|PHI||0||0||0||0||1 (1 - 2)||3|
|FLA||0||0||0||0||0 (0 - 3)||2|
Having five straight off days usually provides a welcome rest for any team. The way the Florida Panthers have played lately, they may have considered declining the time off.
The suddenly potent Panthers seek a season-high fourth straight win Friday night when they face the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time in 2008-09.
Hoping to avoid an eighth straight season without a playoff berth, the Panthers (20-16-6) hired first-year NHL coach Peter DeBoer on June 13.
While there are still three months left in the regular season, DeBoer deserves early coach of the year consideration for keeping a team without any stars in the playoff race despite the offseason trade of captain and leading scorer Olli Jokinen to Phoenix. The Panthers are tied with Pittsburgh for ninth in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Carolina.
Since losing four straight late last month, Florida has gone 4-0-1 in its last five games, matching a season high with three consecutive wins. The Panthers headed into their scheduled five-day break by scoring five third-period goals en route to an 8-4 victory over visiting Atlanta on Saturday.
Ville Peltonen scored twice in that outburst, while Radek Dvorak finished with a goal and two assists.
Florida has scored 27 times during the current 4-0-1 stretch. The line of Gregory Campbell, Dvorak and Peltonen has been at the forefront of the surge, totaling nine goals and 18 points in the last five contests.
"They continue to drive the engine for our team," DeBoer said. "It's a momentum-changing line, one, because they're so reliable defensively. But now they're creating offense and they're getting more confidence and they're chipping in goals every night for us."
Also contributing is left wing David Booth, who has six goals and six assists during a career-high eight-game point streak. Booth leads the team with 18 goals and 28 points.
Tomas Vokoun has reclaimed the No. 1 goaltending role by going 3-0-0 with a 2.68 goals-against average in his last three starts. He is 8-3-0 with a 2.20 GAA in 15 home appearances this season.
Philadelphia (23-12-9) has lost its last two games following a 4-0-2 stretch.
Joffrey Lupul staked the Flyers to a 1-0 lead in the second period at Tampa Bay on Thursday, but the Lightning responded with three goals in a 2:03 span later in the stanza en route to a 4-1 victory.
Martin Biron wasn't to blame for the loss as he stopped 40 of 44 shots in his fifth straight start.
"We're not paying a big enough price to win a hockey game right now," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said. "We didn't match their level of desperation and the result was indicative of that."
Biron may get a well-deserved rest with Antero Niittymaki likely to start Friday. Niittymaki made 38 saves in a 1-0 victory at Florida on Dec. 30, 2007, in the Flyers' most recent visit to the BankAtlantic Center.
Philadelphia captain Mike Richards was held without a point Thursday for the sixth time in his last nine games. He has only one goal in that span and none in his last six road contests.
The Flyers are 2-0-1 in their last three meetings with the Panthers after losing the previous five games in the series. Philadelphia had dropped three in a row at Florida before Niittymaki's shutout.