Flyers at Panthers
7:30 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live at 7
The Flyers (8-8-3) open their sixth back-to-back set when they visit the Florida Panthers (10-8-1) on Tuesday night at the BB&T Center.
Let’s get you ready for the game with five things to know:
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia Flyers and their rivals in the NHL from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
1. Swap up top
The Flyers’ top-six forwards have combined for just two goals over the past three games, so head coach Dave Hakstol will tinker with his first two lines by interchanging Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek.
Simmonds, who has one of the two tallies, will join Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny on the team’s second unit, while Voracek hops up with Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn.
The Flyers are coming off their first shutout defeat of the season. The power play, still at a top-three clip (25.0 percentage), is 0 for its last 10.
“Sometimes you get the bounces that you don’t get in the other games,” Voracek said last Saturday after the Flyers’ 3-0 loss to the Lightning. “Sometimes the power play isn’t working your way but you still get the shots through and some lucky tips. It’s what happens. We just have to make sure we keep working on it.”
2. Kid’s time soon?
Steve Mason has played in six straight contests, and with the Flyers set for four games this week, backup goalie Anthony Stolarz’s first NHL start may be around the corner.
If he were to play on this back-to-back, tonight’s game would make most sense instead of having the 22-year-old debut against the experienced and high-scoring Lightning.
“We’ll take it a day at a time,” Hakstol said following practice Monday (see story). “I said a week ago, you’re going to see him get a start at some point in time. Possibility? We play three games in 4½ days here so it’s a possibility, but I don’t want to go too far down the road here in making a decision.”
For now, it seems the Flyers would like to ride Mason as much as possible and play Stolarz when the situation is ideal and most conducive to the 6-foot-6 rookie being successful.
Whenever and wherever it is, Stolarz feels ready.
“I’ve been dreaming about this ever since I was a kid,” he said. “I’ve been around these guys quite a bit the last 2½ years. So, I’ve gotten to know them pretty well.
“I’ve had huge strides in my game. I like where I am at.”
3. Home and roaring
The Panthers are coming home and feeling good after winning three of four games on their road trip, including victories over the NHL-best Canadiens and Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers.
Overall, Florida has won four of its last five and is 6-3-0 at the BB&T Center, where the Flyers have lost four of their last five visits.
The Panthers have also killed 30 of the 33 power plays they’ve faced in November.
4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere is still worth watching in the second game back from his benching. He also grew up in Margate, Florida, about a 20-minute drive from Sunrise, where the Panthers play. Last season, Gostisbehere scored a goal in his first time playing at the BB&T Center as an NHLer, and the Flyers could use his production as he’s gone goalless in his past five games.
Panthers: We have to go Jaromir Jagr as the 44-year-old’s story gets more incredible by the day. Jagr was drafted and made his NHL debut in 1990. Eight Flyers (Nick Cousins, Couturier, Gostisbehere, Konecny, Roman Lyubimov, Ivan Provorov, Schenn and Stolarz) were not alive yet, while three others (Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning) were born that summer. Jagr, a former Flyer, has 120 career points (in 96 games) against the orange and black — his second most against any team.
5. This and that
• Mason is 7-3-2 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in 12 career games against Florida.
• Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo is 7-5-0 this season with a 2.24 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Lifetime against the Flyers, the 37-year-old is 9-9-3 with a 2.81 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in 22 games.
• Flyers forward Chirs VandeVelde is expected to play after missing most of Saturday’s game following a check near the head.
• Florida forward Nick Bjugstad is expected to make his season debut after recovering from a hand injury. The 24-year-old had 34 points in 67 games last season.