Flyers have tall order in upstart Panthers

Flyers captain Claude Giroux. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

SUNRISE, Fla. - Despite Florida's wretched record, the Flyers will not have an easy game against the Panthers on Tuesday night at the BB&T Center.

The Flyers, desperate for a win to keep their second-place hopes alive in the Metropolitan Division, are facing a Florida team that has become formidable with the acquisition of veteran goalie Roberto Luongo.

The Panthers have the second-fewest points (64) in the NHL, but Luongo has kept them competitive since he was reacquired from Vancouver. In 12 games with the Panthers, Luongo is 5-6-1 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

In other words, he is capable of stealing a win.

Luongo did just that on Sunday, beating Dallas, 3-2, and damaging the Stars' playoff hopes. Former Flyer Scottie Upshall had one of the Panthers' goals.

"We have an opportunity here to play for something, and those are fun games to play in," Upshall said.

The Panthers enjoy the role of spoilers.

"They're a dangerous team right now. They play with a lot of confidence, they move the puck well," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "They've got a lot of young players that are skating and playing well, so we've got to expect a real tough game. I think if we do that and if we go in there with the right mind-set, we'll be OK."

Luongo has not been successful in his career against the Flyers: a 5-7-3 record, a 3.21 goals-against average, and a .912 save percentage.

The Flyers, coming off Sunday's 5-2 win over worst-in-the-NHL Buffalo, are two points behind the second-place New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers have four games left, while the Rangers have three.

In the battle for third place and the automatic playoff spot, the Flyers are two points ahead of Columbus, which also has four games remaining.

The Flyers are on their final road trip of the regular season, facing Florida on Tuesday, Tampa Bay on Thursday, and Pittsburgh on Saturday before Sunday's finale against visiting Carolina.

The last time they played in Florida, in late November, the Flyers were trying to get over .500 and still searching for an identity. They lost to Florida, 3-1, and to Tampa Bay, 4-2, and fell to 10-12-2.

Since then, they are 30-17-6.

The Flyers' top line - Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, and Jake Voracek - has not scored a goal in the last five games.



The Flyers could clinch a playoff berth with a win on Tuesday. The New Jersey Devils inched the Flyers closer to the postseason with a 1-0 loss to Calgary on Monday.



Steve Mason is 1-1 with a 2.03 goals and .938 save percentage against the Panthers this season. . . . Luongo is 1-0 with a 2.00 GAA and .909 save percentage this season against the Flyers. . . . The last time the Flyers faced Tampa, the Lightning were without injured superstar Steven Stamkos, who has since returned to the lineup.