Flyers vs. Panthers preview: Power play key to victory in South Florida

SUNRISE FL - FEBRUARY 16: A Philadelphia Flyers holds up a sign after they scored a goal against the Florida Panthers in the first period on February 16 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

7:30 p.m. tonight
BankAtlantic Center - Sunrise, Florida

TV: CSN Philly, FS Florida

The lineup is still depleted, and there will be eight rookies playing yet again tonight in Florida when the Flyers face off against the Panthers, but as we learned on Sunday against the Boston Bruins, this lineup can still put up a fight.

Danny Briere remains out with a concussion, as does James van Riemsdyk. Jaromir Jagr is still out with his nagging groin injury, Zac Rinaldo is out with a sore neck, and, well... yeah. It's rough going when it comes to the injuries these days. But if Tom Sestito plays a physical, yet not-over-the-edge (don't tell a Boston fan that) game like he did Sunday, and if Jody Shelley can be effective in limited ice time as he's been lately, the Flyers will still be in good shape.

On the plus side, the injuries have given opportunity to Brayden Schenn on the top line and Sean Couturier centering the second line. Those guys have taken advantage of those opportunities, and there's no reason to think they can't grow on Sunday's performances again tonight.

The power play must continue to be strong, too. The Flyers looked downright scary with the extra man over the weekend, and five of their nine goals came on the PP. Without that, they very well could have lost both games. They're not as potent a team at 5-on-5 without Briere and van Riemsdyk in the lineup, and the trickle-down effect on the rest of the roster hurts in that regard as well. It's more important than ever that the power play keep it up tonight.

Florida's 81 percent penalty kill is just 24th in the league, so it's not the greatest of challenges. If the Flyers keep getting their chances on the PP like they have the last few games, they should be able to pull out a win tonight. The defense will need to tighten up a bit, though, even against Florida's struggling offense.

The Cats are still in first place in the Southeast Division, which puts them in third place in the Eastern Conference. But if they were to lose tonight and the Capitals were to beat the Bruins, they'd fall to seventh place -- or potentially even eighth or ninth, depending on what New Jersey and Toronto do in other action.

From third place to out of the playoff picture in one night. That's quite the testament to how bad the Southeast is this season, isn't it? Florida's still dangerous, especially when Kris Versteeg is scoring goals. He scored two and had an assist on Saturday against Winnipeg. They're just 3-4-3 in their last 10, though, so hopefully they stay down and the Flyers can enter the All-Star Break on a high note.

We're expecting the Flyers to go with the same lineup we saw on Sunday, but there was no morning skate at BankAtlantic Center this morning, so we're a bit in the dark until game time.

Hartnell - Schenn - Orange Jesus
Read - Juicy - Simmonds
Sestito - Talbot - Voracek
Scrabble - Holmstrom - Shelley

Timonen - Coburn
Bourdon - Carle
Meszaros - Gustafsson

No word on who's starting in goal for the Flyers.

Game thread at 5:30 p.m. Game's on CSN and WIP, remember the 7:30 start.

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