And We're Back… Flyers Vs. Panthers

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With the Eagles out of the playoffs, a few weeks until pitchers & catchers, and the Sixers middling in a league of mediocrity, the NHL All-Star Game and its associated break really came at a cold, bleak time. To top it off, only one Flyer was in Montreal, and all he has to show for it is an ugly jersey and a minus-3 rating. Oh! And a runner-up in the fastest skater competition.

The Flyers return to meaningful play tonight, and the second season begins in Florida against the Panthers. The team enters post-ASG play in third place in the Atlantic, but only two points out of first. Like it did last season, playoff inclusion and seedings will come down to a flurry of games in the spring. However, what happens now can obviously have a huge effect. Wins in each of the next three games, against Florida, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis, respectively, would provide a little breathing room and help erase some painful memories.

Because let's not forget... The Flyers had the same number of points at the break last season (59), and they came out in a terrible slump that damn near saw them miss the playoffs. There's still enough hockey on the calendar for them to totally blow this, or they can put it together and play more consistently than they have so far.

Most likely, they won't lose 10 in a row. This team is a lot better than last year's, with young stars playing up to their potential and beyond in some cases. But it really remains to be seen whether they can become the class of the conference, or if the young core is still a season or two away.

Opposing Players to Watch: David Booth leads Florida in goals (19) and points (31), just five points ahead of Jay Bouwmeester. We put Bouwmeester here last time, and of course he scored. It's not at all an uncommon occurrence, as he's one of the best offensive players the Panthers have despite his position. With the trade deadline a little over a month away, Bouwmeester's auditions are in full effect, and many teams are interested, including the Flyers. Of course, if Florida keeps playing like they have recently, they may keep him in the hopes of making the playoffs. I doubt it though.

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