If win streaks have anything to say on the matter, home ice advantage has been pretty intimidating in the past couple months and everyone is hoping that today proves no different. The Flyers will try to make it eleven straight wins while playing at the Wells Fargo in today's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This is the second of three meetings that the club will have with the Lightning this season. About a month and a half ago, Tampa Bay handed the Flyers a 4-2 loss. You'll remember that the Bolts rattled off three goals and, despite a late surge, the slow start ended up being the thorn in the Flyers side.
Things have certainly changed since then. For one, the Flyers have climbed out of sixth place into second. Sure, there's only nine points separating second place from dead last in the Metropolitan, but still, they can only win the games that they've played, and so far, they've done a pretty good job of doing that. Since November 28th, the Flyers have improved their record from 10-12-2 to 23-17-4. People outside of Philadelphia are starting to take this team seriously, and even if their wins have just been because of a combination of lucky bounces, sheer force of will, and duct tape, emerging as a legitimate contender has got to be a nice confidence boost for them.
The Lightning, cooling a bit recently, still remain in second place in the Atlantic division, solidly in playoff position. Their last game, a Thursday night bout against the Capitals, was evenly matched. Despite the fact that Tampa Bay managed to hold Washington to only 11 shots in the second and third period, though, the Capitals managed to break the tie late in the third and snuck out with the win.
Of course, today also marks the first meeting of the clubs since Claude Giroux and Martin St. Louis were left off of Team Canada. In the two games that they've played following that announcement, they've combined for four points. I imagine they continue to prove that they're Olympic worthy, considering the fact that they, you know...are.
Now, onto injury news. Zac Rinaldo scored his first goal of the season and broke a 54 game goalless streak in Wednesday night's game against the Canadiens. The next day, news broke that he'd been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain. And just when we were starting to see some real offensive promise from him. Shucks.
With Zac placed on IR, the Flyers called up Tye McGinn. Does Berube shifts up the lines or simply plug McGinn into a fourth line role for the time being? We'll see.
Matt Read remains sidelined this weekend due to his concussion. He did practice for the first time in a week on Friday, though. That's promising, at least.
Erik Gustafsson, who has missed eight games due to a knee injury, will be available to play. With Andrej Meszaros playing like Andrej Meszaros-in-NHL 13, though, he'll have a hard time making it into the lineup.
The Lightning have their fair share of injuries, as well, most notable of them being Steven Stamkos's broken leg. How big of a loss is he? Well, Stamkos is still ranked seventh in scoring among Lightning forwards, despite missing twenty seven games. In fact, the difference between third and seventh is only three points, so...draw your own conclusions there.
Also, goalie Ben Bishop is day-to-day with a wrist injury and is expected to make his return next week at the earliest, so the Lightning will be relying on the services of Anders Lindback. Lindback's last effort was...less than stunning. He let in four goals on just twenty shots. If ever there was a chink in the armor, there it is.
Steve Mason will be in goal this afternoon. On Wednesday night, he stopped nineteen of twenty shots. No complaints there.
In this economy, when just a couple losses could put a team back in eighth place, wins mean more now than ever. Ideally, the Flyers will keep their collective foot on the gas and will continue a cool trend of never disappointing at home, and we won't have to speculate and argue about their flaws.
I mean, we'll still speculate about their flaws, but we wouldn't necessarily have to. And, as everyone knows, that's the fun kind of speculation!
The Flyers and the Lightning face off today at 1 PM. An excuse for day-drinking is always appreciated. Go Flyers.