Flyers (15-13-8) at Panthers (15-16-5)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: BB&T Center
BROADCAST & STREAMING: TV– NBCSP; radio–93.3 FM.
SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Twitter, @BroadStBull @samdonnellon
KEY PLAYERS: Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson scored three goals in a five-game span before the Christmas break. That's after no goals in the first 28 games this season. Center Vincent Trocheck has 12 points in his last 10 games. Trocheck (21-14-35) and Aleksander Barkov (11-21-32) lead the Panthers in scoring. Florida is playing with backup James Reimer while Robert Luongo recovers from an unspecified injury to his right leg. Reimer, who is under contract through 2020-21, has a 3.38 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. … Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott, who has started the last 11 games, is expected to get the start. Twice in December he was named one of the NHL's three stars of the week. Michal Neuvirth, whose first full practice preceded the two road games before the Christmas break, was activated earlier in the week and is likely to start Friday's game in Tampa. Neuvirth had 40 saves in the Flyers' 5-1 victory over the Panthers in October. Jake Voracek's 44 points place him fifth in the NHL. Sean Couturier's 16 goals are a career high. Claude Giroux, who finished last season with 58 points over 82 games, has 42 over 36 games this season, and is a plus-9. … On the flip side, Wayne Simmonds will need a big second half if he is going to approach his 30-goal average of the last four seasons. Simmonds got off to a hot start before a leg injury slowed him. He hasn't been as productive since. He's a minus-7.
THINGS TO KNOW: Over the previous three seasons, the Flyers are 0-9-2 in road trips after the Christmas break. The good news is that those trips were out west…Between tonight and Jan.30, the Flyers will play 13 games. That's partly because of a mandatory four-day break they will take in two weeks and the NHL all-star break at the end of the month. … The Panthers take a season-high three-game winning streak into tonight's game. Their win over Ottawa on Dec.23 was their first 1-0 victory since November 2016. The Flyers are 7-2-1 over their last 10 games but 1-2-1 in their last four. Goaltender Robert Luongo remains on injured reserve with what is described as a lower body injury. He has missed the last nine games. The Panthers are tied for 22nd in the NHL in power-play success at 16.8 percent, but this month they have posted a 19.4 percent rate, paced by Trocheck's six power-play goals. Seven Panthers have scored at least three goals in December. The Panthers are 29th in the league in home attendance, averaging 12,636 fans (74.2 percent of capacity). That's ahead of only Carolina and the New York Islanders, who are moving … again.
HEAD TO HEAD: Including playoffs, the Flyers are 54-38-7 all-time against the Panthers, which includes a stellar 30-17-1 record on the road. The Flyers have won four straight against Florida, including a 5-1 victory Oct. 17 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Friday: 7:30 p.m. at Tampa Bay
Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. Pittsburgh
Thursday: 7 p.m. vs. Islanders