The Flyers and Florida Panthers have overcome stagnant starts and are among the NHL's hottest teams.
They will meet Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, where the Flyers (9-7-1) are 2-0 on their season-high five-game homestand. Overall, they have won three in a row and are 5-0-1 in their last six games, a turnaround that started on the West Coast.
"We've started to figure things out," right winger Wayne Simmonds, whose team has overcome a 4-7 start, said after Monday's practice in Voorhees.
Florida (6-5-3), which had just two wins in its first 10 games, has won four straight, during which it has outscored opponents, 17-6.
Simmonds and Claude Giroux each had a pair of goals in the Flyers' 6-5 shootout win over visiting Florida on Oct. 16. Both teams have tightened their defenses considerably since that matchup.
"Obviously, they have a very skilled team, and Bobby Lu is back," Simmonds said, referring to Florida goalie Roberto Luongo, who was injured when the teams met last month. "He's one of the greatest goalies, and he's playing really well."
The Flyers have outscored their last six opponents, 25-14.
"For us, we just have to continue to play the same way," Simmonds said. "We've really simplified things. We're playing more from the inside out now. Defensively, we come back and everyone's in the zone and then we expand from there. We've done a good job of snuffing pucks out right away and getting pucks going the other way."
Scott Laughton agreed.
"Our neutral-zone play is way better," the left winger said. "When we were struggling, I don't think we were moving our feet through the neutral zone and creating chances for ourselves. The 'D' are moving it quick up to us, and when we don't have anything, we're putting it in [the offensive zone] and getting it back."
During the team's poor start, "we were trying to make too many plays and too many cute passes," Laughton said, "and we've started to find our identity here and started moving our feet and going in and creating chances."
It hasn't hurt that Brian Elliott is now healthy. The goaltender they call "Moose" has been superb recently, compiling a 1.32 goals-against average and .952 save percentage in his last five appearances.
"He's calm back there and settled in," Laughton said. "… It's nice when you have him back there and you know what you're going to get out of him."
Coach Dave Hakstol said Elliott has been a "stabilizing force" in recent games. "In turn," he added, "guys are working hard in front of him to give up a little bit less of those outnumbered opportunities coming into our zone."
Simmonds, meanwhile, said he was excited to go home and watch the Hockey Hall of Fame festivities Monday night, especially since Willie O'Ree was being inducted. O'Ree became the NHL's first black player in 1958. He opened the door for black players such as Simmonds.
"I'm extremely happy for him," Simmonds said. "I can only imagine the excitement he has. There's not a chance that I'd be here without him. There's no doubt in my mind that he paved the way for me to be in this league, and for that I'm grateful and will always be."
Claude Giroux was named the NHL's third star of the week after collecting three goals, five assists, and a plus-8 rating, sparking the Flyers to three straight wins. … The Flyers have scored the first goal in six straight games — and gone 5-0-1 in that span. … In the Flyers' 6-5 shootout win over Florida last month, Elliott was replaced by Cal Pickard after allowing four goals on 23 shots in the first 45 minutes, 6 seconds. Hakstol said the Flyers allowed too many outnumbered chances against Elliott in that game. … New Jersey native James van Riemsdyk, who has missed the last 15 games because of a knee injury, did not rule out the possibility of returning to the lineup Thursday against the Devils. … Hakstol said the Flyers need to have more offensive-zone time than they created in Saturday's 4-0 win over Chicago.