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Preview: Panthers at Flyers

Thomas Vanek set for debut with Florida; Valtteri Filppula plays first game with Philadelphia

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Staff Writer

PANTHERS (29-23-10) at FLYERS (29-26-7)

7 p.m. ET; CSN-PH, FS-F, NHL.TV


Panthers team scope

Thomas Vanek will make his Florida Panthers debut at left wing on a line with center Nick Bjugstad and right wing Jonathan Marchessault. Vanek and Bjugstad have skated together during the summer at University of Minnesota alumni events. "It's tough in a morning skate or even a practice to see how it goes," Vanek said. "Knowing both of those guys' games, they're very good players, very skilled, very smart. Hopefully we can get some chemistry early." Bjugstad, who was born in Minneapolis, said he remembers watching Vanek help Minnesota win the NCAA championship in 2003; Bjugstad was 10 years old. "It's a big addition," Bjugstad said. "… He can move the puck. You got a guy like [Marchessault] who can put it away. I think it'll be a fun line to play with. Hopefully we'll generate stuff tonight and carry on from there." Coach Tom Rowe said Vanek also will play on the power play and doesn't expect Vanek to need much time to adjust to the Panthers' systems. "We play a pretty simple game," Rowe said. "It's nothing he hasn't seen before. ... He's a smart player and world-class player so he'll pick it up real quick." The Panthers are one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.


Flyers team scope

Forward Valtteri Filppula said his focus entering his first game with the Philadelphia Flyers is to continue building on their hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flyers are four points out of the second wild card from the Eastern Conference with 20 games remaining. "I'll do my best to try to help with that," Filppula said. "Lot of teams in the same spot, trying to find a way to get to playoffs. Hopefully we can do it and hopefully I can do my part." Filppula will center a line with left wing Brayden Schenn and right wing Jakub Voracek. Filppula was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Mark Streit on Wednesday. Streit was the only one of six pending unrestricted free agents moved before the NHL Trade Deadline, which had the remaining players feeling positive. General manager Ron Hextall made no moves at the deadline last season, when the Flyers were out of a playoff spot and got in. The players are confident they can repeat that feat. "It's kind of the same attitude as last year basically, right?" Voracek told the Courier-Post. "You can tell the management believes in us."


Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Aleksander Barkov -- Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen -- Vincent Trocheck -- Reilly Smith

Thomas Vanek -- Nick Bjugstad -- Jonathan Marchessault

Shawn Thornton -- Derek MacKenzie -- Colton Sceviour

Keith Yandle -- Aaron Ekblad

Mark Pysyk -- Alex Petrovic

Michael Matheson -- Jason Demers

Roberto Luongo

James Reimer

Scratched: Jakub Kindl, Michael Sgarbossa, Denis Malgin

Injured: None


Flyers projected lineup

Jordan Weal -- Claude Giroux -- Wayne Simmonds

Brayden Schenn -- Valtteri Filppula -- Jakub Voracek

Nick Cousins -- Sean Couturier -- Dale Weise

Chris VandeVelde -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Matt Read

Ivan Provorov -- Andrew MacDonald

Shayne Gostisbehere -- Nick Schultz

Michael Del Zotto -- Radko Gudas

Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Roman Lyubimov

Injured: Travis Konecny (lower body), Michael Raffl (lower body)

Suspended: Brandon Manning


Status report

Luongo will play consecutive games for the first time since he started three in a row from Feb. 9-15. Rowe said it's a reward for playing well in a 3-2 shootout win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. Luongo made 23 saves and stopped two shootout attempts after allowing four goals on 28 shots in a loss to the Calgary Flames on Feb. 24, and is one win from tying Curtis Joseph (454) for fourth place on the NHL all-time list. "He's a real pro," Rowe said. ... Thornton will play after being a healthy scratch Tuesday. … Manning will serve the second of his two-game suspension from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit against the Pittsburgh Penguins' Jake Guentzel on Feb. 25. ... With Manning out and Streit traded, Schultz will play after being a healthy scratch for the past eight games. ... Mason will start his second straight game. ... Konecny practiced in a regular jersey for the second straight day. He could return to the lineup against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. Couturier will play after leaving practice early Wednesday because of an illness. Bellemare was named an assistant captain, replacing Streit.


Who's hot

Huberdeau has assists in three straight games, and 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 11 games this season. Marchessault has three goals in his past five games. Trocheck has nine points (four goals, five assists) in his past 10 games. … Schenn has three goals and three assists during a five-game point streak. Simmonds has six goals in his past eight games.

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