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Flyers hopeful Pronger might play against Lightning

by Adam Kimelman
FLYERS (8-4-2) at LIGHTNING (7-5-2)


Last 10:
Philadelphia 5-4-1; Tampa Bay 6-3-1

Season series:
This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season. The Lightning won three of four games last season, but the Flyers were victorious in their most recent meeting, a 4-3 shootout win in Tampa. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen scored the game-deciding shootout goal for the Flyers.

Big Story: The Flyers hope to have All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger back in the lineup, while the Lightning aim to push their win streak to three straight.

Team Scope:

Flyers: Philadelphia hasn't played since Saturday's 9-2 rout of the Blue Jackets. Teams rolling like that never want to see a long break come up, but the Flyers' current four-day break could be the best thing possible for the team.

That break has allowed Pronger to get some quality practice time in to make sure his injured right eye is healed, and for him to get used to wearing a visor for the first time since his junior hockey days.

Pronger skated Tuesday morning and accompanied the team on its flight to Florida for Wednesday's game, and said he'll decide after the morning skate if he'll play Wednesday night.

Pronger said his big concern is getting his conditioning to where he feels it needs to be for him to play at his customary level.

"It's been a little suspect after the last couple days," Pronger said of his conditioning. "Again, you don't realize how quickly you can lose it when you've done nothing for seven days, you're bedridden for four of them -- the joints need to be moving. Sometimes while I feel like I'm 25, when you're laying decrepit in your bed for four or five days, you get a little tight and stiff."

Lightning: When Matt Gilroy watched video of himself playing with the Lightning earlier this season, he didn't like what he saw.

"The first few games I was running around like a chicken without a head on," Gilroy told the Tampa Tribune. "They were like, 'Look at yourself,' (as) we were watching video. And (general manager) Steve Yzerman told me to just calm down and play my game, keep it simple and stay within the system and things will open up."

Things have been just fine for Gilroy the last three games. He's a plus-5, and while he has just one assist, it was a beauty -- against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, he pulled a spin-o-rama at the offensive blue line to create space, then carried the puck deep into the Florida zone and fed a perfect backhand pass to Steven Stamkos for a goal.

His smarter play has resulted in more ice time, topped by a season-high 25 minutes against the Panthers.

"I'm feeling more comfortable, keeping it simple and concentrating on defense first," Gilroy said. "They said that if I kept it simple I would get more comfortable and things would open up, and they have. And all the credit has to go to the coaches with how much they have worked with me and everything they have done for me with video and just talking to help me through."

Who's Hot: Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr enters with a seven-game point-scoring streak. He has 6 goals and 5 assists in that span. … Stamkos has 6 goals in his last five games to move into a tie for the League lead with 10 goals.

Injury Report: Pronger will be a game-time decision (eye) for the Flyers, while forwards Matt Read (upper body) and Andreas Nodl (lower body) are day-to-day. … Lightning forward Ryan Malone (upper body) and defenseman Victor Hedman (upper body) will be sidelined for Wednesday's game. Steve Downie will take Malone's place on the Stamkos line.

Stat Pack:
How important is Pronger to the Flyers? In the six games he's missed with his eye injury, they are 3-2-1, allowed 22 goals (3.67 goals per game) and their power play has gone just 2-for-28 (7.1 percent). In seven games prior to Pronger getting hurt, the Flyers were 4-2-1, allowed 19 goals (2.71 goals per game) and went 9-for-35 on the power play (25.7 percent).

Puck Drop: After an offseason roster overhaul that saw them lose three of their top five scorers, one of the chief questions facing the Flyers was where the offense would come from.

So far the answer has been just about everywhere.

Philadelphia entered Tuesday leading the League with 56 goals and an average of 4 goals per game. They have six players already in double-digits in points, led by Claude Giroux, who is second in the League with 19 points.

"A lot of guys are stepping up," Danny Briere, who has 12 points in 12 games, told the team's website. "Jagr has helped out a lot … guys like (Wayne) Simmonds, but even young guys like Sean Couturier, who has 5 (goals), that's very impressive. It's good that everybody has more responsibility in that department and it's definitely good to see."

Giroux leads the team with 9 goals, but 15 players have at least 1 goal.

"We have a talented group in here," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told the team's website. "We have a defense that can move the puck efficiently and I think we have a good balance on each line. The players have done a really good job of generating offense."

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