To read our story in today’s paper about how the Flyers’ first extended road trip of the season might shake out for the team’s 5 rookies, click here.
TAMPA, Fla. – Usually, a normal matchup between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay revolves around how the Flyers will stop Lightning offensive dynamos Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier.
In this matchup, with the Flyers visiting the St. Pete Times Forum tonight (7:30 pm, VERSUS), it will likely be the other way around.
That doesn’t mean Stamkos and St. Louis are any less dangerous.
After finishing with just 5 goals over his final 28 games of the season last year – and starting this season with 1 tally in his first 5 games this year – Stamkos is finally heating up. He is now 2nd in the league with 10 goals, with 7 of them coming in his last 6 games.
In Tampa Bay’s last outing, Stamkos helped the Lightning rally from a 3-0 deficit in South Florida to pick up a 4-3 shootout win over the Panthers.
Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron is tied for the league-lead among defense scoring with 15 points in 14 games, yet the Lightning still have the league’s 12th best power play (19.0 percent).
And St. Louis, who torched the Flyers for 10 points in their 4 meetings last year, has 14 points in his first 14 games this season.
Instead, the focus tonight will be on how the Lightning – playing without two of its top defensemen in Mattias Ohlund and Victor Hedman – will be able to keep the Flyers off the scoreboard.
Lightning winger Ryan Malone will also miss the game and former Flyer Steve Downie will take his place on a line with Stamkos.
“[They are] one of the best teams one-on-one in the league,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher told the St. Petersburg Times. “They can make you look bad. It puts a lot of stress on our defensemen.”
Boucher, of course, was speaking indirectly about crafty forwards Claude Giroux (2nd in the league with 19 points), Jaromir Jagr (15 points) and Danny Briere (12 points).
Last year, the Lightning were able to clog up the neutral zone with a disciplined trap setup by Boucher. Their last two games against the Flyers were almost like a chess match, with the Flyers finally being able to patiently wait and continually regroup near their own blue line before carefully picking through the neutral zone.
It’s safe to say Peter Laviolette figured out a way to beat Boucher’s system, as the final game (Feb. 15, 2011) yielded the Flyers’ only 2 points against the Lightning all season.
The Lightning, though, know this isn’t the same Flyers team.
“They’re better than last year,” defenseman Pavel Kubina told the Times.
GOALIE WATCH: With the way the Flyers’ schedule breaks down – just two games in a span of 5 days, followed by a quick set of back-to-back games in Florida and Carolina on Sunday and Monday – Ilya Bryzgalov seems primed for the two starts in the state of Florida.
That would leave the back-end of the back-to-back set, in Carolina on Monday night, for Sergei Bobrovsky.
Plus, when you factor in that Bobrovsky struggled mightily against the Lightning last year – as Brian Boucher was forced to make an appearance in all 4 games – all signs point to Bryzgalov starting tonight.
Bobrovsky left 40 minutes of work against Tampa Bay last year with an unsightly 10.54 goals against-average and a .588 save percentage. He was 2-1-0 against Carolina with a .935 save percentage.
TONIGHT’S LINEUPS: Projected based on Tuesday’s practices. Subject to change.
Hartnell – Giroux – Jagr
Van Riemsdyk – Briere – Simmonds
Voracek – Talbot – Read
Zolnierczyk – Couturier – Rinaldo
Carle – Pronger
Timonen – Coburn
Meszaros – Lilja
Scratches: Jody Shelley (healthy), Erik Gustafsson (healthy), Brayden Schenn (fractured foot), Andreas Nodl (lower-body).
Downie – Stamkos – Purcell
Connolly – Lecavalier – St. Louis
Shannon – Moore – Thompson
Hall – Pyatt – Jones
Gilroy – Brewer
Kubina – Bergeron
Clark – Gervais
Roloson (confirmed starter)
Scratches: Ryan Malone (upper-body), Victor Hedman (upper-body), Mattias Ohlund (knee).
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers