Two keys players -- Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos and Flyers top-line right winger Jake Voracek -- will miss Saturday’s showdown that will determine the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said Voracek was unavailable and, under NHL guidelines, he was not allowed to elaborate. Rookie Joel Farabee will play on the Flyers’ top line. He may also see time on the top power play. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere will be paired with Justin Braun on the third unit and is also a power-play option.
Vigneault also announced that James van Riemsdyk will return to the lineup.
Stamkos, the Bolts’ 30-year-old captain, had fully recovered from core-muscle surgery in early March when he suffered another lower-body injury (reported to be his leg) during voluntary workouts before Training Camp 2.0.
Cooper said Stamkos is still rehabbing his latest injury and is out indefinitely.
He had 29 goals and 66 points in 57 regular-season games. In 70 career playoff games, he has 23 goals, 53 points, and a minus-12 rating.
Stamkos has been a Flyers killer in his career, collecting 23 goals and 43 points in 34 games against Philadelphia.
Without Stamkos, Tampa Bay has defeated Washington, 3-2, in a shootout, and Boston, 3-2, in the round-robin tourney.
The Flyers and Lightning are both 2-0 in the three-game tournament. Saturday’s winner will be the No. 1 seed in the conference playoffs, while the loser will be the No. 2 seed.
Entering the tourney, the Bolts were the No. 2 seed and the Flyers were No. 4.