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Surging Panthers set to host Flyers

by Corey Masisak
FLYERS (8-4-3) at PANTHERS (8-4-3)


Season Series: This is the first meeting of the season between these two teams. They split the four meetings last season, with the winning club collecting at least four goals each time.

Last 10: Flyers 4-4-2, Panthers 5-2-3

Big Story: Both teams have lengthy point streaks going, and will be trying to keep pace with the other top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Team Scope:

Flyers: Philadelphia has points in five straight games (3-0-2) since dropping a 9-8 decision on Oct. 27 to the Winnipeg Jets. The Flyers lost in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lighting on Wednesday, but their tactics at times during regulation caused quite a stir around the League.

Instead of trying to attack Tampa Bay’s 1-3-1 defensive system, the Flyers chose to keep the puck in their own zone and try to force the Lightning out of it. Afterwards, Flyers players and coaches criticized the Lightning for deploying the system – and for not being willing to pursue the puck when they stalled.

Twice the Flyers were whistled for delay of game and a faceoff was awarded in their zone.

"I think the rule needs some clarification," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "They said the puck needs to be moving, and there was movement on the second one and it was blown down again. I think they straightened it out."
Panthers: After finishing last season near the bottom of the NHL standings and saying goodbye to nearly half the roster in trades, the new-look Panthers have been one of the most surprising teams in the NHL this season. They have points in six straight contests (3-0-3) and were in first-place in the Southeast Division for 24 hours after a win Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets.

The team's top line has played a big part in that. Stephen Weiss is one of the few holdovers on the roster from before general manager Dale Tallon arrived, and he has combined with additions Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann to form a productive trio. They've combined for 18 goals and 43 points, and they are three of the top four scorers on the roster.

Who's Hot: Scott Hartnell has scored six goals in eight games for the Flyers after not registering one in his first seven contests of the season. Versteeg, who finished last season with the Flyers, had a hat trick in Florida’s win against Winnipeg and leads the club with eight goals and 17 points.

Injury Report: Rookie center Brayden Schenn is out with a broken foot for the Flyers. Forward Andreas Nodl (lower body) and defenseman Erik Gustafsson (wrist) are both questionable. Florida forward Mikael Samuelsson remains out with a lower-body injury – he hasn’t played since being traded from Vancouver.

Stat Pack: The Flyers are the League's highest-scoring team, leading in both goals scored (57) and goals per contest (3.80) after Friday's games. Florida last season tied for 27th in the NHL last season at 2.33 goals per game, but this season they are at 2.87 per contest and currently 11th. 

Puck Drop: Florida's improved offense, both up front and with the defense corps, has helped the Panthers become a playoff contender in the early stages of this season. Having a healthy team has also helped.

The Panthers have 12 skaters who have played in all 15 games, and two more who have missed only one. Add in the combination of David Booth and Marco Sturm (who were traded for each other) and 15 of the team’s 18 lineup spots have been steady. One of the team’s top six defensemen at the start of the season, rookie Erik Gudbranson, has also been healthy but has been scratched four times.

New coach Kevin Dineen had to blend together a roster with incredible turnover from last season, but having plenty of continuity so far has certainly helped.

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