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Poised to clinch, Flyers get Downie back

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Philadelphia Flyers will have forward Steve Downie back in the lineup Tuesday when they try to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After going 1-7-0 to start the season, the Flyers will clinch a playoff spot with a victory against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center.

"It's really special for us," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said after the morning skate. "The start of the year was really tough on us, and for us to kind of battle back and be able to be in the position we are right now, we've got to be proud of that."

The Flyers will go into the game two points behind the New York Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division with a game in hand. They're hoping to pass the Rangers to earn home-ice advantage in their likely matchup in the First Round.

Giroux said the bigger focus is having the Flyer get better heading into the playoffs after they went through a 1-4-2 stretch before their 5-2 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

"There's a lot of things we need to work on," Giroux said. "We're aware of that. Over the last month our game is not as good as we want it to be. But the good part of it is we have four more games to work on it and practices. It's going to be a good couple of weeks here."

Downie will be back for the Flyers after missing the previous eight games with an upper-body injury. Acquired in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 31, Downie has missed 16 games since going to Philadelphia because of various injuries.

Downie will retake his spot on a line with Matt Read and Sean Couturier. He will replace Zac Rinaldo, who received a four-game suspension from the NHL Monday for a hit to the head of Buffalo Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel on Sunday.

The Panthers will welcome back two key forwards, Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes.

Huberdeau, the 2013 Calder Trophy winner, will return after missing the past 11 games because of a concussion. He'll be looking to finish on a high note what has been a disappointing second season.

"It was important [to get back]," said Huberdeau, who has gone 19 games without a goal. "I want to finish this season more positive than I???ended up three weeks ago. I've just got to finish stronger and have a little more positive for the summer."

Boyes, who leads the Panthers with 20 goals, sat out the past two games with a sore back after coming out of a game against the New York Islanders last Tuesday in which he played 3:17.

Another addition up front for the Panthers will be center Drew Shore, who was called up Monday from the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League. This will be Shore's fourth stint with the Panthers this season.

With the additions, veteran Scott Gomez will go back to being a healthy scratch after centering the first line the past two games. Gomez, who signed a one-year contract with the Panthers during the summer, might have played his last game in a Florida uniform.

"That's the hardest thing that's happened because he is part of the driving force saying the things he needs to say," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. "He's been a total pro. He works hard and when things are happening in the game he's trying to make a difference and change. He's speaking on the bench, speaking in the locker room. He's doing all the things a good pro does.

"At this time, sometimes you're looking at next year more than you are these three games, so you want to see what the chemistry of some of the younger players. That's where that is. I can't say enough good things about Scotty."

Here are the projected lineups:


Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Brayden Schenn - Michael Raffl - Wayne Simmonds

Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Steve Downie

Tye McGinn - Vincent Lecavalier - Adam Hall

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn

Mark Streit - Nicklas Grossman

Andrew MacDonald - Luke Schenn

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Hal Gill, Erik Gustafsson, Jay Rosehill

Suspended: Zac Rinaldo


Sean Bergenheim - Nick Bjugstad - Brad Boyes

Tomas Fleischmann - Vincent Trocheck - Scottie Upshall

Jonathan Huberdeau - Drew Shore - Jesse Winchester

Krys Barch - Brandon Pirri - Jimmy Hayes

Brian Campbell - Dmitry Kulikov

Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Dylan Olsen - Colby Robak

Roberto Luongo

Dan Ellis

Scratched: Scott Gomez, Quinton Howden

Injured: Tom Gilbert (sports hernia), Aleksander Barkov (knee), Tomas Kopecky (upper body), Alex Petrovic (upper body)

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