PANTHERS (14-16-0) at FLYERS (22-7-5)
TV: FS-F (HD), CSN-PH (HD)
Florida 5-5-0; Philadelphia 7-1-2
Season series --
Second of four meetings on the 2010-11 schedule. The Flyers earned a 5-2 victory on Nov. 13 as Mike Richards and Claude Giroux
each scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky
made 34 saves. Florida won three of the four games last season.
Big story --
The absence of All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger
, who'll be sidelined 4-6 weeks while he recovers from surgery on his broken right foot, didn't seem to faze the red-hot Flyers on Saturday in a 4-1 victory over the Rangers. In fact, Oskars Bartulis
, who replaced Pronger in the lineup while suiting up for the first time since Nov. 1, led the team with four hits. Additionally, Braydon Coburn
was responsible for seven of Philadelphia's 15 blocked shots.
"At some point you're going to get injuries where you're not going to be able to play through them," Pronger said. "I think you've seen now, with the depth on our back end, we're rolling three sets of (defense). I might be the high guy with like 22 or 23 minutes and the low guy might be at 17 or 18 minutes, but we're getting a pretty good roll of the bench and that only helps you when you get guys into situations and keeps them sharp."
The Panthers apparently learned their lesson after blowing a 3-0 lead in a 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes last Wednesday. Two days later, they took a 5-0 advantage on the visiting Buffalo Sabres and, this time, cruised to a 6-2 triumph. Six players had multiple points, including Marty Reasoner, who scored twice in the first period as Florida snapped a two-game losing streak. Goalie Tomas Vokoun bounced back from Wednesday's loss with 41 saves against the Sabres.
The Flyers have won five in a row and gone eight games without a regulation loss (7-0-1). They've also grabbed 15 of a possible 18 points through nine games in December en route to a League-leading 22 wins and 49 points. Following the home contest against the Panthers, the team embarks on a three-game Western swing against the Kings, Ducks and Red Wings.
Who's hot --
Flyers goalie Brian Boucher is 6-0-1 in his last seven starts with a 1.66 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage. … Panthers right wing Michael Frolik has scored in five of his last six games and has 2 goals and 3 points in his last two outings. Frolik is tied for the team lead with 8 goals and owns a team-best 19 points.
Injury report --
The Flyers are without defensemen Pronger (foot) and Matt Walker
(hip). … Forwards Rostislav Olesz (finger), Cory Stillman (back) and Radek Dvorak (shoulder) are out and Byron Bitz (sports hernia) is doubtful for the Panthers.
Stat pack --
Flyers forward Nikolay Zherdev tied a career high with 2 goals on Saturday against his former club, the Rangers. It's the ninth time in his career he's scored two in a game and the second time with the Flyers -- the last coming Nov. 18 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in an 8-7 loss.
Puck drop --
Flyers forward Ville Leino was asked if he felt the Flyers were the best hockey team right now following the team's victory over the Rangers.
"I think we are able to now stay on top," Leino said. "We've got to keep working everyday because everybody wants to win. We're the team at the top and we have been doing a good job and working hard every night. That's the thing, we've got to keep doing it."