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Improved Flyers face test at home against Lightning

by Adam Kimelman

LIGHTNING (19-10-3) at FLYERS (11-13-5)


PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers won the first two games of their current four-game homestand, but Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it will be the first game against a team above them in the standings.

The Flyers are 3-0-2 in their past five, including back-to-back wins against the New Jersey Devils last Thursday and the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. They enter play Tuesday five points behind the New York Rangers for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

The Lightning have lost four of their past five, including a 4-2 defeat at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, but have the third-most points in the conference.

"They're a fast team, they make decisions quick," Flyers forward Wayne Simmons said. "Their [defensemen] get up in the rush."

However, the Flyers know the Lightning played Monday and won't have starting goaltender Ben Bishop, who sustained a lower-body injury in the first period. Evgeni Nabokov played the final two periods Monday and likely will start Tuesday. The Lightning also recalled top prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy from Syracuse of the American Hockey League.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper, speaking at the team hotel, said Bishop is day-to-day, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Cooper said his starting goaltender would be a game-time decision.

"There's a ton of things that go into [the decision]," Cooper told the Lightning website. "We've got a 700-game NHL guy and a guy that's played pretty well for us in spurts versus we've got a kid that's coming up that is learning to play hockey in North America. But he is coming off being named AHL Player of the Week. He's had a good run of starts. You've got a team that's in a little bit of a funk. You may need something different, or go to old faithful and put the team on his back. There's a bunch of different things. That's what we have to wrestle with."

Regardless of who is in goal the Flyers are focused on getting off to a strong start.

"They played [Monday] so we're going to have to be ready," Flyers forward Sean Couturier said. "They'll come out flying, but I think if we come out with a good strong first 10 minutes we should build on that and take over from there. Hopefully we can get a win."

Couturier has been a driving force for the Flyers' recent hot stretch. He had a goal Saturday against Carolina to extend his point streak to six games, tying a career best. He has three goals and four assists in that span.

"You get those stretches in a season where every time it seems you touch the puck it finds its way in the back of the net," Couturier said. "It's nice having those stretches and hopefully we can keep going."

The only Lightning players on the ice Tuesday morning were forward Ondrej Palat and Radko Gudas; Palat has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury and Gudas has missed the past two with an illness. Cooper said Palat won't play but Gudas is questionable, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Vasilevskiy was recalled Tuesday morning, one day after being named AHL Player of the Week. The 20-year-old is 8-3-3 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 14 AHL games.

"We looked down at his numbers the last six, seven games, they're outstanding and been recognized by the [AHL]," Cooper said. "So he's finding his way for the game and speaking with [Syracuse coach Rob Zettler], he said he’s been outstanding for them."

Flyers rookie center Scott Laughton has faced Vasilevskiy numerous times at international tournaments, including the bronze-medal game at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. In that game Vasilevskiy made 30 saves to lead Russia to a 2-1 victory. Laughton, Canada's captain, had four shots on goal.

"He's good down low," Laughton said. "I know he covers the bottom of the net. Reminds me of a [Antti] Niemi, kind of covers the bottom of the net, doesn't give you much. Good side to side. In tight I think you've got to get it up on him. He's a really good goalie."

Here are the projected lineups:


Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

J.T. Brown - Cedric Paquette - Jonathan Drouin

Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - Brett Connolly

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Matthew Carle - Mark Barberio

Evgeni Nabokov

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Vladislav Namestnikov

Injured: Ben Bishop (lower body), Ondrej Palat (lower body), Radko Gudas (illness)


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Brayden Schenn - Scott Laughton - Wayne Simmonds

R.J. Umberger - Sean Couturier - Matt Read

Zac Rinaldo - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Chris VandeVelde

Nicklas Grossmann - Mark Streit

Nick Schultz - Braydon Coburn

Andrew MacDonald - Luke Schenn

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Vincent Lecavalier, Michael Del Zotto, Carlo Colaiacovo

Injured: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots), Ryan White (chest)

Status report: Lecavalier will miss his seventh game. Flyers coach Craig Berube said he likes the chemistry of his forward group, which is why he hasn't changed his lineup. "I'm not a superstitious guy," he said. "I think what plays into it is how they're playing and the chemistry they have right now. That is more important to me."

Who's hot: Kucherov has three goals and three assists in his past five games. … In the first two games of the Flyers homestand Couturier, Read and Umberger have combined for three goals and seven points.


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