Bill Meltzer: Flyers Gameday: 11/6/14 vs. FLA; Phantoms Update, Quick Hits

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PREVIEW: FLYERS VS. PANTHERS

The Philadelphia Flyers (5-5-2) will try to avenge last Saturday’s 2-1 road loss to the Florida Panthers (4-3-3) when the clubs rematch tonight at the Wells Fargo Center. Game time is 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised locally on CSN Phiadelphia.

This is the second of three meetings between the Flyers and Panthers this season, and the first of two in Philadelphia.

The season series will conclude with a game at the Wells Fargo on Dec. 18.

After tonight, the Flyers will practice tomorrow at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ, in preparation to host the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. The Panthers return home after tonight to host the Calgary Flames on Saturday. 2014-15 season series in review

On November 1st, the Panthers came within eight seconds of shutting out the visiting Flyers in a 2-1 regulation decision in Sunrise. Despite missing five key forwards, the Panthers generated just enough offensive output and played strong defense. They also got excellent goaltending.

The Cats limited Philly to 11 shots over the first 30 minutes of regulation. Over the latter 30 minutes of the game, Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo stepped to the forefront as the Flyers bombarded him with rubber. Luongo finished with 36 saves on 37 shots.

Steve Mason played a strong game in his return to the net for the Flyers. IHe authored his share of tough saves to buy the team time to get going offensively. The Flyers ended up going 0-for-6 on the power play and some of the better scoring chances were actually shorthanded bids by Florida that Mason had to scramble to deny.

Florida’s first goal, scored by defenseman Willie Mitchell at 9:07 of the first period, was shot through a three-player screen (including Philadelphia defenseman Nicklas Grossmann) in front of the net. The puck may have deflected slightly off Grossmann in front. Jussi Jokinen and Brad Boyes received the assists on the goal.

The 1-0 score held through the second period and numerous failed Philadelphia power plays until Florida went on the man advantage in the final six minutes of the third period. At the 15:38 mark, highly touted rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad blasted home a slapshot through heavy traffic in front to extend the Florida lead to 2-0. Brian Campbell and Jimmy Hayes were credited with the assists.

Philadelphia pulled Mason for an extra attacker with over three minutes left in the game. The remainder of the game was spent almost entirely in the Florida end of the ice. Luongo stonewalled the Flyers until Vincent Lecavalier scored an otherwise meaningless goal with 7.4 seconds remaining to break up the shutout bid. Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds got the assists. Flyers outlook

The Flyers bounced back from their regulation losses in Tampa Bay and Sunrise with an easy but inartistic 4-1 home win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. The win over the Oilers raised Philly’s home record this season to 3-1-2.

Voracek led the way offensively against Edmonton. The top line right winger scored two goals and came within a goal post of tallying a natural hit trick in the first period. He now has points in 11 of 12 games this season, points in six in a row, and a half-dozen multi-point performances. Voracek enters tonight’s game one point behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (who has 19 points in 11 games) for the NHL scoring lead. Voracek’s 13 assists lead the NHL.

The Flyers also got goals from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Luke Schenn against the Oilers. Michael Del Zotto played arguably his best game since coming to Philadelphia, and Giroux assisted on Voracek’s second goal to bring his season point total to 14. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo made his Flyers’ debut, playing 16-plus minutes.

In the meantime, Mason was stellar in goal versus Edmonton. The Flyers’ netminder made 35 saves to nail down the win. He will start again tonight against the Panthers.

The win came a price, however: top-line left wing Michael Raffl, who co-leads the team along with Simmonds with six goals, sustained a lower-body injury (believed to be his right ankle or foot) when blocking a shot in the third period. The Flyers learned yesterday that Raffl will be out for approximately six weeks.

In Raffl’s place, Flyers head coach Craig Berube will promote Chris VandeVelde from the fourth line to the top unit. After practice yesterday, Berube cited VandeVelde’s “simple game,” willingness to go into the corners and play physically as well as his skating ability as reasons for giving the player the first crack at playing with Giroux and Voracek. VandeVelde has been periodically on shifts with the top line in several games preceding Raffl’s injury.

