Game Day Preview: Philadelphia Flyers at Florida Panthers

Florida: 28-32-9 (65PTS)
Philadelphia: 42-19-7 (91PTS)
Season Series: 1-2-0
Race to the Bottom: 30 EDM (55), 29 OTT (59), 28 COL (60), 27 NYI (65), 26 FLA (65), 25 NJD (68)

The Panthers host the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Flyers for their final meeting of the season. The Panthers have an opportunity to tie the season series tonight. The teams split the first two games in Philadelphia and the Flyers won the first in Florida. The Panthers are mired in the bottom half of the Conference while the slumping Flyers are trying to stave off the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Panthers are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, and 3-2-2 since the trade deadline, while the Flyers are a slightly better 4-4-2 in their last 10. They have a one point lead on the hot (9-1-0) Capitals and three on their division rival Penguins.

Last meeting: The Flyers beat the Panthers 4-2 on February 16, while the Panthers were in the midst of a five-game home stand and still clinging on to playoff hopes. The 1-3-1 result in that home stand started the ball rolling on Dale Tallon's drastic team makeover.

Last game: The Panthers continued their near-domination of the cross-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. The Panthers did keep it interesting, blowing a 3-1 lead in the third period to win 4-3 in overtime on Jason Garrison's third game winning goal of the season.

Notes: On Sunday, the Panthers sent forwards Tim Kennedy and Bill Thomas back down to Rochester, with coach Pete DeBoer saying they brought "no new energy" to the team. Patrick Rissmiller and Mike Duco were brought up in their place. This is Duco's first call-up of the year. He was disciplined early in the season and has been in the team's doghouse ever since. He leads the Amerks in goals with 18. Former San Jose forward Rissmiller came to the Panthers with Niclas Bergfors in the Radek Dvorak trade. He has one NHL game this season for Atlanta and will be making his Panthers debut tonight. Duco will trade his number 68 for Ville Koistenen's number 6, and Rissmiller will wear 34, previously worn by former Amerks goalie Alexander Salak and some guy named The Beezer.

Injuries: Scott Timmins, concussion, unknown (3/10/2011). Alexander Sulzer (day to day), unknown (3/5/2011), Evgeni Dadonov (IR), broken finger, out at least a month (3/3/2011). Jack Skille (day to day), High ankle sprain, unknown (2/23/2011). Shawn Matthias (IR), broken ankle, out 6-8 weeks (1/31/2011). Rostislav Olesz, knee, out for the season (2/25/2011). Byron Bitz (IR), sports hernia, out for the season.

Starting goaltenders: Tomas Vokoun and Brian Boucher will start tonight. Vokoun will take his third start against the Flyers this season, while Boucher will make his first. Sergei Bobrovsky made the three previous starts, though Boucher saw time in the 5-0 Panthers win in Philadelphia in December.

Lines: Duco skated in Kennedy's place on the third line this morning, leaving Rissmiller to take Bill Thomas' place on the fourth.
Bergfors - Weiss - Samsonov
Booth - Reasoner - Repik
Duco - Santorelli - Bernier
Hordichuk - Carter - Rissmiller


One thing is for sure, Panthers-Flyers games are usually nothing if not exciting. The Panthers followed up their most exciting game of the season, the 3-2 win over the Blackhawks, with a complete snoozer against the Senators and a solid effort against the Lightning. Look for Mike Duco to come out with some serious energy. After his demotion from first call-up, he's going to want to prove he can make the team next year. Provided the top two lines can bring some offense and the defense stays solid, the Cats can take advantage of the uneven Flyers and move to a .500 record since the deadline.

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