Bill Meltzer: Flyers Gameday: 11/1/14 @ FLA, Plus Phantoms vs. Hartford, Alumni in Oaks



The Philadelphia Flyers (4-4-2) will try to earn a split of their Sunshine State road trip tonight when they take on the Florida Panthers (3-2-3) in Sunrise on Saturday night. Game time is 7:00 p.m. EDT. The game will be televised locally on TCN Philadelphia.

This is the first of three meetings between the teams this season, and the lone game in Sunrise.

The Flyers and Panthers will rematch in Philadelphia on Nov. 6 and Dec. 18.

After tonight, the Flyers return home. They will play three games over the next week. The Panthers embark on a road trip that will take them to Boston on Tuesday before coming to Philly on Thursday. 2013-14 season series in review

The Flyers won two of three against the Panthers last season but Florida kept things competitive in every game.

On Oct. 9, 2013, the Flyers won their first game with Craig Berube behind the bench as head coach in a 2-1 home win against the Panthers.

The Flyers got two lucky early goals on a carom that then-Panthers goalie Tim Thomas misplayed into a tap-in goal for Brayden Schenn. Less than three minutes later, Thomas got injured with a pulled groin and was way out of position as Braydon Coburn shot the puck into a wide open net from high in the offensive zone. The Flyers nursed the lead the rest of the game, as Steve Mason turned back 33 of 34 shots. Only a Brad Boyes goal in the waning seconds of the second period got past Mason.

When the Flyers made their two-game Florida road trip last November, Philly had been playing extremely well in a 4-0-1 run. Things took a temporary turn for the worse in a pair of regulation losses to the Panthers and Lightning.

On Nov. 25, 2013, Thomas made 38 saves in a 3-1 home win for the Panthers. After a scoreless first period, Sean Bergenheim tallied a pair of goals (one even strength, one power play) for Florida in the middle frame. After Wayne Simmonds cut the deficit to 2-1 with an early third-period power play goal, Erik Gudbranson restored the two-goal margin for Florida with under five minutes left in the game. Mason stopped 28 of 31 shots in a losing effort.

The two teams did not meet again until April 8, 2014. On that night, the Flyers had a playoff spot at stake and the lottery-bound Panthers were finishing up their season. Philly skated off with a 5-2 win that wasn’t as easy as the score might suggest.

Scheduled Panthers starting goalie Roberto Luongo was injured in the warmup and backup Dan Ellis was pressed into service. Nevertheless, it took a 38-save performance from Mason and some second-period fireworks from captain Claude Giroux to secure the win.

In the first period, the Flyers wasted 1:40 worth of a 5-on-3 power play and got sloppy several times in their coverages, relying on Mason to bail them out of trouble. In the second period, a determined Giroux opened the floodgates — four Philadelphia goals — by tallying a pair of goals in a span of two minutes, twenty-one seconds.

Early in the second period, Vincent Lecavalier scored his 20th goal of the season. He became the seventh Flyers to reach that plateau for the season. Nicklas Grossmann had a monster game on defense, crushing several Panthers along the walls, contributing one assist and racking up a plus-four night in just short of 20 minutes of ice time. Now-former Flyers Tye McGinn (third period goal) and Adam Hall (two assists) also chipped in some offense from the fourth line.

Florida cut its deficit to 4-2 with a pair of early third period goals by Jonathan Huberdeau and Gudbranson. McGinn’s tally at 15:06 sealed the 5-2 win. Flyers outlook

The Flyers enter this game coming off a 4-3 regulation loss in Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Simmonds, Jakub Voracek (one goal, one assist) and Michael Raffl scored in a losing cause, while Giroux contributed a pair of assists.

Tonight, the Flyers hope to have Lecavalier (left foot/ankle injury) back in the lineup after a seven-game absence. He skated on a revised second line at yesterday’s practice, flanked by R.J. Umberger and Simmonds.

Mason, who has not played since the Flyers got shut out 4-0 in Chicago on Oct. 21, will get the start in goal tonight. Ray Emery played very well in a run of four consecutive starts while Mason used the time to put in extra practice with goaltending coach Jeff Reese.

Voracek has played at a superstar level through the first 10 games of the regular season. He has recorded at least one point in nine of the 10 games to date, and has compiled five multi-point games. Overall, he has three goals, 12 assists and 15 points. The Czech winger currently leads the NHL in assists and is tied with Dallas’ Tyler Seguin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the NHL’s overall point lead.

Giroux is not far behind. He has five multi-point games of his own to date, and his 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) are just two behind his linemate. In the meantime, Raffl has been the beneficiary of playing with two star linemates, getting himself into scoring areas and racking up four of his six goals on the season over the team’s last three games.

Raffl and Simmonds share the club goal-scoring lead with six apiece. Simmonds snapped a five-game pointless drought — in which he’d still been getting numerous scoring chances but ran into some tough puck luck — with his first-period goal on Thursday.

On Thursday night, the injury-riddled Flyers signed veteran unrestricted free agent defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo for the remainder of the 2014-15 season. He will need a few days to be ready to play. Brandon Manning, who started in place of Shayne Gostisbehere in Tampa Bay, will be in the lineup tonight. Gostisbehere, who was with the team in Sunrise and hails from nearby Margate, has been re-assigned to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Defensemen Braydon Coburn (left foot) and Andrew MacDonald (lower body) are expected to be out of the lineup until late November. Forwards Jason Akeson and Blair Jones are likely to be healthy scratches tonight. Panthers outlook

The Panthers have only played one game since losing 2-1 in overtime in Arizona last Saturday night. On Thursday, the Coyotes paid a visit to Sunrise and the Panthers skated off with a 2-1 regulation win.

