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Flyers go for fourth straight vs. first-place Panthers

by Adam Kimelman
PANTHERS (31-22-12) at FLYERS (37-21-7)


Last 10:
Florida 4-5-1; Philadelphia 6-4-0

Season series:
This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season, and first in Philadelphia. The Flyers won their previous two meetings, most recently a 3-2 shootout win Jan. 24.

Big Story: The Panthers are desperate for points to maintain their Southeast Division lead, but it won't be easy playing a Flyers team that has won three straight and is looking to gain points to grab home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

Team Scope:

Coach Kevin Dineen certainly is happy with his team's lead atop the Southeast Division, but knows the two-point lead on Winnipeg and four-point advantage on Washington are extremely tenuous, especially with 17 games still to play in the regular season.

That's why he's hoping his team can start stringing together multiple wins, starting with Thursday's game in Philadelphia and Saturday's game in Pittsburgh. The Panthers won three straight Feb. 25-28, but then lost two in a row.

"A week or two swing can make such a huge difference," Dineen told the team's website. "We are looking for more consistency in our effort game to game. … I was happy with the way we played five out of six periods this weekend and we'll be looking for an even more complete set in our next back-to-back games against the Pennsylvania group."

Flyers: Jakub Voracek said he had a sore neck from the big hit he took from Niklas Kronwall that knocked him out of Tuesday's game, but he's hoping to play Thursday.

Voracek got caught with his head down looking for the puck when Kronwall hit him. The Wings defenseman appeared to hit Voracek in the face with his shoulder.

"I think it was clean," Voracek said of the hit. "I had my head down. … I saw him standing on the blue line and I was kind of naive and thought he was going to back up. It was a tough hit to take, but I think it was a clean hit from my side. It was my bad, and I think those hits should stay in the game."

Who's Hot:
The Panthers' penalty-killing unit hasn't allowed a power-play goal in back-to-back games, the first time Florida has done that since Feb. 11-12. … Flyers center Claude Giroux had a goal and an assist Tuesday against Detroit, giving him a career-best 77 points. The assist gave him a League-high 53.

Injury Report:
Missing for the Panthers are forwards Kris Versteeg (lower body) and Scottie Upshall (sports hernia) and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (knee). … The Flyers will be without defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros due to lower-body injuries. Forward James van Riemsdyk is out 4-6 weeks following foot surgery earlier this week. Voracek (head) and forward Jaromir Jagr (hip) are questionable after being injured in Tuesday's game against Detroit.

Stat Pack: The road team has won five straight and seven of the last eight times these teams have met.

Puck Drop: Expect to see Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson back in the lineup Thursday.

Florida coach Kevin Dineen made Gudbranson a healthy scratch Sunday against the Senators, telling reporters Gudbranson needed to "take a breath."

Gudbranson, who has 6 points and a minus-20 rating in 55 games, said he's trying to treat his benching as a positive.

"It's no fun to sit out and watch your team playing out there," Gudbranson told the Miami Herald. "As a young guy, I can see the game and learn from this. Being on the ice is very different. The way to treat this is learn and make it a positive. I'm not going to question their decision, that's for sure. Whatever is best for the team to win a game is best by me."

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