FLYERS-SHARKS GAME DAY

Thursday, 02.27.2014 / 2:23 PM
Anthony SanFilippo  - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter

PHILADELPHIA – The Flyers have the longest active winning streak in the NHL – and they want to keep it that way.

However, doing it against the San Jose Sharks is going to be a tall order, especially without Kimmo Timonen, who will rest tonight and return to the lineup Saturday against the New York Rangers after a long trek back and forth to Sochi where he won a bronze medal with team Finland.

Erik Gustafsson returns to the lineup and will play with Luke Schenn on the third pairing while Andrej Meszaros moves up to the second pairing with Mark Streit and Nicklas Grossmann climbs to the top pairing with Braydon Coburn.

Meanwhile, the Sharks are getting healthy and welcome two players back to the lineup.

Logan Couture, who missed the past 16 games with a hand injury, is back to center a strong second line with Martin Havlat and Patrick Marleau.

Meanwhile, noted pest Raffi Torres is back in the lineup as well playing for the first time all season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the preseason.

Torres hasn’t played a meaningful game in nine months after being suspended for the playoffs for a cheap hit on Los Angeles Kings forward Jarret Stoll.

So, the Flyers have to be ready from puck drop, because the Sharks are a strong puck possession team who also average nearly 35 shots on goal per game.

“They have some guys back and they’re a very good hockey team and we know it,” said coach Craig Berube. “We’re going to have to play well tonight without the puck. We’re going to have to check well and we’re going to have to be smart and make sure we’re not turning the puck over in the neutral zone. It’s little things like that when you play a team like San Jose that you have to be really good at.”

Especially in the first period.

The Flyers, who are notoriously slow starters, can’t worry about shaking off the rust gradually and instead have to be on point early. Otherwise, they can be in trouble against San Jose.

The Sharks have outscored their opponents 60-31 in first periods this season, making the opening stanza all the more important.

For his part, Berube thinks the team is ready and said he feels that the way practice has been going for the past week-plus, he doesn’t feel they will be sluggish once they hit the ice tonight.

“Practices have been sharp and the guys look like they have a lot of energy,” he said. “Practices are practices but when you look sharp and are skating it tends to carry over to the game.”

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NOTES: The Flyers will not see Sharks starting goalie Antti Niemi, who like Timonen was a late return from the Olympics for Team Finland. Instead Alex Stalock will get the nod and he’s been good for the Sharks with an 8-3-0 record and a 1.61 goals against average and a .942 save percentage…. Steve Mason starts for the Flyers, It’s his 44th start of the season… Jake Voracek shaved his trademark red beard this morning. When asked why he said “It’s a fresh start.” Of course, he hopes to not have to shave again until June.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers

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