In the first and second periods of Thursday’s tilt, the Coyotes and Panthers traded off one power play goal apiece — Arizona’s Martin Hanzal in the opening stanza and Florida’s Brandon Pirri in the middle frame. Former Flyers winger Scottie Upshall won the game for the Panthers, exiting the penalty box and scoring a breakaway goal at 10:56 off a stretch pass from Tomas Kopecky. Luongo made 32 saves to earn the win.

Florida has played a lot of close and generally low-scoring games thus far. With the exception of a 5-2 loss to New Jersey in the second game of the regular season, every game the Panthers have played has been decided by one goal. Four games have gone to overtime, with one (a loss to Washington) reaching a shootout after a 65-minute 1-1 tie.

Overall, in six of the Panthers’ eight games to date, neither Florida nor its opponent have managed more than two regulation goals. There have been a pair of 1-0 games (one win, one loss), three 2-1 finals (including the shootout loss), and a 3-2 overtime loss to Tampa on opening night. Florida has only scored three regulation goals once (a 4-3 overtime win against Colorado).

Entering tonight’s game, Luongo has posted a 2.33 goals against average, .926 save percentage and one shutout in seven outings. Brad Boyes (two power play goals, two assists) and newcomer Jussi Jokinen (zero goals, four assists) share the overall scoring lead with four points apiece.

Pirri, who has been limited to four games, leads the team in goal-scoring with three. He sustained a concussion last game and was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 30.

Additionally, Dave Bolland (groin pull) is on IR for the Cats.

Yesterday, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon announced that the club has recalled forwards Rocco Grimaldi and Vincent Trocheck to fill the two roster spots opened with Pirri and Bolland on injured reserve.

Second-year pro Aleksander Barkov, the Panthers’ first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, sustained a lower-body injury in Thursday’s game. So did veteran Bergenheim, who has been a thorn in the Flyers’ side in recent years. Both players are officially questionable for tonight’s game. If one or both is unavailable in addition to Pirri, Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant has Grimaldi, Trocheck and Jimmy Hayes from which to choose.

There was never a serious question whether Aaron Eklad, the first overall pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, was going to go back to junior hockey after a trial period with the big team. To no one’s surprise, the club has already indicated that the rookie defenseman is staying put. Paired with veteran Brian Campbell, Ekblad has averaged 21:56 of ice time and chipped in a pair of assists for the offensively-challenged team. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)

Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 3.20 (7th), Panthers 1.50 (29th)

Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 3.40 (T-24th), Panthers 2.00 (5th)

Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 0.84 (24th), Panthers 1.60 (3rd)

Power play efficiency: Flyers 22.9% (8th), Panthers 13.3% (23rd)

Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 75.9% (25th), Panthers 73.2% (28th)

Faceoff percentage: Flyers 49.9% (15th), Panthers 46.6% (28th) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)


12 Michael Raffl – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek

18 R.J. Umberger – 40 Vincent Lecavalier – 17 Wayne Simmonds

10 Brayden Schenn – 14 Sean Couturier – 24 Matt Read

36 Zac Rinaldo – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 76 Chris VandeVelde

8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit

15 Michael Del Zotto – 55 Nick Schultz

43 Brandon Manning – 22 Luke Schenn

35 Steve Mason

[29 Ray Emery]

Scratches: Andrew MacDonald (lower body), Braydon Coburn (IR, left foot), Jason Akeson (healthy), Blair Jones (healthy), Carlo Colaiacovo (recovering game conditioning).


20 Sean Bergenheim (?) – 16 Aleksander Barkov (?) – 24 Brad Boyes

11 Jonathan Huberdeau – 27 Nick Bjugstad – 19 Scottie Upshall

14 Tomas Fleischmann – 23 Rocco Grimaldi or 21 Vincent Trocheck – 36 Jussi Jokinen

82 Tomas Kopecky – 17 Derek MacKenzie – 27 Shawn Thornton

51 Brian Campbell – 5 Aaron Ekblad

33 Willie Mitchell – 7 Dmitry Kulikov

4 Dylan Olsen – 44 Erik Gudbranson

1 Roberto Luongo

[35 Al Montoya]

Scratches: Rocco Grimaldi or Vincent Trocheck (healthy, at least one will play), Jimmy Hayes (healthy, may play), Colby Robak (healthy), Brandon Pirri (IR, concussion), Dave Bolland (IR, groin).



The Flyers Alumni will be in action tonight in a benefit game at the Oaks Center Ice Hockey Rink (100 Pennco Road) in Oaks, PA, playing against the Blueliners Hockey Club. Game time is 7:30 p.m. EDT. Adult tickets cost $15 with proceeds going to the Montgomery County Hero Fund. Admission is free for children under 12.

Participating Flyers Alumni are likely to include the likes of HockeyBuzz’s Brad Marsh as well as team regulars such as Brian Propp, Todd “Fridge” Fedoruk, Joe Watson, Bob “the Hound” Kelly and Ray Allison. Other potential participants include former farm team fan favorites Frank “the Animal” Bialowas, Mitch Lamoureaux and Pete Zingoni with former Hershey Bears and Washington Capitals netminder Dave Parro in goal.

The purpose of the Montgomery County Hero Fund is to support the families of local policemen, firemen, military personnel, paramedics and other first responders in the event of tragedy. As the organization says in its mission statement, the fund exists to “immediately guarantee that the acts of a Hero will never be forgotten and that we will always rise to the challenge of making sure sacrifice in the line of duty will never be in vain.”

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