The Philadelphia Flyers began December with seven straight victories, but Peter Laviolette's club will try to avoid a fourth setback in five games when it visits the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at St. Pete Times Forum.
The Flyers recorded their longest win streak in nearly a decade earlier this month, but they have gone 1-2-1 since. The most recent setback came Friday in a 4-2 road loss against the New York Rangers, who tied Philly for first place in the Atlantic Division with the win and are now two points ahead of the Flyers.
Friday's game at Madison Square Garden offered a glimpse of this year's Winter Classic between the Flyers and Rangers. The league's annual outdoor game is set for Monday at Citizens Bank Park, which is home to the MLB's Philadelphia Phillies.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was sharp in the Winter Classic preview, turning aside 28 shots in the win for New York. Andrej Meszaros and James van Riemsdyk each had a goal for the Flyers, who have dropped their past three games in Madison Square Garden. Ilya Bryzgalov was tagged for all four goals on 24 shots.
"We played a pretty good first period, but they jumped on us in the second and they made it tough to mount a comeback," said Meszaros.
The Flyers, who are playing five straight on the road leading up to the Winter Classic, fell to 13-4-2 as the visiting team this season. Philly has one more road game before the outdoor contest, as it's set to visit Pittsburgh on Thursday.
On the injury front for Philly, forward Danny Briere expects to return tonight after sitting out Friday with a bruised hand. Centermen Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn are day-to-day after missing time with head injuries. Schenn has sat out the last nine games with a concussion, while Couturier has missed three tests since getting hit in the back of the head with a puck shot by teammate Kimmo Timonen on Dec. 17.
The Lightning entered the Christmas break on a two-game skid and the club has managed just three wins over its last 12 games (3-8-1). Tampa managed to pick up a point in Friday's loss in Denver, as the Colorado Avalanche posted a 2-1 overtime victory on Matt Duchene's goal at 3:38 of the extra session.
"We're lucky to get the point tonight," said Garon.
The Lightning have played the last two games without Nate Thompson, but the centerman could return tonight from his lower body injury.
This evening's tilt marks the star of a three-game homestand for Tampa, which is 8-5-0 as the host this season.
The Flyers and Lightning have split a pair of meetings this year with each club winning on home ice. Tampa Bay recorded a 2-1 OT win on Nov. 9 and Philly responded with a 5-2 win on Dec. 10. The Bolts have taken four of six overall in this series and two of the last three in Tampa.