SUNRISE - For the past several days, while the Panthers have spent time trying to right a ship that has lost four consecutive games, the Flyers have gone fishing and boating during their ‘team bonding’ week in South Florida.
But the Flyers, like the Panthers, are eager to get on the ice this evening at BankAtlantic Center. For the Panthers, it’s to start a winning streak. For the Flyers, it’s to continue what has been a strong 3-1-1 start to the season.
“It’s been kind of tough the first couple games for us,” said David Booth after Friday’s pre-game skate. “We’ve been close the past couple games against New Jersey and Tampa. We know we have to turn the tide and put together a win; get one and build from there.”
For the Panthers, there will be a couple of firsts this evening. Scott Clemmensen
will get his first regular-season start in goal as a Panther after winning 25 games last season in New Jersey. And center Dominic Moore will play his first game in a Panther uniform.
Along with the change in goal, Panthers coach Peter DeBoer has switched three of his lines. Rostislav Olesz will play on a line with Steve Reinprecht and Michael Frolik while Cory Stillman will be playing alongside Radek Dvorak and Gregory Campbell. Moore will begin the game playing with Kamil Kreps and Ville Koistinen.
“Our top line has created opportunities to score but just haven’t cashed in,” DeBoer said. “Those secondary guys, for me, across he board – Stillman, Reinprecht, Campbell, Dvorak – they just haven’t created enough on a nightly basis. That has to be the identity of our team, the depth of the lineup with those middle guys, and they have to be able to get on the board for us.”
The Flyers, who will be playing their only game in an 11-day span, are considered a Stanley Cup contender.
“Just a solid team,” DeBoer said. “You can see why. (Chris) Pronger is a huge addition for them. (Jay) Bouwmeester leaves our defense and they add a guy like Pronger, who’s in that mold. There’s only a handful of guys in the league, four or five of them, who are 6-5 and can control a game physically. He’s intimidating to play against. They had a real good team last year and, with his addition, it’s taken them to another level.”
The Flyers ‘team bonding’ experience was a good one, Scott Hartnell told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It recharges you and gets you away from the grind of the game.” And don’t think the Flyers have just been sitting poolside with tiny umbrellas in their drinks.
“We’ve been working on a lot of things down here that are critical to us improving as a team,” Pronger told PhiladelphiaFlyers.com. “With time spent in practice, we’re not just out there lollygagging. We’re doing specific drills to get better, whether its defensive-zone coverage or backside pressure, or the forecheck.”
According to Hartnell, the key for the Flyers early in the game will be keeping things simple.
“When you don’t play for a few days, mentally you might not be all there, so keep things simple, get the puck deep, give a hit (and) take a hit the first few shifts you’re out there. That will get your brain back into hockey mode.”
Special teams could play a huge role in tonight’s game. The Flyers are fourth in the league on the power play (9-0f-31) while the Panthers are 28th (2-for-21). The Panthers two power play goals came in the last two games. On the penalty kill, the Flyers are ranked fourth and the Panthers 23rd.
The Panthers forward lines will start: Stephen Weiss
, Nathan Horton, David Booth
Steven Reinprecht, Michael Frolik, Rostislav Olesz
Gregory Campbell, Cory Stillman, Radek Dvorak
Dominic Moore, Kamil Kreps, Ville Koistinen
Bryan Allen, Dmitry Kulikov
Keith Ballard, Jordan Leopold
Bryan McCabe, Dennis Seidenberg NOTES
The Flyers will be trying to win their three first road games for the first time in 16 years…Rookie James van Riemsdyk, who missed the previous two games with post concussion syndrome, is expected to be in uniform…