Philadelphia and Florida both have struggled through the first third of this shortened season, but the Flyers hope their last two games are a sign of the success to come.
The Panthers, meanwhile, can’t seem to find any consistency.
Philadelphia looks to continue its offensive surge while sending visiting Florida to a sixth consecutive defeat Thursday night.
The Flyers (8-9-1) lost six of their first eight games, then went 4-0-1 before following losing three of their next four. They’re back on the upswing again having won their last two, routing the New York Islanders 7-0 on Monday and winning 6-5 at Pittsburgh in a frantic finish Wednesday.
Now, Philadelphia is hoping to sustain this current run after finishing its six-game road trip on a positive note.
“Anytime you finish a road trip with two big wins it’s huge,” said captain Claude Giroux, who had two assists. “It was good to get a couple wins in a row again.”
Jakub Voracek, who had four assists against the Islanders, completed his first career hat trick Wednesday with a seemingly impossible goal on a shot from behind the net with 1:31 left in the third – less than two minutes after Pittsburgh had tied it.
“Obviously we started off pretty rocky, and kind of finished pretty rocky, but I think in between we played a pretty solid game,” said Wayne Simmonds, who had two goals and an assist.
Florida (4-7-4) can relate to that type of inconsistency. Three losses during its current skid have come in overtime, and the offense either has been exceptional or not shown up, with nothing in between.
Since being blanked by Washington to being the losing streak Feb. 9, the Panthers have alternated being shut out with five-goal games. They fell 3-0 to Toronto on Monday, dropping their power-play unit to 0 for 15 during their slide.
“That’s an area we have to keep working on and have our special teams give us a boost instead of going 0-for on the one side and giving up the big goal on the other,” coach Kevin Dineen said.
Defenseman Brian Campbell knows Florida needs to improve defensively, too, having given up 21 goals over the last five.
“It’s not fun. We know we need to be better,” Campbell said. “The game plan’s been put out there for us and we need to go execute it. We’re not executing it.”
General manager Dale Tallon hasn’t been happy with the goaltending tandem of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen that is allowing a league-worst 3.73 goals per game. He called up Jacob Markstrom from the AHL on Wednesday, though neither he nor Dineen have said when he’ll get his first start.
“We need to cut our goals against down,” Tallon told the team’s official website. “I’m not going to sit still and allow this (losing) to continue. We need him to come up and play like he’s capable of playing and I’m very confident in that he can do that.”
Florida’s last victory was a 3-2 shootout win over Philadelphia on Feb. 7, when Theodore made 30 saves to beat Ilya Bryzgalov, who stopped 27 shots Wednesday.
Bryzgalov made 30 saves in a 7-1 win over the Panthers in the first meeting Jan. 26, though it’s unclear if he’ll get the nod in the second of a back-to-back set.
Matt Read, who had a hat trick for the Flyers in the first meeting, left Wednesday’s game with an upper-body injury and his status is uncertain.