FIVE THINGS TO KNOW PANTHERS (31-22-12--74pts) at FLYERS (37-21-7--81pts)
1. SEASON SERIES
The Flyers own a perfect, 2-0-0 record against the Panthers this season, winning both games in Florida AND both games by a 3-2 decision, the last of which came by way of a shootout victory on Jan. 24.
2. ROSTER NEWS
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren announced after the morning skate that forward Jakub Voracek will NOT be in tonight's lineup … Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette announced that Ilya Bryzgalov will start in net tonight for the 10th straight game … Although not confirmed they will be in the lineup in tonight's game, the Flyers announced that defenseman Brandon Manning and forward Harry Zolnierczyk have been recalled from their AHL affiliate, the Phantoms.
3. PANTHERS FIGHTING FOR FIRST
The Panthers hold a two-point lead over Winnipeg, a four-point advantage over Washington for first place in the Southeast Division… Florida has been in first place for 97 days this season, including a run of 57 consecutive days beginning on Nov. 19 through Jan. 15.
4. Player to watch PANTHERS: Marcel Goc
Marcel Goc has three points (1G-2A) in his last four games, seven points (2G-5A) in his last 10 contests and nine points (2G-7A) in his last 12 games… In eight career games against the Flyers, Goc has totaled five points (1G-4A).
5. Player to watch FLYERS: Claude Giroux
Giroux earned a goal and an assist in the Flyers last game to eclipse his career high for points in a season (77)… He has two goals and 13 assists for 15 points in his last nine games for the Flyers and is currently tied for the NHL lead in assists (53) with Vancouver's Henrik Sedin, but has played six fewer games.
GAME PREVIEW Last 10: Florida 4-5-1; Philadelphia 6-4-0
Season series: This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season, and first in Philadelphia. The Flyers won their previous two meetings, most recently a 3-2 shootout win Jan. 24.
Big Story: The Panthers are desperate for points to maintain their Southeast Division lead, but it won't be easy playing a Flyers team that has won three straight and is looking to gain points to grab home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
Panthers: Coach Kevin Dineen certainly is happy with his team's lead atop the Southeast Division, but knows the two-point lead on Winnipeg and four-point advantage on Washington are extremely tenuous, especially with 17 games still to play in the regular season.
That's why he's hoping his team can start stringing together multiple wins, starting with Thursday's game in Philadelphia and Saturday's game in Pittsburgh. The Panthers won three straight Feb. 25-28, but then lost two in a row.
"A week or two swing can make such a huge difference," Dineen told the team's website. "We are looking for more consistency in our effort game to game. … I was happy with the way we played five out of six periods this weekend and we'll be looking for an even more complete set in our next back-to-back games against the Pennsylvania group."
Flyers: Jakub Voracek said he had a sore neck from the big hit he took from Niklas Kronwall that knocked him out of Tuesday's game, but he's hoping to play Thursday.
Voracek got caught with his head down looking for the puck when Kronwall hit him. The Wings defenseman appeared to hit Voracek in the face with his shoulder.
"I think it was clean," Voracek said of the hit. "I had my head down. … I saw him standing on the blue line and I was kind of naive and thought he was going to back up. It was a tough hit to take, but I think it was a clean hit from my side. It was my bad, and I think those hits should stay in the game."
Who's Hot: The Panthers' penalty-killing unit hasn't allowed a power-play goal in back-to-back games, the first time Florida has done that since Feb. 11-12. … Flyers center Claude Giroux had a goal and an assist Tuesday against Detroit, giving him a career-best 77 points. The assist gave him a League-high 53.
Injury Report: Missing for the Panthers are forwards Kris Versteeg (lower body) and Scottie Upshall (sports hernia) and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (knee). … The Flyers will be without defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros due to lower-body injuries. Forward James van Riemsdyk is out 4-6 weeks following foot surgery earlier this week. Voracek (head) and forward Jaromir Jagr (hip) are questionable after being injured in Tuesday's game against Detroit.
Stat Pack: The road team has won five straight and seven of the last eight times these teams have met.
Puck Drop: Expect to see Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson back in the lineup Thursday.
Florida coach Kevin Dineen made Gudbranson a healthy scratch Sunday against the Senators, telling reporters Gudbranson needed to "take a breath."
Gudbranson, who has 6 points and a minus-20 rating in 55 games, said he's trying to treat his benching as a positive.
"It's no fun to sit out and watch your team playing out there," Gudbranson told the Miami Herald. "As a young guy, I can see the game and learn from this. Being on the ice is very different. The way to treat this is learn and make it a positive. I'm not going to question their decision, that's for sure. Whatever is best for the team to win a game is best by me."