Game 62, Preview and Game Thread: Philadelphia Flyers at Buffalo Sabres

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 #6 Philadelphia Flyers (33-26-3, 69 pts) at #5 Florida Panthers (33-20-9, 75 pts)
HSBC Arena - 7:30 PM ET - Buffalo, NY
TV: The Comcast Network HD, MSG Buffalo HD
Radio: 610 WIP, XM 204
This is the open game thread.
Get Buffalo reaction at Die By The Blade

You want important hockey? You've got it tonight. With a win, the Flyers will be within four points of fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Keep that in mind.

You want a sense of how seriously the Flyers are taking this big game? Look no further than the lineup card, specifically the second line. Danny Briere, Jeff Carter and Ville Leino, baby.

All kidding aside, of course, tonight is a big time game for the Flyers. A win would not only bring us closer to the Sabres, but if the Leafs can somehow squeak a win out in Ottawa, the orange and black could be just eight points behind the Senators before the end of the night... with three games in hand.

Michael Leighton gets the start after a pretty terrible game against Florida on Wednesday. Well, that's not totally fair. He was quite good in the first period but his stuff definitely got away from him rather quickly as the game progressed. Some may say that Brian Boucher should get to see action in a second straight game since not having the chance to play in so long, but the argument can also be made that you want Leighton to get back in net quickly after having a poor outing.

Whatever your opinion, Leighton is in. His opposition? The offensively mediocre Buffalo Sabres, who are 16th in the league in goals per game with 2.68. (The Flyers allow 2.69 goals per game, so expect .685 of the puck to cross the line after Buffalo scores two, tonight.) Obviously, though, Raffi Torres is the cure to all of their offensive issues. They are certainly a defense first team, starting with Ryan Miller and a defense led by... Henrik Tallinder? Craig Rivet? Tyler Myers?

It doesn't matter who actually leads their defense -- it's good. The blueline and Mr. Miller in goal are the reasons the Sabres are such a solid team this season, but they're a team that you can control the pace against. They also give up 31.7 shots per game, so it basically just comes down to the Flyers being able to put a few of those behind Miller. You know, with the usual stuff: traffic in front, smart shot selection, a little bit of creativity and hard work.

It's a big game. Get it done, Flyers.

After the jump, starting lineups, questions to answer, and our in-game discussion.

Flyers Line Combinations

Gagne - Richards - Carcillo
Leino- Carter - Briere
Hartnell - Giroux - JVR
Asham - Betts - Laperriere

Pronger - Carle
Timonen - Krajicek
Parent - Coburn

Leino jumps up to the second line, Hartnell to the 3rd, Asham to the 4th. Bartulis still out.

Buffalo Line Combinations

Vanek - Connolly - Stafford
Torres - Roy - Pominville
Hecht - Kennedy - Grier
Mair - Ellis - Kaleta

Myers- Tallinder
Rivet -  Sekera
Montador - Lydman

Starting Goaltenders

Michael Leighton 27 1458 14 7 68 2.80 719 651 .905 1

Ryan Miller 53 3137 30 15 113 2.16 1636 1523 .931 5

Questions To Answer

  1. Can the Flyers control the offensive tempo of the game?
  2. Will Michael Leighton bounce back after Wednesday's loss?
  3. How does Ville Leino look with an increased role?
  4. Can the Flyers as a whole not make the same careless mistakes that they made in Florida?

Tonight's game is on The Comcast Network. Damn Sixers. Listen on 610 WIP, and chat it up here in our game thread. LET'S GO FLYERS!

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