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Flyers, Panthers each looking to extend hot streaks

by Adam Kimelman

PANTHERS (3-5-1) AT FLYERS (4-6-0)


Season series: This is the second of three meetings between the teams. On Jan. 26, Matt Read had a hat trick as Philadelphia won 7-1 in Florida.

Big story: Can the Philadelphia Flyers build on their strong effort Tuesday, a 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Can the Florida Panthers continue their recent improved play during their first extended road trip of the season? They started this four-game trip Sunday at the Buffalo Sabres with a 4-3 win before losing to the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in overtime Tuesday.

Team scope:

Panthers: After a 1-5-0 start, the Panthers look to have at least started to right the ship, with at least a point in three straight games (2-0-1). However, coach Kevin Dineen wasn't necessarily happy with his team's play in Tuesday's loss.

"We're not satisfied," Dineen said. "We felt we could have gotten the two points in here. We did a lot of good things, but fatigue played a little bit into a few mistakes that happened, specifically on that [Bryan Little overtime power-play] goal."

As the quarter-mark of the season approaches and the Panthers find themselves 13th in the Eastern Conference after Tuesday's games, Dineen knows each game grows in importance.

"I think we all -- coaches and players across the League -- are a priority on every single game," he said.

Flyers: Tuesday's defeat of the Lightning was their second straight win, and facing a Panthers team they handled easily less than two weeks ago, the Flyers are looking to start stringing some together. Helping that cause could be the return of forward Wayne Simmonds.

Simmonds hasn't played since sustaining a concussion Feb. 1 against the Washington Capitals when defenseman John Erskine elbowed him in the head. Simmonds skated with the team for the first time since then Tuesday, wearing a yellow (non-contact) jersey.

"It felt pretty good," he said after the practice. "I think everything went pretty well today. Just have to see what happens."

Simmonds said he wasn't sure if he would be able to play Thursday, that was up to the team's medical staff. However, teammates were happy to see Simmonds back.

"He was skating well," captain Claude Giroux said. "Not sure how he's feeling right now [but] he was looking good. That's good to see."

Who's hot: Panthers rookie Jonathan Huberdeau has points in three straight games, and goals in two of the past three. … Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov certainly seems more comfortable in his second season in Philadelphia, and the numbers bear that out. He's allowed 20 goals in his first nine games this season; in his first nine games last season, he allowed 27.

Injury report: Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski (knee) and forward Scottie Upshall (ankle) are out. … For Philadelphia, Simmonds is questionable with the concussion, while forward Scott Hartnell (foot) and defenseman Andrej Meszaros (shoulder) are out.

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