Zac Rinaldo #36 of the Philadelphia Flyers and B.J. Crombeen #19 of the Tampa Bay Lightning fight in the first period on February 5, 2013 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(February 4, 2013 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)

NHL on NBCSN: Flyers, Lightning battle to get back in playoff hunt


NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Tampa Bay Times Forum at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Philadelphia might not meet goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s definition of done after its 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday, but the team is still on the edge.

The Flyers are in 11th place right now and four points out of a playoff spot, but they’ve also played in two more games than the eighth place Carolina Hurricanes.

After tonight’s contest, the Flyers will take a five day break to prepare for the stretch run. During that time, they’ll watch the gap between them and the eighth seed grow, so picking up another two points before that happens could be huge mentally.

“I think any time you’ve got a break coming up, you always want to end on a win,” Scott Hartnell said in a CSN Philly report. “It makes practices a lot easier. Makes the media a lot easier, to answer questions about what we could have done better, you’re leaving on a high.

“We’ll welcome the rest when it comes, but we’ve got one good day of work ahead of us.”

Of course, the Tampa Bay Lightning are equally, if not more, desperate going into this match.

The Lightning sit in 12th place and are just two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers. Tampa Bay’s disastrous play has put head coach Guy Boucher’s leadership into question and might led to the trade of Martin St. Louis.

Tampa Bay managed to beat Carolina on Saturday, but they still look vulnerable. They lost their last meeting against the Flyers, are 3-7-0 in their last 10 contests, and will be without the services of their captain, Vincent Lecavalier.

At the same time, the Flyers have had a lot of trouble building any sort of momentum this season, so it wouldn’t be out of character for them to stumble after their 2-1 shootout victory over the Devils.

“If you look at the standings, the way we’ve been going, we win one game and maybe lose one or two after that,” Kimmo Timonen said, who will be playing in his 1000th game on his 38th birthday. “That’s not going to work out. We’ve got to start putting some wins together, and that means three or four games together and go from there.

“But the bottom line is, we need wins.”

That’s something both teams can say.

Probable goaltenders: PHI – Bryzgalov (13-12-1, 2.78 GAA, .899 SV%) | TBL – Anders Lindback (9-7-1, 2.93 GAA, .902 SV%)

Top scorers: PHI – Jakub Voracek (13-18-31, 29 GP) | TBL – Steven Stamkos (20-18-38, 28 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Philadelphia – Forwards: Jody Shelley (hip) Defensemen: Chris Pronger (concussion), Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion)
Tampa Bay Lightning – Forwards: Vincent Lecavalier (lower body), Benoit Pouliot (shoulder) Defensemen: Mattias Ohlund (knee)

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.