The Philadelphia Flyers continue a challenging three-game homestand with a battle against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
The Flyers opened the homestand with a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. Cam Atkinson scored the winning goal 45 seconds into overtime.
Philadelphia also received a major lift from Kevin Hayes, who scored his first goal in just his second game back from abdominal surgery. Hayes has also been struggling with the loss of his brother, Jimmy.
“I was the first guy to hug him,” Atkinson said. “We’ll all remember this for a long, long time. It was special.”
The Flyers have been struggling to score goals, so Hayes’ spark was vital.
“I’m happy it happened sooner rather than later,” Hayes said. “It was a big goal. It’ll be one I’ll remember forever.”
“He’s a warrior, he’s been through a ton,” added goaltender Carter Hart, who was stellar with 33 saves. “He’s an unreal teammate, an unreal friend. That’s really good to see and a special moment for him and for us.”
The news wasn’t all positive, though, for the Flyers.
Defenseman Ryan Ellis was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. Ellis missed nine games and returned last Saturday at Dallas before going out again.
In addition, Patrick Brown injured his thumb during his first shift against the Flames. Brown will be re-evaluated and his status is uncertain for Thursday.
The Lightning will be looking for their third consecutive win when they visit Philadelphia. Tampa Bay is also 6-0-2 in its last eight games.
In their most recent game last Monday, the Lightning gave a solid all-around effort in a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders.
While it’s early in the season, the Lightning are competing like a team capable of a three-peat.
The Lightning always have the ability to score goals in bunches, but the key during this eight-game stretch has been the stingy defense.
“I think at the end of the day, we realize against top teams like this, you’ve got to defend and that’s been our recipe the last couple playoff runs,” Ryan McDonagh said. “I think our group has taken a lot of pride in playing well in our own zone.”
Tampa Bay’s difficult schedule won’t get any easier against the Flyers. In the Lightning’s last three games, they earned a point but fell 2-1 in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes, beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 and then added a three-goal win over the Islanders.
They’ll bring plenty of positive momentum now on the road.
“If you told me that at the beginning of the three games, we would have taken that all day,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “Those are teams you’re going to end up seeing at the end. And if you want to get there, you have to beat these teams. And when you’re at home, you definitely have to take those points.”
–Field Level Media