On the same day that teammate Oskar Lindblom paid a visit to the Skate Zone in Voorhes, the Flyers got ready for their next challenge in a series of measuring stick games. After defeating the President's Trophy race leading Washington Capitals on Wednesday, the hottest team in the NHL comes to town on Saturday.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, who ran away with the President's Trophy last season only to get swept in the first round of the playoffs, underachieved for much of the first half of the current campaign. That is, until recently. The team has rattled off nine straight wins and has victories in 10 of their last 11 games. On Thursday, the Lightning blanked the Arizona Coyotes, 4-0.
"Obviously, they're a very good team, and we'll have be at our best tomorrow night. Take care of the puck, defend well, and get our attack going. That's important for any game, but we know we can't give them extra opportunities," Sean Couturier said.
With Mikhail Vorobyev having been loaned to the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers will roll with Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton as their respective third-line and fourth-line centers. This season in the first in several seasons in which Raffl has spent more than a rare shift or two at center, and head coach Alain Vigneault said that the versatile veteran has handled the details of the job well.
"He's better on faceoff than I was led to believe, especially on his strong side," Vigneault said, citing one example of an area of the game in which he's been pleasantly surprised by Raffl's play in the middle.
The recall of winger David Kase from the AHL, according to Vigneault, was made for two primary reasons.
"Energy and speed," Vigneault said. "I liked what he brought in those areas when he was up with us before. ....We're going to need that in the games we have upcoming, and hopefully he brings that tomorrow."
Kase skated on the fourth line at practice with Laughton and Joel Farabee. The 19-year-old Farabee, who admitted that he's been struggling offensively and whose recent ice time is down a bit, said that he's been trying to reset his process on the ice rather than worrying about offensive numbers.
"When you're not scoring, you've got simply things. Focus on the defensive side of the puck. That's what I've been trying to do," Farabee said.
The pro hockey schedule is considerably more demanding than collegiate hockey, where there are fewer games played and the schedule is almost exclusively comprised of games on Friday and Saturday (or, sometimes, Saturday and Sunday). Farabee said that he's holding up well physically and in terms of his energy levels, but admitted the schedule adjustment is a challenge as the campaign rolls along.
"I've been trying to make sure to get my rest, keep eating the right things, that sort of thing," Farabee said.
Carter Hart will get the start in goal against Tampa Bay on Saturday. There was one player absent from Friday's practice: forward Chris Stewart took a maintenance day while battling the flu.
FRIDAY PRACTICE LINE PLAY:
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
JVR - Hayes - Aube-Kubel
Pitlick - Raffl - Voracek
Kase - Laughton - Farabee
Provorov - Niskanen
Sanheim - Myers
Hägg - Friedman
ElliottVideo: AV speaks on Lindblom and next matchup against TBL