Shutdown center Sean Couturier missed yesterday’s practice with a stomach virus. His status for tonight will be determined at the morning skate.

Forward Blair Jones cleared waivers yesterday but remains with the team. Either Jones or Jason Akeson will re-enter the lineup on Thursday night. Based on Wednesday’s practice combinations, Jones is more likely to play and Akeson is more likely to be the one scratched from the lineup.

Defensemen Braydon Coburn (left foot) is close to being ready to return to play. There’s a chance he could be cleared for Saturday but the club may opt simply to wait until after the five-night break that follows the game against the Avalanche. Andrew MacDonald (lower body) is expected to be out of the lineup until late November. He has yet to resume skating. Panthers outlook

The Panthers enter this game coming off a 2-1 overtime loss in Boston on Tuesday. Luongo finished with 23 saves on 25 shots, while Jussi Jokinen scored his first goal as a Panther. Florida had a couple of chances to pull the game out in regulation. Hit posts by forward Vincent Trocheck and defenseman Erik Gudbranson in the third period were subsequently followed by Boston’s Brad Marchand winning the game for his team with 1:33 remaining in overtime.

Florida has collected at least one point in seven consecutive games (4-0-3). Stifling team defense and Luongo’s play in net have been the keys. In eight of the team’s 10 games this season, neither the Panthers nor their opponents have mustered more than two goals in regulation. Each of the past four games have been 2-1 finals. Florida is 2-0-2 in those games.

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 this season has been decided by one goal. Six games have gone to overtime, with one (a loss to Washington) reaching a shootout after a 65-minute 1-1 tie.

Eventually, as some of the team’s talented young forwards blossom, the Panthers may push the attack a little more. For now, the club will need to continue eking out points from low-scoring games. In their first 10 games of the season, the Panthers have only scored three regulation goals once (a 4-3 overtime win against Colorado).

Entering tonight’s game, Luongo has posted a 2.11 goals against average, .932 save percentage and one shutout in nine outings. Brad Boyes (two power play goals, four assists) and Jokinen (one goal, five assists) share the overall scoring lead with six points apiece.

As was the case last Saturday, the Panthers remain without numerous key forwards. However, the injury situation is slowly improving. Aleksander Barkov (knee) practiced with the team yesterday and is expected to play tonight. However, Brandon Pirri (IR, concussion), Sean Bergenheim (lower body) and Dave Bolland (IR, groin pull) are not available. Former Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau (flu) has been out since Saturday and did not play in Boston on Tuesday. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)

Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 3.08 (T-6th), Panthers 1.50 (29th)

Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 3.08 (23rd), Panthers 1.90 (3rd)

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

Power play efficiency: Flyers 19.5% (13th), Panthers 14.3% (T-22nd)

Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 78.4% (23rd), Panthers 76.6% (25th)

Faceoff percentage: Flyers 50.9% (12th), Panthers 46.9% (T-27th) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)

FLYERS

76 Chris VandeVelde – 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 – 41 Blair Jones

8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit

15 Michael Del Zotto – 55 Nick Schultz

26 Carlo Colaiacovo – 22 Luke Schenn

35 Steve Mason

[29 Ray Emery]

Scratches: Andrew MacDonald (lower body), Braydon Coburn (IR, left foot), Michael Raffl (lower body), Jason Akeson (healthy).

PANTHERS

36 Jussi Jokinen – 16 Aleksander Barkov – 24 Brad Boyes

19 Scottie Upshall 27 Nick Bjugstad 12 Jimmy Hayes

82 Tomas Kopecky – 17 Derek MacKenzie – 22 Shawn Thornton

14 Tomas Fleischmann – 21 Vincent Trocheck – 23 Rocco Grimaldi

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: Colby Robak (healthy), Brandon Pirri (IR, concussion), Dave Bolland (IR, groin), Jonathan Huberdeau (flu), Sean Bergenheim (lower body).

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This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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