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Preview: Lightning at Flyers

Andrei Vasilevskiy to start for Tampa Bay; Michal Neuvirth returns for Philadelphia

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

LIGHTNING (19-17-4) at FLYERS (20-15-5)


Lightning team scope

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy will make his eighth straight start Saturday. He has allowed at least five goals in back-to-back games but coach Jon Cooper said he's not worried about his goaltending. "People making a big deal that he's started six or seven games in a row, but he did that in the Eastern Conference Final last year; he played seven in a row," Cooper said Saturday. "Goalies go through their ups and downs. It's probably magnified a little bit more now because [Ben Bishop] is hurt. But it's how you handle these situations. In the past he's always been able to handle these situations. … When [Vasilevskiy] has been pushed against the wall he usually rebounds and I expect that tonight." Cooper said there's a chance Vasilevskiy could start against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday as well. After that game the Lightning don't play again until Thursday. Defenseman Braydon Coburn will not play and is questionable for Sunday because of an undisclosed injury. The Lightning recalled Luke Witkowski from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Friday and will have seven defensemen on the ice for pregame warmup, before deciding on who wlil play.


Flyers team scope

The Philadelphia Flyers, who have lost five in a row (0-4-1), could have four new lines. Among the changes are Matt Read joining center Claude Giroux and left wing Michael Raffl on the top line; Sean Couturier centering a line with left wing Travis Konecny and right wing Jakub Voracek; and a third line with Brayden Schenn between left wing Dale Weise and right wing Wayne Simmonds. "Certainly we're not doing anything drastic," coach Dave Hakstol told "The Couturier line had played very well together before. The other combinations, there's combinations of two there. ... We feel it's a good time to make a couple changes up front." The Flyers have a three-point lead on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Lightning for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. "The panic button hasn't been hit yet, but it's coming up close here," Read said. "Losing five in a row isn't where we want to be. We have a lot better performances to give. Still halfway into the season, we're in a good spot with the playoff wild-card spot. But we've got to play a lot better and find our game."


Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat -- Tyler Johnson -- Nikita Kucherov

Vladislav Namestnikov -- Valtteri Filppula -- Jonathan Drouin

Adam Erne -- Matthew Peca -- Alex Killorn

J.T. Brown -- Cedric Paquette -- Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman -- Anton Stralman

Slater Koekkoek -- Jason Garrison

Nikita Nesterov -- Luke Witkowski

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Adam Wilcox

Scratched: Andrej Sustr

Injured: Ben Bishop (lower body), Brian Boyle (lower body), Brayden Point (upper body), Steven Stamkos (knee), Braydon Coburn (undisclosed)


Flyers projected lineup

Michael Raffl -- Claude Giroux -- Matt Read

Travis Konecny -- Sean Couturier -- Jakub Voracek

Dale Weise -- Brayden Schenn -- Wayne Simmonds

Chris VandeVelde -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Roman Lyubimov

Ivan Provorov -- Andrew MacDonald

Nick Schultz -- Shayne Gostisbehere

Michael Del Zotto -- Radko Gudas

Michal Neuvirth

Steve Mason

Scratched: Brandon Manning, Nick Cousins, Boyd Gordon

Injured: Mark Streit (shoulder)


Status report

Boyle will not play Saturday or Sunday, but Cooper said he may practice next week. ... Witkowski being a right-shot defenseman is one reason he's an option Saturday. "Luke has played in the NHL before," Cooper said. "He said he's played in this building before. He's a big (6-foot-2, 217 pounds) strong kid. He's tough to play against down low. And if possible we get that righty/lefty combination and we like that. Always good to have him available." ... Bishop said Friday that he hopes to be back in the lineup by Jan. 16, when the Lightning start a six-game road trip at the Los Angeles Kings. "That's obviously still the goal, maybe sooner," Bishop told the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday, the second straight day he skated in full pads. "We'll take it as it goes. Things are going in the right direction." … Cousins split shifts with Weise at practice Friday. ... Neuvirth likely will start in goal. It would be his first game since sustaining a lower-body injury in the first period against the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 12. He was activated from injured reserve Tuesday and was Mason's backup in the 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday. "I'm 100 percent and my body feels good," Neuvirth said Friday. "I haven't played in a while but I practiced well, and if I play I'm playing with confidence." ... Lyubimov was recalled from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League on Friday. He was sent down Wednesday when the Flyers needed a roster spot to activate defenseman Mark Alt from injured reserve. Alt was placed on waivers Thursday and sent to the AHL on Friday. 

Who's hot

Killorn has one goal and two assists during a three-game point streak. … Palat has three goals and two assists in his past five games. ... Drouin has eight goals and six assists in his past 14 games. .. Hedman has one goal and six assists in his past five games. … Voracek scored two goals against the Rangers.

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