Flyers riding win streak into Tampa

The Flyers are winner of three straight and four of the last five. None of this matters, though, with their recent struggles in Tampa.

The Flyers begin a short Florida road trip tonight as they take on one of the east's top offenses in the Lightning. That task won't be any easier as they look to end a six-game (0-5-1) skid in Tampa.

Tampa (6-3-1, 3-1-1 at home) has the highest-scoring offense in the Eastern Conference with 34 goals. Only the San Jose Sharks (35) have more goals this season.

Tampa is surprisingly led in points by Tyler Johnson, who has one goal and 11 assists. Steven Stamkos is right behind him with a team-high six goals to go with three assists.

It's the perfect test for the Flyers, who have been playing some of their best hockey the past week. They knocked off the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings, three of the last five Stanley Cup champs.

In the latter two wins, Ray Emery was forced to make 35 and 38 saves respectively. Emery has all four of the Flyers' wins this season, going a respectable 4-0-1 with a 2.44 goals against average and .924 save percentage in five games (four starts).

Emery's emergence in net comes at a great time as Steve Mason has had some early season struggles. While looking good in a lot of spots, Mason was plagued with bad team defense and some bad breaks, causing him to be chased from one of his five starts.

Coach Craig Berube is sticking with the hot hand tonight, giving Emery his fourth straight start.

Emery will get a different look in front of him tonight. The Flyers recalled defenseman Brandon Manning yesterday, and will see him in the lineup tonight paired with Luke Schenn. He will replace rookie Shayne Gostisbehere, who made his NHL debut on Saturday.

Gostisbehere hasn't been playing as well, or much, in his first two NHL games. He's played less than 13 minutes and was a minus-1 in each game.

It's a shame for Gostisbehere, who grew up 15 minutes from where the Florida Panthers reside. If Manning plays well tonight, it could jeopardize a homecoming for the rookie on Saturday.

On a more surprising note, Nick Schultz has been excellent in eight games since replacing the injured Brayden Coburn. Schultz has three assists and is a plus-2.

Schultz's play earned him a promotion. He replaced Gostisbehere on the second power play unit during morning skate today, and will play with that unit tonight.

The Flyers defense still has shown its ineptitude to play a complete game. Luckily for that unit, the offense, most notably the top line, is doing its job, which is to out-score the opponent.

Jakub Voracek leads the league in assists with 11, tied with Tampa's Johnson. His 13 points are tied for third in the NHL. Claude Giroux is right behind him with two goal and nine assists.

Leading the team in goals, surprisingly, is Michael Raffl with five goals. He has flourished on the top line, scoring three goal and an assist the last two games.

Wayne Simmonds also has five goals, but has cooled off a bit since his hot start.

Tonight's game is the final game of October for the Flyers, who are 4-3-2. They have a real chance of finishing the month above .500, a real accomplishment considering nine of their first 10 opponents were in the playoffs last season.

A win against Tampa will give the Flyers 12 points and a potential share of first place in the Metropolitan Division. Not a bad thought considering an 0-2-2 start to the season wasn't too long ago.

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John Russo
Editor; Featured Writer
Twitter: @Roose_TCL@TCLFlyers
Email: russo@thecheckingline.com