Panthers-Flyers Preview

Nikolay Zherdev isn’t likely be a healthy scratch again any time

soon, and the Philadelphia Flyers certainly don’t mind.

The Russian right wing tries to find the net for a fourth

consecutive game and keep the Flyers rolling when they host the

Florida Panthers on Monday night.

Zherdev signed a one-year contract with Philadelphia (22-7-5)

last summer after spending a season playing in his homeland. He

spent the 2008-09 season with the New York Rangers, getting 23

goals and tying for the team lead with 58 points.

Zherdev was struggling to contribute consistently for the

Flyers, and was a healthy scratch for a 2-1 overtime win at Boston

on Dec. 11. He’s come back in impressive fashion, scoring four

goals and setting up another in three games while seeing increased

ice time for the Atlantic Division leaders.

He had a career-high five-game goal streak with Columbus from

Dec. 1-10, 2007.

“There’s a growing period,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s

playing really well, especially the last few games. He continues to

score goals and work at his game. It’s always difficult when you

come in and you haven’t been here. He’s been good the last few

games. We’re spreading it out and giving him more power play time.

I really like his line (with Jeff Carter and James van

Riemsdyk).”

Zherdev’s surge is a key reason Philadelphia has won five in a

row, one shy of its season high set Oct. 26-Nov. 6.

He got the Flyers closer to that mark Saturday, scoring two

goals – one on the power play – in a 4-1 win over the Rangers.

“It’s really great that I score,” Zherdev said, “but it doesn’t

matter what team it’s against.”

He has one goal and three assists in eight meetings with Florida

(14-16-0), but no points in his last four including a 5-2 win at

Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 13.

Philadelphia has also been aided by strong goaltending during a

10-1-3 stretch. Brian Boucher is 6-0-1 with a 1.66 goals-against

average in seven starts, with Sergei Bobrovsky going 4-1-2 with a

2.38 GAA in the other seven.

Boucher made 24 saves Saturday to extend his personal winning

streak to four with a 1.23 GAA in that span. He’s 1-3-1 with a 3.48

GAA in six games – four starts – versus the Panthers.

Bobrovsky made 34 stops in the November victory.

The Panthers have gotten off to fast starts in each of their

last two games, totaling seven goals in the first period while

chasing goaltenders in the process. However, they have only one win

to show for it.

Two nights after blowing a three-goal lead en route to a 4-3

loss to Carolina, Florida scored the first five goals Friday in

Buffalo and forced the Sabres to lift Ryan Miller, who allowed the

first four. The Panthers cruised to a 6-2 victory.

“I think it almost helped us in a way,” center Marty Reasoner,

who had two goals Friday, said of the loss to the Hurricanes. “It

made us that much more determined, seeing what can happen if we let

down. It’s a good sign.”

Eleven different Panthers have a point in the last two games,

while six players – including Reasoner – have three. Reasoner,

right wing Michael Frolik and defenseman Bryan McCabe have scored

two goals apiece in that span, all in the first period.