Flyers-Panthers Preview

Kris Versteeg wasn’t a perfect fit after the Philadelphia Flyers

traded for him during last season’s stretch run.

The Florida Panthers, though, couldn’t be happier with how the

left wing has meshed with his new teammates after acquiring him

from the Flyers.

Coming off his first career hat trick, Versteeg looks to help

the Panthers post their first seven-game point streak in two years

Sunday when they host Philadelphia.

Acquired from Toronto on Feb. 14 for two draft picks, Versteeg

had seven goals and 11 points in 27 regular-season games for the

Flyers, who went just 11-9-7 after the deal and barely hung on for

their first Atlantic Division title in five seasons. He was limited

to one goal in 11 playoff games as Philadelphia was ousted in the

second round.

While more attention was paid to their offseason moves of

dealing Jeff Carter and captain Mike Richards and signing

goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, a Flyers trade that went under the radar

has helped Florida (8-4-3) post its best start since opening 10-1

with four ties 15 years ago.

The Panthers, 3-0-3 in their last six, picked up Versteeg on

July 1 for two draft picks. The forward has team bests with eight

goals and 17 points after scoring three times and recording a

career high-tying four points in Thursday’s 5-2 road win over

Winnipeg.

“It hasn’t just been one game,” first-year coach Kevin Dineen

said. “He’s been really consistent and a good player for us all

year.”

So has Versteeg’s former teammate in Chicago, defenseman Brian

Campbell.

Acquired in June for Rostislav Olesz, Campbell has 10 of his

team-best 14 assists on the power play, which is now among the

league’s best at 24.1 percent after ranking last (13.1 percent) a

year ago.

The Panthers, whose last seven-game point streak was a 5-0-3 run

Nov. 12-25, 2009, will face a Flyers team that’s killed 19 of 20

penalties during its 3-0-2 stretch.

The one power-play goal Philadelphia (8-4-3) allowed in that

span, however, came in its most recent contest and was costly. It

let Tampa Bay tie Wednesday’s game in the third period, and the

Flyers went on to lose 2-1 in overtime.

Among the league’s best with 3.80 goals per game, Philadelphia

managed a season-low 15 shots as the Lightning employed a 1-3-1

defense that essentially brought the game to a standstill.

“That’s not hockey in my book, but whatever,” Flyers captain

Chris Pronger said after returning from a six-game absence due to

an eye injury.

The Flyers could get plenty more opportunities in this matchup

as the Panthers surrender 33.0 shots per game, among the most in

the NHL.

Florida, though, has been getting a solid effort in net from

Jose Theodore, 3-0-2 with a 2.13 goals-against average in his last

five starts.

Theodore is 7-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA in his last eight starts

versus Philadelphia.

Bryzgalov also has been playing well, allowing seven goals in

his past four games while going 3-0-1. He could make his first

start versus the Panthers in a Flyers uniform after going 2-0-1

with a 1.58 GAA against them while with Phoenix.

This is the teams’ first meeting of the season after

Philadelphia won three of four in 2010-11, including both matchups

in Sunrise, Fla. The Flyers are 4-1-1 on the road, facing a

Panthers club which has lost its last three home games in

shootouts.