FLYERS (32-25-3) at LIGHTNING (26-24-11)
Philadelphia 6-4-0; Tampa Bay 5-4-1
This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams. The Flyers won the first three, by a combined score of 15-5. Flyers captain Mike Richards and fourth-line center Blair Betts
have a pair of two-goal games for Philadelphia.
Can the Flyers' red-hot play heading into the Olympic break continue? They swept home-and-home series from the Devils and Canadiens to climb to sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Can the Lightning put some off-ice controversy behind them? Coach Rick Tocchet reportedly was unhappy with the dismissal of assistant Wes Walz, but more important is the fact Tampa is just one point out of a playoff spot.
While some teams welcomed the time off from the Olympic break, the Flyers would have loved to keep playing. First they rallied from 2-0 holes to beat New Jersey by matching 3-2 scores, and then they swept the Canadiens, including a 6-2 victory at the Bell Centre that was topped by Danny Briere
's hat trick.
Briere especially would have loved to keep right on playing. The hat trick snapped a streak that saw him score just twice in the previous 17 games.
"I got some bounces," he told CSNPhilly.com. "Things lately weren't coming, even though I had chances here and there. There's going to be games where pucks are going your way and you feel good. I had lots of jump. The last three games before the break, I felt like I had that jump. I felt good and hopefully, things will keep going that way. I don't know how to explain it, but I was feeling good there at the end."
But can he -- and the rest of the team -- stay in that groove when the NHL season resumes?
"We got to a point where it was nice to go on a hot stretch and put ourselves in a good position before the break, but we can still be hot after the break because we're in the same situation as everybody else with having days off," Briere said. "I'm hoping we can pick up where we left off."
With the trade deadline coming up fast, Tampa GM Brian Lawton sounds like he's going to be in buyer mode.
"Aggressive is definitely a good way to describe it," Lawton told the Tampa Tribune. "We want to do all we can."
Reports have the Lightning looking for a puck-moving defenseman and possibly a forward to play with team captain Vincent Lecavalier
"We wanted to get to this point when we sat down last year as a group to be playing meaningful games for the playoffs and we are there now, and that's not good enough," Lawton said. "Finishing ninth is not good enough for the Tampa Bay Lightning
. Coming up a little short isn't good enough. We've got high expectations that run from our past ownership to our eventual new ownership. That is crystal clear, and everybody should understand."
Who's Hot --
Flyers center Jeff Carter took a four-game goal-scoring streak into the Olympic break. With 5 goals in his last four games, he has a team-high 27.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos
has at least a point (10 goals, 13 assists) in 13 straight games.
Injury Report --
Flyers goalie Ray Emery (hip) is working out off the ice, but isn't ready to skate yet. Defensemen Ryan Parent (back) and Danny Syvret (shoulder) are skating but have not been cleared for contact.
Lightning forward Zenon Konopka (back) is questionable for Tuesday's game.
Stat Pack --
The two highest scorers in the League who didn't make an Olympic team are the Lightning's Martin St. Louis
(71 points) and Steven Stamkos
(70). Stamkos' 35 goals, which are fourth in the League, made him the only player in the top 15 in goals who could have made an Olympic team and didn't (Slovenia, home of the Kings' Anze Kopitar, who is ninth with 28 goals, didn't qualify for Vancouver).
Puck Drop --
One Canadian hockey player made it to Vancouver and didn't need to pack his hockey pads to have a good time.
Tampa goalie Mike Smith spent his time off in Vancouver cheering on girlfriend Brigitte Acton. She finished 17th for Canada in the women's slalom.