TAMPA — The Flyers are on a roll, but it doesn’t come close to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s recent surge.
The teams will meet Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena, and the Flyers will try to end the Lightning’s nine-game winning streak.
“They’ve been a perennial powerhouse in this league for the last few years, and you have to bring your best if you want to beat them at home,” defenseman Justin Braun said after Friday’s practice at the TGH Ice Plex. “We have to get everyone going and get the start like we had [Thursday].”
Braun was referring to the Flyers’ 3-0, first-period domination in Thursday’s 6-2 win in Florida. He equaled a career high with three assists in the victory.
“You can’t ease into games like this,” Braun said of the matchup against the Lightning. “You have to be ready to go right from the drop of the puck.”
Three of Tampa Bay’s elite forwards — Steve Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Anthony Cirelli — are battling injuries. Ditto right winger Tyler Johnson. All will be game-time decisions, according to coach Jon Cooper.
The first three players practiced Friday.
Goalie Carter Hart, who played well in the Flyers’ 1-0 loss to the visiting Lightning on Jan. 11, will get the start Saturday.
“They’ve been on a roll and they’ve got a good team, but we’ve been playing good hockey, too,” Hart said. “We can keep up with these guys. It was a close game the last time we faced them, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Tampa (38-15-5) has a high-powered attack, but its defense has been its calling card recently, allowing two goals or fewer in eight of nine games during the streak. The Bolts have permitted two goals or fewer in the last seven games.
“They’ve been the best team in the league since the end of December,” said coach Alain Vigneault, whose Flyers (32-19-7) are on a 9-3-1 run. “You’ve got [offensive] skill. You’ve got a team that can defend. They can do both real well. I’m looking forward to it. I think we have a great opportunity here. We’ve got a team that’s hot, and we’ve been playing well. We’re going to measure ourselves against a real good team, and I expect us to play real well.”
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy blanked the Flyers, 1-0, last month, and he has not lost in regulation in his last 20 starts.
Travis Sanheim took part in practice Friday and said he is ready to play Saturday. The defenseman sat out most of the third period Thursday as a precaution. He had collided with Florida’s Aleksander Barkov in the second period, and his leg didn’t feel right.
“He landed on me a little weird and I tweaked something,” Sanheim said.
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere took part in Friday’s practice, but his surgically repaired left knee was bothering him. “He could barely push off,” Vigneault said.
Gostisbehere said he would consent to a rehab stint with the AHL’s Phantoms, who have more practices than the Flyers, and thought it would benefit him. “The positive out of it is that the boys are doing good, so I’m going to focus on healing up and trying to get back as quick as I can,” he said.
Defenseman Robert Hagg, used on the power play for the first time since he was in the AHL five years ago, on his power-play goal Thursday: “I told Jakey [Voracek] he needs a heads-up. I’m taking his spot on the half wall,” he deadpanned.