Flyers look to continue solid start vs. Panthers
PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers have a long way to go before proving they are a playoff team in the top-heavy Metropolitan Division, but their 8-2 beat-down of the Washington Capitals on Saturday night was a reminder they are capable of beating one of the best teams in the NHL.
"I think guys were just tired of not making the playoffs," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "Guys did a good job this summer getting themselves in good shape."
The Flyers (3-2-0) outskated their opponents through the first five games of the season. That speed will be tested Tuesday night when the free-wheeling Florida Panthers (2-2-0) come to town.
The Flyers are tied for fifth in the NHL with 21 goals, and their top line of center Sean Couturier, right winger Jakub Voracek and Giroux have combined for six goals and 16 assists.
"We're three guys that like to make passes, make plays, but when we have a chance to shoot, we need to shoot and go to the net," said Couturier, who is flourishing in his role as a top-line center after years of being used in a checking role.
While the Flyers are coming off their biggest win of the season in their home opener, the Panthers will look to bounce back from a 4-3 loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday night. Left winger Jonathan Huberdeau (three goals, two assists) picked up a pair of goals in the defeat. He and center Vincent Trocheck (two goals, two assists) are the only Panthers who have points in all four games.
Rookie right winger Owen Tippett, who was taken 10th overall by the Panthers in the 2017 draft, is expected to make his NHL debut against Philadelphia on the third line with center Jared McCann and right winger Jamie McGinn. Tippett, 18, racked up 44 goals and 75 points in 60 games with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL last season.
Panthers first-year coach Bob Boughner also shuffled his top two lines, removing right winger Evgenii Dadonov from the top unit. Right winger Radim Vrbata took Dadonov's place on a line with center Aleksander Barkov and Huberdeau, while Dadonov skated with center Nick Bjugstad and Trocheck.
Barkov, Huberdeau and Dadonov were a combined minus-11 in Florida's first four games.
"It doesn't matter what line we're playing on," Boughner said following practice Monday. "We need four lines to win."
Roberto Luongo (1-1-0) is expected to return to the net for Florida. The 38-year-old veteran is one win away from passing Curtis Joseph (454 wins) and moving into fourth place on the NHL's all-time victories list, behind only Martin Brodeur (691), Patrick Roy (551) and Ed Belfour (484).
"It's nice to be mentioned in the same sentence with guys like that, and I'll probably look back on it at some point," Luongo said. "But right now, I'm just trying to win games for this hockey team."
With two days off between games, the Flyers are expected to start Brian Elliott (3-1-0) at goalie.
Updated October 16, 2017