With the Phantoms playoff hopes in the dumps, the Flyers rob Lehigh Valley of its best players just hours before the start of its most challenging two-in-two weekend of the remaining regular season.
The Phantoms (29-28-6-1) will take on Wilkes-Barre (38-21-3-4) tonight and Eastern Conference leader Manchester on Sunday afternoon without leading scorer, Nick Cousins; all-star defenseman Brandon Manning; Jason Akeson, who has 42 points in 46 games with the Phantoms; d-man Mark Alt, who will be making his NHL debut in Philadelphia; and Oliver Lauridsen, who has been Lehigh Valley's leading defenseman all season.
Akeson, Alt and Lauridsen were called up this morning in an emergency recall due to multiple players out with illness. Manning was recalled on Thursday, and Cousins has been with Philadelphia since March 14.
- Tonight will be the ninth of 12 meetings between the Penguins and the Phantoms this season. Wilkes-Barre's most recent visit to Lehigh Valley was less than a week ago, when the East Division rival handed the Phantoms their first at-home shutout in the PPL Center. The Phantoms are 4-3-1 against the Penguins this season and have claimed three of their last four.
- Despite the dramatic need for a "playoff push" with just 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Phantoms have dropped four consecutive games, and were outscored 19-4 by their last four opponents. The team currently sits 11 points back from the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with 65 points. Wilkes-Barre is fourth in the Eastern Conference with 83 points. The Penguins are just four points away from catching East Divison leader Hershey (87 points).
- With the absence of five of the Phantoms' best players, and center Darroll Powe with a potential concussion, it's likely that the Phantoms' recent ATO signees will have a more prominent role this weekend. Winger Cole Bardreau, who has played just four games with Lehigh Valley, had some time on the second-line power play in Powe's absence in the Phantoms last two games and will likely move up from the third line, tonight. The Phantoms most recent ATO signee, Nick Luukko, son of former Flyers president Peter Luukko, will likely play in his pro debut tonight. Lehigh Valley also called up Royals d-man Maxim Lamarche this afternoon. Lamarche has played six games with the Phantoms this season, and has totaled one assist.
- The Phantoms' PK unit has been impressive, killing off 21-of-22 penalties in their last six home appearances, and have gone 42-for-47 in last 12 matchups, total. However, the team did allow two shorthanded goals to the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday.