Flyers-Panthers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 12, 2011
Kris Versteeg wasn't a perfect fit after the Philadelphia Flyers traded for him during last season's stretch run. The Florida Panthers, though, couldn't be happier with how the left wing has meshed with his new teammates after acquiring him from the Flyers. Coming off his first career hat trick, Versteeg looks to help the Panthers post their first seven-game point streak in two years Sunday when they host Philadelphia. Acquired from Toronto on Feb. 14 for two draft picks, Versteeg had seven goals and 11 points in 27 regular-season games for the Flyers, who went just 11-9-7 after the deal and barely hung on for their first Atlantic Division title in five seasons. He was limited to one goal in 11 playoff games as Philadelphia was ousted in the second round. While more attention was paid to their offseason moves of dealing Jeff Carter and captain Mike Richards and signing goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, a Flyers trade that went under the radar has helped Florida (8-4-3) post its best start since opening 10-1 with four ties 15 years ago. The Panthers, 3-0-3 in their last six, picked up Versteeg on July 1 for two draft picks. The forward has team bests with eight goals and 17 points after scoring three times and recording a career high-tying four points in Thursday's 5-2 road win over Winnipeg. "It hasn't just been one game," first-year coach Kevin Dineen said. "He's been really consistent and a good player for us all year." So has Versteeg's former teammate in Chicago, defenseman Brian Campbell. Acquired in June for Rostislav Olesz, Campbell has 10 of his team-best 14 assists on the power play, which is now among the league's best at 24.1 percent after ranking last (13.1 percent) a year ago. The Panthers, whose last seven-game point streak was a 5-0-3 run Nov. 12-25, 2009, will face a Flyers team that's killed 19 of 20 penalties during its 3-0-2 stretch. The one power-play goal Philadelphia (8-4-3) allowed in that span, however, came in its most recent contest and was costly. It let Tampa Bay tie Wednesday's game in the third period, and the Flyers went on to lose 2-1 in overtime. Among the league's best with 3.80 goals per game, Philadelphia managed a season-low 15 shots as the Lightning employed a 1-3-1 defense that essentially brought the game to a standstill. "That's not hockey in my book, but whatever," Flyers captain Chris Pronger said after returning from a six-game absence due to an eye injury. The Flyers could get plenty more opportunities in this matchup as the Panthers surrender 33.0 shots per game, among the most in the NHL. Florida, though, has been getting a solid effort in net from Jose Theodore, 3-0-2 with a 2.13 goals-against average in his last five starts. Theodore is 7-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA in his last eight starts versus Philadelphia. Bryzgalov also has been playing well, allowing seven goals in his past four games while going 3-0-1. He could make his first start versus the Panthers in a Flyers uniform after going 2-0-1 with a 1.58 GAA against them while with Phoenix. This is the teams' first meeting of the season after Philadelphia won three of four in 2010-11, including both matchups in Sunrise, Fla. The Flyers are 4-1-1 on the road, facing a Panthers club which has lost its last three home games in shootouts.
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