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Philadelphia Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning: Valtteri Filppula returns to Tampa

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It’s always fun when the Flyers are in town.

Philadelphia Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME# 37

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: TVAS, SunS, NBCSP

Opponent SBNation Site: Broad Street Hockey

On November 9th, the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-1 to improve their record to 8-6-2. Their eighteen points put them fourth in the Metro Division, but they were only two points out of the top spot. Then the wheels flew off, the transmission fell out, the steering wheel snapped off and the gas tank on the Flyers bus exploded. They “lost” their next ten games. Granted, they still picked up five points during the losing streak due to the Bettman Point, but still, in their Division, a losing streak of that duration is hard to overcome.

The Flyers tried, winning their next six games in a row. They are now on a three game losing streak and mired in last place. Wildly inconsistent would be a good description for their season so far. They are a middling team when it comes to team counting stats. Twenty-second overall in goals per game, but tenth in goals against. Their power play is decidedly average while their penalty kill is bad (29th). Luckily for them, and despite playing Radko Gudas for 15 minutes a game, they are one of the least penalized teams in the league. [I wonder if this is because their coach was a college hockey guy? - Acha]

Their offense is led by Sean Couturier (17 goals) and a resurgent Claude Giroux whose 13 goals this year is one off of his total from last season. Top draft pick Nolan Patrick has battled a few injuries and inconsistent play and only has 7 points on the season. Valtteri Filppula (16 points) makes his return to Amalie Arena following last season’s deadline deal. Hopefully there is a 2-minute video package of him skating into the offensive zone and leaving drop passes at the blueline.

Top defensive pair Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov are a handful to deal with having put up a combined 43 points. That’s pretty impressive for a last-place hockey club. Gudas, for his part, has 3 assists in 25 games along with 57 penalty minutes.

This ragtag group of Flyers are coming off a 3-2 loss in Sunrise and have to figure out a way to beat a Lightning club that is absolutely dominating on home ice. They have won eight in a row at Amalie, three in a row over all. They have won 10 out of 11 games in the month of December (the only blemish was a road loss in Vegas) and have scored three or more goals in all 11 of those games.

Steven Stamkos had two goals in their win against Montreal while Nikita Kucherov continues to lead the league in points with 52. The hallmark of this team is its relentlessness. They just don’t stop. Even with sluggish starts (by their standards) in the last couple of wins, they just stuck to their game and wore their opponents down. This is a very, very competent team. Good luck to the rest of the NHL.

Comparison chart: Justin’s Happy Fun Time Video Moment

Let’s turn the clock back to 1996, when the mullets were flowing and the Macarena was tearing up the Billboard Charts.

It’s Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The eighth-seeded Lightning were in the playoffs for the first time in their short history. Their reward - a Flyers team that had won the Eastern Conference with 103 points. Led by a 22-year-old Eric Lindros, this Flyers team was built to win in the playoffs. Philly had poured on the offense in Game One, downing the Lightning 7-3 with 7 different Flyers scoring. The Lightning bounced back for a dramatic 2-1 overtime win in Game Two. Then it was on to St. Pete for the first home playoff game in franchise history.

What’s not to love about mid-90s hockey? And this game was as 90s as could be. Blatant interference not getting called. The crowd shots of fans crowding the upper decks of the ThunderDome. Jeff Reese trying to stop goals by standing as still as possible. Seriously, the most jarring difference between hockey from then and today is the goaltending styles. The Lightning pulled off the 5-4 victory to spark talk of a possible upset, unfortunately not having Daren Puppa at 100% cost them and the Flyers were able to storm back and win the series.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Vladislav Namestnikov — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn — Yanni GourdeCory Conacher

Chris Kunitz — Cedric Paquette — J.T. Brown

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman — Jake Dotchin

Mikhail Sergachev — Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn — Dan Girardi

Goaltenders

Peter Budaj

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Lineup notes: Will Budaj get the start? Most likely. Vasilevskiy played the entire game against Montreal and the Lightning have Columbus coming to town on Sunday. This would be a good chance to get Budaj, who hasn’t played since December 16th, some playing time. Stay tuned throughout the day and we’ll update the lineup as soon as we know.

Philadelphia Flyers:

Forward Lines

Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny

Michael Raffl - Nolan Patrick - Jakub Voracek

Dale Wiese - Valterri Filppula - Wayne Simmonds

Jori Lehtera - Scott Laughton - Taylor Leier

Defense Pairings

Ivan Provorov - Shayne Gostisbehere

Andrew MacDonald - Robert Hagg

Travis Sanheim - Radko Gudas

Goalies:

Michal Neuvirth

Brian Elliott

Neuvirth was just activated off of IR on Tuesday. With Elliott getting the start last night in Sunrise it wouldn’t be a surprise if Neuvirth sees his first action since November 27th. Good luck with that.