Panthers-Flyers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 06, 2013
The Philadelphia Flyers have followed a three-game skid with back-to-back wins for the second time this season. An offense that has mostly struggled is a major reason for that inconsistency. Their best offensive game of the season came against the Florida Panthers, who have been among the league's worst at stopping opponents heading into their visit to Philadelphia on Thursday night. It was good defense that led the Flyers (4-6-0) to a second straight win Tuesday, beating Tampa Bay 2-1 while improving to 3-1-0 at home. Philadelphia held the Lightning, who had been scoring a league-best 4.9 goals per game, to season lows of one goal and 22 shots. "Our defensemen did a good job with sticks on pucks and eliminating gaps," coach Peter Laviolette told the team's official website. "Our forwards did a good job reloading and coming back hard to our end. We blocked a lot of shots tonight and cleaned up the front of the net." Ilya Bryzgalov, who has allowed 11 goals in his last six games, improved his save percentage to .923 in his ninth start. "When we needed it, Bryzgalov was outstanding," Laviolette said. Philadelphia's offensive success - or lack thereof - has largely hinged on its ability to take advantage of power plays. The Flyers have converted 2 of 30 (6.7 percent) power-play opportunities in six losses, compared to 6 of 15 (40.0 percent) in four wins. Tuesday's win was the only one in which they failed to register a power-play goal, but Tom Sestito proved an unlikely hero as he scored both goals. Sestito had previously scored only two in his career. "I think he was (surprised), by the look on his face," center Danny Briere said. "It's good to see different guys stepping up." The Flyers are among the NHL's lowest-scoring teams at 2.30 goals per game, a season after finishing tied for second at 3.17. One of only two games this season in which they scored more than two goals came at Florida, winning 7-1 on Jan. 26 as Matt Read had a hat trick. The Panthers (3-5-1) are allowing an average of 3.67 goals, tied for second-worst in the league. They followed a five-game losing streak by winning two in a row before Tuesday's 3-2 overtime loss at Winnipeg. After firing 67 shots in those two victories, they mustered a season-low 19 against the Jets. Florida's power play was scoreless on two tries after going 4 for 8 in the previous two games, and Peter Mueller's goal streak ended at four games. They held the Jets to 21 shots and opponents are averaging 25.0 over the last five contests. Florida yielded 37.3 shots per game through its first four. "We worked hard and had great chances," coach Kevin Dineen said. "It feels like a loss and not so much as a point gained." Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren said the status of forward Wayne Simmonds remains day to day. Simmonds, who has two goals and three assists in eight games, could miss a second straight contest after suffering head and neck injuries on a hit in Friday's 3-2 loss at Washington. The Flyers have won six of the last seven meetings, holding the Panthers to two goals or fewer in all of them.
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