PHILADELPHIA (CBSMiami/AP) – The Florida Panthers have been playing some very good hockey over the past few weeks.
They’ve collected at least one point in seven straight games, including each of the team’s six road games.
After closing a winless two-game road trip against the Panthers over the weekend, the Philadelphia Flyers will try to return the favor Thursday night.
The Flyers go for a fourth consecutive home victory when they face the Panthers, who have a league-low two regulation losses.
Philadelphia (5-5-2) has outscored opponents 11-5 during its run at home after getting by Edmonton 4-1 on Tuesday. Jakub Voracek stayed hot with two goals and Steve Mason made 35 saves.
“You knew he could be a special player if he put everything together, and he’s starting to do that,” Mason said of Voracek. “When he’s going, he can take over a hockey game. … Jake’s always been a talented player and he’s finally realizing his full potential.”
Voracek has three goals and eight assists over a six-game point streak, putting him one point behind Sidney Crosby’s NHL-leading 19.
“I feel quicker,” said Voracek, who dropped 10 pounds over the summer. “So far it’s been better for me, but I don’t want to get overconfident. It’s only 12 games.”
Voracek assisted on Vincent Lecavalier’s goal at 19:52 of the third period on Saturday against Florida, but all that did was spoil Roberto Luongo’s bid for his second shutout of the season. The Panthers won 2-1, improving to 4-2-0 over a six-game stretch in the series.
“It just seemed like (the Panthers) were quicker,” defenseman Mark Streit told the league’s official website. “We just didn’t execute. We didn’t want to give them any life or hope and get after them right away, but that just didn’t happen.”
Philadelphia will have a bit of a different look Thursday after moving Chris VandeVelde up to the top line alongside Claude Giroux and Voracek. VandeVelde takes the place of Michael Raffl, who will miss the next six weeks with a lower-body injury suffered against the Oilers.
The Panthers (4-2-4) are coming off Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss at Boston. Jussi Jokinen provided all the offense with his first goal, giving him six points over the last five games.
“Right now, we feel good about our team and our game,” said Luongo, whose team is 4-0-3 in its last seven. “We know that we can play against anybody. I think we showed that tonight coming into a tough building.”
While the Panthers are near the bottom of the league with 1.5 goals per game, they’re in the top five with a 1.90 goals-against average. Much of that success is due to Luongo, who is 4-0-2 with a 1.47 GAA and one shutout over the last three weeks.
Luongo is 4-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA over a five-game stretch against the Flyers after making 36 saves opposite Mason on Saturday.
Mason has gone 6-2-0 against the Panthers while compiling a 1.62 GAA, tied for his second-lowest mark against any team.
Tuesdays’ win over the Oilers was Mason’s first of the season, improving to 1-4-1 with a 3.16 GAA.
“I never once doubted myself,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in myself and just have to build on this one.”
Giroux has a goal and seven assists at home, notching at least one point in all six games there. He has nine points in his last nine meetings against Florida.
Lecavalier has racked up five goals and nine assists during a nine-game stretch the Panthers dating to his days with Tampa Bay.
At 2-0-4, the Panthers are one of two remaining teams yet to suffer a regulation loss on the road.
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