you need two or three lines going every night.”

4. Injuries
Downie, who hasn’t played since March 22 because of an upper-body injury, could return against the Panthers.

Florida will be without forwards Tomas Kopecky (concussion) and Aleksander Barkov (sprained knee). Defensemen Alex Petrovic (upper body) and Tom Gilbert (sports hernia) are also out.

Forwards Brad Boyes (back spasms) and Jonathan Huberdeau (lower body) are listed as questionable.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason is 5-1-0 with a 1.48 goals-against average in six career games against the Panthers.

• Former Flyer Scottie Upshall leads Florida in scoring with a whopping 36 points in 73 games this season.

• The Flyers have killed off 44 of their last 47 penalties.

• The Panthers have the worst power-play percentage in the NHL (10.3). They also rank dead-last in penalty-kill percentage at 75.8.

• Wayne Simmonds needs two more goals to tie a career high.

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