FLYERS (3-1-1) at PANTHERS (1-4-0)
Season series -- First of four meetings this season. The Panthers went 2-1-1 against the Flyers last season. The teams played twice in Florida in the span off 11 days in January, with the Panthers going 1-0-1; then they met twice in Philadelphia in the span of 13 days late in the season, with each team claiming a regulation victory.
Big Story -- For a team that missed the playoffs through the tiebreaker procedure last season and stressed getting off to a better start, Florida has hardly delivered. Since opening the season in Finland with a shootout win over Chicago, the Panthers have dropped four in a row, all in regulation. They haven't buried themselves yet, but if the losing continues they will once again have a lot of chasing to do if they want to end their postseason drought.
Flyers -- How is Philadelphia off to a 3-1-1 start and yet a distant third in the Atlantic Division? Well, for one, the Penguins and Rangers have each played seven games to the Flyers' five. And secondly, those teams have each won six of their first seven. The Flyers' main concern in this game will be putting a stop to a two-game losing streak, both defeats coming by a single goal. They've had five days off since dropping a shootout to Anaheim.
"It was a good week to get to know each other, but it's starting to feel a little long," Danny Briere said. "I can't wait to get back to playing. The first period will be critical. Whoever can come out and set the tempo will have a huge advantage."
Panthers -- Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, or so the saying goes. It certainly doesn't get you two points in a hockey game, which is what Florida desperately needs right now. The Panthers' last two defeats came by 3-2 scores to the Devils and Lightning, and were games they could have won but did not. GM Randy Sexton feels the team is still getting going after starting the season in Europe.
"There are still no excuses. But I think in Tampa we had our energy back," Sexton said. "I think we skated better. We had our energy back. We skated better and I think we did a lot of things better. We didn’t come out on top but you have to take one step forward to get out of the hole."
Who's Hot -- Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger has come as advertised: after scoring a goal Saturday against his old team, he has five points, a plus-three rating and a team-high 18 penalty minutes. Florida forward Radek Dvorak scored a shorthanded goal, had three shots and played over 20 minutes against Tampa.
Injury Report -- Checking forward Blair Betts remains out for the Flyers with a dislocated shoulder, though he could return in about a week. The Panthers are awaiting the return of defenseman Nick Tarnasky, who is skating but hasn't played yet as he recovers from a broken orbital bone.
Stat Pack -- Flyers goalie Ray Emery is 6-2-0 career against the Panthers with a 3.26 goals-against average. Tomas Vokoun has started every game for Florida this season, but should the team choose to opt for backup Scott Clemmensen, he went 2-0-0 with a 1.89 GAA against the Flyers last season while playing for the Devils.
Puck Drop -- Forward Dominic Moore was finally able to get through immigration and join the Panthers after signing a free-agent contract. The team hopes he will be able to help provide not only points but ability in the faceoff circle.
"He brings some energy, he brings some speed, he brings faceoffs," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think in Tampa our faceoff percentage was (34) percent (18 of 53). He brings something to the table we sorely need."
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com