TAMPA, Fla. - How do you work off hockey's holiday hangover?
Apparently away from anything resembling a winter-like atmosphere.
For the second straight year, the Flyers (15-16-4) will begin the post-Christmas portion of their schedule in the Sunshine State as they square off against the best team in hockey, the Lightning (28-7-2), six points better than Toronto in the race for the President's Trophy.
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Let's take a look at tonight's essentials.
• When: 7:30 p.m. ET
• Where: Amalie Arena
• Broadcast: NBCSN
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
• After a three-day, league-wide shutdown, about half the Flyers flew into Tampa Thursday morning on the team charter and went straight to Amalie Arena for their morning skate. The other half flew into Tampa the night before. It's the only date on the NHL calendar where the league allows teams to fly in the day of the game.
• Michal Neuvirth will make his second straight start coming off an impressive 32-save shootout victory against the Rangers on Sunday in New York. Neuvirth hasn't started and finished back-to-back games since last Feb. 11-13. Throwing Carter Hart into a "less-than-ideal" matchup against the Lightning was also part of the head coach's consideration.
Giving Carter an opportunity to get some work in in practice," interim head coach Scott Gordan said. "Just trying to give him a situation that's more favorable as opposed to being off for four days and coming in here.
• Last season, the Flyers kicked off their post-Christmas schedule with a 3-2 loss in Florida followed by an impressive 5-3 win in Tampa. The Flyers scored three second-period goals, including two on the power play as captain Claude Giroux earned the first star of the game honors with three assists.
It was one of just 10 games the Lightning lost on home ice in regulation.
• The Flyers have displayed a quick-strike ability against the Lightning over the past two seasons.
In their first meeting this season on Nov. 17 at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers erased a four-goal deficit over the final 10 minutes of regulation, just the ninth time that's happened in league history.
The Flyers also scored 11 goals in the two games they played in Tampa last season, including a 7-6 shootout loss on March 3.
However, the 2018-19 Lightning are proving to be even more explosive than last season's team. Currently, the Bolts lead the NHL averaging 4.08 goals and have the top-ranked power play at 28.9 percent.
• Lightning superstar Nikita Kucherov is on pace to score a whopping 126 points this season. If he reaches triple digits, Kucherov would become the first winger since Alex Ovechkin (2007-2010) to post back-to-back 100-point seasons.
Since the start of the 2016-17 season, 10 players have scored 200 points during that time with Kucherov (242) trailing only Edmonton's Connor McDavid (260). Giroux is ninth on that list with 202 points.
After serving as a healthy scratch for 17 straight games, Lightning forward Danick Martel played in Tampa's last three games during the team's Western Canada road trip. Martel saw his ice time increase and has provided some speed and edge to the Lightning's fourth line. Martel was the first waiver claim of the season when the Lightning plucked him off the Flyers' roster during training camp.
I think I learned more of a two-way game (from Scott Gordon). When I first arrived in Lehigh, I think started with 22 goals but I was a minus-11. I needed to improve that part of my game. After that I think I finished a plus-15 the next year. He just tried to change for the defensive side, so it was good.
• Tonight's game also marks the 4,000th game in Flyers franchise history with a 1,991-1,387-457-164 record. The last milestone game the Flyers played was No. 3,000 on Oct. 27, 2001, a 5-1 win over the Canadiens.
James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny
Wayne Simmonds-Sean Couturier-Jake Voracek
Scott Laughton-Nolan Patrick-Michael Raffl
Oskar Lindblom-Phil Varone-Dale Weise
Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Andrew MacDonald-Radko Gudas
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
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