LIGHTNING (16-16-10) at FLYERS (21-19-3)
Last 10 --
Tampa Bay 5-4-1; Philadelphia 6-3-1
Season series --
This is the third meeting between the teams. The Flyers won the first two games. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter each had two goals in a 6-2 win Nov. 2 in Philadelphia. It was the fifth straight road loss for the Lightning, and they held a closed-door meeting afterward. Blair Betts
and Richards each had two goals in a 5-2 win Dec. 23 at Tampa Bay. That game kicked off a four-game Flyers' winning streak and they are 6-1-1 since then.
Big story --
The Flyers could move into eighth place in the Eastern Conference if they win and the Devils win in Montreal Saturday night. The Lighting could move to within a point of the ninth-place Flyers with a win. The secondary big story could be the return of Flyers' first-string goalie Ray Emery, who hasn't played since abdominal surgery in early December. But new coach Peter Laviolette is establishing his authority, so look for him to start hot goalie Michael Leighton
rather than the incumbent who's coming back earlier than doctors originally predicted.
The Lightning shot the lights out in New Jersey Friday night, scoring on three of their first seven shots. Then a bank of lights blew behind the Devils goal and the game had to be postponed, to be continued at a yet-to-be-determined date.
The Lightning aren't great but they're better than predicted and they've been hanging on the cusp of a playoff berth most of the season. Steven Stamkos
has 37 goals since Feb. 19, exceeded only by Alexander Ovechkin's 42. Stamkos leads the Lightning with 21 goals and linemate Ryan Malone
is next with 19. Martin St. Louis
leads Tampa Bay with 36 assists and 46 points.
Before the Flyers throttled the Penguins, 7-4, Thursday, they were 1-2 recently against playoff contenders and 5-0 against teams out of a playoff spot. The win in Pittsburgh lends credence to their belief that they've got their game working. They have scored 17 goals in their past three games and some of the shots have been brilliant, just overpowering goalies. They're also getting quiet, steady goaltending. Leighton's not doing anything flashy. The Flyers have good defensive coverage and Leighton is getting good looks and is positioned in the limited shooting lanes. Toronto tried stuffing his left side repeatedly and it didn't work. Leighton credits goalie coach Jeff Reese for improving some weaknesses.
Who's hot --
Flyers rookie left wing James van Riemsdyk
has three goals in two games and six points in three games. Leighton is 6-0-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average as the Flyers' starter. Richards has scored in three straight games. Carter has seven points in five games. … Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier
has 13 points in 10 games. St. Louis has 11 points in the past eight games.
Injury report --
Emery has missed 17 games since he last played Dec. 5. He had abdominal surgery Dec. 8. Defenseman Ryan Parent has missed seven games with a back injury. Defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefson has missed 12 games with a left MCL injury. … Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger
left the team 11 weeks ago for personal reasons but a recent St. Petersburg Times report suggests he may return within a week. Left wing Todd Fedoruk injured his knee against the Flyers on Dec. 23 and has missed five games. Center Jeff Halpern suffered a lower-body injury in that game and has missed five games. Defenseman Matt Walker
has missed seven games with a lower-body injury.
Stat pack --
With five power-play goals in two games, the Flyers moved back into second place with a 23.4 percent success rate. … Philadelphia's Chris Pronger
ranks fifth with 105 blocked shots and Kimmo Timonen
is 12th with 90. … St. Louis is tied for eighth with 39 takeaways. … Philadelphia's players are a combined plus-4 while Tampa Bay's are minus-10. … The Flyers still lead the NHL with 17.4 penalty minutes per game. … Tampa Bay's six road wins are tied for second-worst.
Puck Drop --
Great night for the rookie watch: Van Riemsdyk is tied for second among NHL rookies with 16 assists and tied for fourth with 10 goals. Victor Hedman
of Tampa is third among rookie defensemen with four goals and second with 52 shots and in averaging 22:13 minutes per game.