Clouds Form Over the Well, Lightning About to Strike -- Tampa vs Philly Tonight, 7:30 >

by Michael DeNicola

Tuesday, Jan. 05, 2013 -

For some reason, Tampa Bay is just one of those teams who've had our number the last few seasons. Steven Stamkos has been a big part of the reason why, potting 12-goals and tallying 18-points in 17-games he's dressed against us. The kid's a demon on skates and finds the back of the twine like a stripper finds a boner in a crowd.

This season, the Bolts lead the League in powerplay percentage (36.1). Stamkos, Cory Conacher, Vincent Lecavalier, and Ryan Malone combine for 20-goals scored in just 8-games played into the schedule. When scoring first, Tampa wins 83% of its contests. They win more than half of their faceoffs, and lead the League with the most goals-scored per game (4.88). 

This team drips more offense than Christina Aguilera's lips drip cake icing. 

The last time these two Clubs met, the Flyers went down hard, 5 - 1. Our discipline was non-existent, as was our penalty-killing. Special teams certainly spelled the outcome of that match, and will no doubt need to improve skating into tonight's tilt.

Our boys are coming off their third victory of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes where we succeeded scoring 3-goals on the man-advantage, and hopefully we're capable of transitioning that progress against a heavy powered Tampa bulk. 

Between the pipes in our last meeting was backstop Michael Leighton. reports that Bryzgalov will gain the nod tonight, opposite of first-year Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback. 

Bryz is showcasing an outstanding .920 save-percentage, and has been the largest reason why the Flyers have stayed competitive in the majority of their losses. As our offense struggles to net pucks, Ilya's been an anchor in our cage, only allowing an average of 2.40-goals through eight starts. The franchise twinesitter is making one hell of a comeback from his dastardly 2011-12 season where he became the butt of most NHL jokes. 

The Flyers play host to the Lightning in their second of four game homestand. Kicking it off with a win on Saturday may be what our boys need to swing this season around. Going on a tear would certainly dig us out of the cellar, but it has to be taken game-by-game.

Unfortunately for the Orange & Black, they're still without net-presence Wayne Simmonds who has been shelved ever since catching a John Erskine elbow to the nose in last week's loss to the Washington Capitals. 

Simmonds has told the media that he's suffering more from whiplash than his diagnosed concussion. And although he's not experiencing any headaches, Wayne just "doesn't feel right" at the present moment. It's a huge loss for the Flyers, especially when we're trying to build some momentum offensively. 

Taking his spot on the top line is the new sensation Tye McGinn. 

Because Claude Giroux needs a linemate who can camp in the opposing crease, McGinn's 6'2, 205-pound frame has stood out recently, which has earned him a promotion to our frontal assault. 

Peter Laviolette hasn't stopped there. The head coach had the following line combinations skating together this week during practice --





No, I did not make a mistake. You're seeing Tom Sestito on that 3rd line, and that's exactly where he's been practicing this week. 

Let's breakdown this medley of players... 

Line 1: (LW) Tye McGinn, (C) Claude Giroux, (RW) Danny Briere

Given our injuries, this consolidation of forwards obviously poses as our largest offensive threat. With Giroux manning the helm from center, his one-ice awareness pays off by finding a sniping Danny Briere who typically hides in the shadows of the twine (aka, Briere's Office). From there, Briere has a few signature moves he could deliver. One of which may be connecting with a slot-penetrating Tye McGinn who has a knack for keeping his stickblade on the ice in traffic. We have a plethora of potential dirty and/or pretty goals to be scored from these three, and they skated well together in our victory over the 'Canes on Saturday.

Unfortunately, there's an elephant in the room. Let's get this cleared out right now -- Tye McGinn is a rookie project, and we're still not quite certain what his strengths and weaknesses are at the NHL level. As he operates the wing with two proven veteran scorers, he will absolutely be counted on to create room. If McGinn winds up being more of a ball & chain than a complimenting piece to our front line's puzzle, we could be in for a long, drought-filled 60-minutes. 

Line 2: (LW) Matt Read, (C) Sean Couturier, (RW) Mike Knuble

A nice blend of speed and marksmanship from Matt Read, two-way dominance from a centering Sean Couturier, and size in the slot from a veteran leader in Mike Knuble. This line should see a boatload of minutes tonight against an insanely dangerous Tampa Bay offense. Though each has his respective abilities to light the lamp, I'm expecting more aggressive forechecking out of this combo than anything else. Rushing the Lightning's possession increases their chances of turnovers. If we're able to capitalize on Tampa's mistakes, this game should count for 2-points in the standings. Read, Cooter and 'Noobs have the fortitude to get that ball rolling. 

Line 3: (LW) Tom Sestito, (C) Brayden Schenn, (RW) Jake Voracek

If anything else, this is certainly one of the more interesting combos Laviolette's concocted since he threw Dan Carcillo, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter all on the same line. We're seeing an array of promotions and demotions come together as a single unit forming the checking line. Tom Sestito is making his presence felt as a bruiser, but something's telling Lavvy that Sestito could be capable of distributing more offensively. Perhaps linking him with a banger and crease-crasher like Schenn, and an explosive skater like Voracek could create an effective recipe for neutral ice play. 

You've got Sestito keeping the opposing puckhandlers' heads on a swivel, Schenn taking bodies and Voracek skating the rubber up ice. The Flyers have been sloppy between the blue lines. The three of these guys could wind up painting an orange No Man's Land through the neutral zone with a fusion of obstruction, back-checking and interception. Finishing on the chances will remain the question at hand.

Line 4: (LW) Ruslan Fedotenko, (C) Max Talbot, (RW) Zac Rinaldo

Despite wrecking ball Zac Rinaldo winging from the rightside, Rusty and Talbot make our crowning combination the most disciplined of the four. Shot-blocking, poke-checking and two-way skating from this trio will grind out, slowdown and tire the opposing shift. Rhino's always a wild card, but his two parenting linemates could conserve the primitive barbarian within him.

The puck drops tonight, 7:30.

LIVE on CSN Philadelphia

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