The surging Flyers will face a major challenge Tuesday night when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that has won six straight and has the NHL’s best record — by far.
The Bolts lead the league in goals per game (3.88), and their power play is first in the NHL (30.3 percent) and their penalty kill is second (84.9 percent). They have three of the league’s top eight scorers: Nikita Kucherov (99 points, first), Brayden Point (78, tied for fourth), and Steven Stamkos (72, tied for eighth).
“They’re a team that, if you give them opportunities, they’re going to find ways to hurt you. They have a lot of tools,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said after Tuesday’s morning skate in Voorhees. “They have a lot of players who can make special plays, and for us it’s a very good challenge, a good test to see where we stand. It’s two big points for us.”
The Flyers (28-24-7) have lost a pair of 6-5 overtime decisions to Tampa (45-11-4) this season. The losing goalies in those games: Cal Pickard and Michal Neuvirth.
Carter Hart, who has won 10 of his last 11 starts, will get the call Tuesday and is expected to face backup Louis Domingue. Despite pedestrian numbers (2.90 GAA, .907 save percentage), Domingue has won 10 straight since a 3-1 loss to Anaheim on Nov. 27.
The Flyers’ defense had problems getting out of their zone in Sunday’s 3-1 win in Detroit, but Hart (2.53 GAA, .924 save percentage) bailed them out with 37 saves, many from point-blank range.
After facing Tampa, the Flyers will play Montreal and Pittsburgh, two teams they are chasing for a wild-card spot. The Flyers trail those teams by six points with 23 games left.
“We have to focus on Tampa. … I mean, it’s not a secret that the two other games are going to be big, but for us, but it’s about Tampa right now,” Giroux said.
Tampa is on an 8-0-2 run. The Flyers have won three in a row and are 12-1-1 in their last 14 games.
“They’re all pretty big now from where we’re at in the standings and where we want to be,” left winger James van Riemsdyk said.
Brian Elliott, who looked rusty in a two-game rehab stint with the Phantoms over the weekend, returned to the Flyers and was activated Tuesday. He will be Hart’s backup Tuesday night.
“It was good to get down there and see some pucks and game action and some chaos in the defensive zone,” Elliott said. “I’m happy to be feeling healthy enough to get back in the lineup here.”
Elliott is one of five goalies with a locker at the Flyers’ practice facility in Voorhees.
Fourth-line right winger Justin Bailey will return to the lineup Tuesday, and defenseman Phil Myers, who had a solid NHL debut Sunday, will be a healthy scratch.
In a charity game Friday, the Flyers alumni will face alumni from the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation at 7 p.m. at the Class of ’23 Arena on the University of Pennsylvania campus.
There are plans to renovate the facility in a project largely possible because of a $2 million pledge by the Flyers’ alumni to support Snider Hockey and honor Ed Snider’s legacy.
The Flyers alumni will have 35 players on the roster, including Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Nick Schultz, Brian Boucher, Brad Marsh, and Joe Watson.
Tickets are $15.