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Homecoming for Gostisbehere

Flyers defenseman born in Florida, grew up Panthers fan

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com Correspondent

FLYERS (32-23-11) at PANTHERS (37-21-9)

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

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere will enjoy a homecoming when the Philadelphia Flyers face the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Saturday.

Gostisbehere was born in Margate, Fla., about 10 minutes from the BB&T Center, and grew up a Panthers fan.

Gostisbehere leads all rookie defensemen with 37 points and has helped the Flyers move within two points of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

The Flyers have won three in a row and six of their past seven, including a 3-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

With back-to-back road games, the Flyers did not have a morning skate Saturday, but Gostisbehere talked about his homecoming before the game against Tampa Bay.

"It's pretty cool watching your pro team your whole life playing in that arena, and then go out and play in it," Gostisbehere said. "It was the (Pavel) Bure era. I was a huge Bure fan. Jay (Bouwmeester) and (Roberto) Luongo's first stint. Fun hockey back then."

Gostisbehere began the season in the American Hockey League, so he didn't get to face Luongo on Oct. 10 at BB&T Center when the Panthers defeated the Flyers 7-1, two days before the Flyers won 1-0 in a rematch in Philadelphia.

Flyers goalie Steve Mason made 18 saves against Tampa Bay on Friday and hasn't made consecutive starts in back-to-back games Feb. 6-7. He is 7-3-1 record with a 1.86 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage in 11 career games against the Panthers but was pulled after 6:46 on Oct. 10 after allowing four goals on eight shots.

Michal Neuvirth got the start when the Flyers shut out the Panthers and made 31 saves.

Philadelphia has 75 points, two fewer the Detroit Red Wings and three behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the wild card race but has a game in hand on each team.

"They're playing real well and they're a good hockey team," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said of the Flyers. "They're right in the thick of things. They're battling for that playoff spot. They're battling and playing really hard and playing real well lately.

"I watched that game [Friday] night. They really played well. You play a Tampa Bay team, you give up 19 shots, that's hard to do."

The Panthers entered Saturday tied with the Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division with 83 points, one behind the Boston Bruins. The Panthers have played one fewer game than the Lightning and two fewer than the Bruins, who were scheduled to host the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon.

Florida ended a three-game losing streak Thursday with a 6-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators. Florida is 4-0-2 in its past six home games.

The Panthers will be honoring members of their 1996 team, which reached the Stanley Cup Final in their third season in the NHL. One of the players on that team was current Flyers assistant coach Gord Murphy.

Here are the projected lines:

FLYERS

Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl - Sean Couturier - Sam Gagner
Scott Laughton - Nick Cousins - Matt Read
Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Andrew MacDonald - Shayne Gostisbehere
Nick Schultz - Mark Streit
Brandon Manning - Radko Gudas

Steve Mason
Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Jakub Voracek (lower body), Michael Del Zotto (wrist), Jordan Weal (upper body)
Scratched: R.J. Umberger, Evgeny Medvedev

PANTHERS

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith
Kyle Rau - Nick Bjugstad - Jiri Hudler
Garrett Wilson - Derek MacKenzie - Logan Shaw

Dmitry Kulikov -Aaron Ekblad
Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Jakub Kindl - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo
Al Montoya

Injured: Teddy Purcell (lower body), Willie Mitchell (upper body), Dave Bolland (lower body)
Scratches: Quinton Howden, Shawn Thornton, Steven Kampfer

Status report: Medvedev, Umberger and Weal were the only Flyers players to skate Saturday morning. … Purcell will miss his third game because of a groin injury, but Gallant said he likely would accompany the Panthers on a three-game road trip that begins Monday against the New York Islanders. Rau will be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch Thursday.

Who's hot: Simmonds, Couturier and Schenn all have three-game point streaks. … Huberdeau has a goal and three assists in two games since returning from an upper-body injury. 

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