Flyers vs. Panthers preview: The triumphant return of Pavel Kubina

WINNIPEG, CANADA - FEBRUARY 21: Pavel Kubina #13 of the Philadelphia Flyers comes out for pre-game warm-ups their NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on February 21, 2012 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center
South Philadelphia
TV: CSN Philly, FS Florida
RADIO: 94 WIP
TICKETS: Starting at $18 (!)
FLA BLOG: Litter Box Cats

Pavel Kubina heard about Sidney Crosby's spectacular return to hockey last week, which saved the lives of hundreds of starving children, peacefully ended all of America's overseas conflicts and made bacon a required topping on all meals. It was wonderous. A miracle, you could say. Kubina didn't want to be upstaged, so tonight, he'll return to the Philadelphia Flyers lineup. No doubt the media coverage will be off the charts. ESPN might even show up.

Okay, so that won't happen -- I'm still holding out for the bacon thing, by the way -- but Kubina's addition is big news for the Flyers, who learned Monday evening that they could be without Andrej Meszaros for the rest of the season. Adding Kubina's body on the third pairing will be a welcome sight, regardless of how poorly or how well you thought Erik Gustafsson and Brandon Manning have been playing of late.

According to reporters at the morning skate today, Peter Laviolette will pair Kubina with Andreas Lilja tonight against the Florida Panthers, a group that could challenge the NHL record for SLOWEST D-PAIR EVER. Gustafsson and Manning are healthy scratches, and the top-four remain the same.

Max Talbot also returns to the Flyer lineup after sitting out Sunday's game vs. Pittsburgh with an upper-body thing. Talbot took a big hit in Saturday's game vs. Boston, but he's apparently ready to go tonight. That's vital, because tonight's game against Florida could be a rather defensive affair.

The Flyers have defeated the Panthers three times this season and will go for the series sweep tonight, but Jose Theodore might have other plans. The goalie has paced his club in recent games, putting up a 5-1-1 record in his last seven and allowing just seven goals in his last five games ... but that one regulation blemish on there? Yeah, that was the 5-0 loss to the orange and black on March 8.

Nevertheless, the Panthers are getting healthier and they've opened up a lead on Washington for the No. 3 spot in the East, which will go to whoever wins the Southeast Division. Kris Versteeg and Dmitry Kulikov both returned to their lineup on Saturday and they're beginning to feel pretty confident about themselves.

Time to kick them in the teeth and put them in their place. This "parity" nonsense is getting old. You might be in third-place to our fifth-place, Florida, but you're not better than us. Here's the likely lineup that will try to send that message:

Hartnell - Giroux - Jagr
Wellwood - Briere - Voracek
Simmonds - Schenn - Read
Rinaldo - Couturier - Talbot

Timonen - Carle
Coburn - Grossmann
Kubina - Lilja

We'd expect Ilya Bryzgalov to start once again for the Flyers, because ... well, why the hell not?

Be sure to check in with our friends over at Litter Box Cats for more on tonight's game from the Florida perspective. Game thread around 5 p.m. Tonight's game is on CSN Philly, FS Florida and 94 WIP.

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