NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, March 2nd (All times eastern)
Philadelphia Flyers (32-25-3) at Tampa Bay Lightning (26-24-11), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - While Philadelphia hopes that it didn't lose its positive momentum over the Olympic break, Tampa Bay might have been fortunate the stoppage of play came when it did.
The visiting Flyers will try to match their longest winning streak of the season tonight against a Lightning club that is on its worst slide in two months.
Philadelphia carries a four-game winning streak into St. Pete Times Forum thanks to home-and-home sweeps of New Jersey and Montreal before the break. A victory tonight would give the Flyers their first five-game winning streak since October 31-November 12.
The Flyers' win streak was good enough to get the club into sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings, two points up on the seventh- seeded Bruins.
"We shouldn't be fooled by our spot in the standings," Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette told his team's Web site. "We're in a dogfight down the stretch. A bad week could really turn things around, so we need to be ready and make sure we have all hands on deck."
Three players return to Philadelphia having earned medals in the Olympic Games. Mike Richards and Chris Pronger both captured gold for Team Canada while defenseman Kimmo Timonen earned a bronze with Finland.
Those skaters should play tonight, though defenseman Oskars Bartulis is questionable with a groin injury after playing for Latvia. However, fellow blueliner Ryan Parent could play tonight for the first time since December 23 because of back surgery.
With Ray Emery on long-term injured reserve due to a left hip ailment, Michael Leighton should get the start again tonight for the Flyers in net. Leighton has posted a 1.98 goals-against average over Philly's win streak and was named the NHL's second star for the final week before the break. He is 3-0-0 with a 1.95 GAA lifetime versus Tampa Bay.
Richards, meanwhile, has four goals and seven points in the three meetings this year with the Lightning, all Philadelphia wins by a combined margin of 15-5. The Flyers have swept their season series with Tampa Bay just once before, winning all four matchups in 1994-95, and have won four of their last six at St. Pete Times Forum.
Tampa Bay had the first star for the week ending February 14, as Steven Stamkos had three goals and nine points in four games. Despite that, and a franchise-record-tying 13-game point streak in which Stamkos has 10 goals and 13 assists, the Lightning lost three straight before the break.
Tampa Bay will try to snap its longest skid since a season-worst six-game slide from December 7-17 and is tied for ninth in the East with 63 points, one back of Montreal in the standings.
Steve Downie has four goals and six assists over a seven-game point streak of his own. He has a goal and two assists in six lifetime games against the Flyers, who selected him in the first round of the 2005 draft before trading him to Tampa Bay in November, 2008 in a deal that included Matt Carle going from the Lightning to the Flyers.
It is unknown who will start in net for Tampa Bay tonight. Antero Niittymaki, who was on Team Finland but did not play in the Olympics, is 0-1-0 with a 2.60 GAA in two games versus Philadelphia, which he spent his first five NHL seasons with, while Mike Smith is 3-4-1 with a 3.55 GAA lifetime against the club.
The Lightning are also expected to have forward Ryan Malone, who won a silver medal while playing with the U.S. during the Olympics.
03/02 11:13:06 ET