Closing out a four-game homestand, the Flyers (2-0-1) host the undefeated Florida Panthers at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night.

The two teams haven’t faced off with one another in a while due to COVID. The last time the Flyers played the Panthers was a home-and-home set in Philadelphia on February 10, 2020 (Flyers won, 4-1) and in Florida three nights later (Flyers won, 6-2). 

Here’s three storylines and the projected lineups for Saturday night’s matchup.

Without Ellis

Head coach Alain Vigneault said that top-pairing defenseman Ryan Ellis is out Saturday night.

Ellis took maintenance days throughout the week leading up to the Flyers’ regular season opener against Vancouver on October 15, but dressed in each of the first three games of the season. Last week, the player said only that he was dealing with a nagging lower-body issue. 

On Friday, Vigneault did not confirm or deny that Ellis’ current issue is the same as last week. However, the coach did say that he does not expect Ellis’ likely absence from the lineup to be anything long-term. 

Nick Seeler will be recalled to play alongside Keith Yandle in Ellis’ absence. Justin Braun would move up to the Flyers’ top pair next to Ivan Provorov.

Cam Atkinson also didn’t practice Friday after he took a hard hit into the board Wednesday, but he is good to go for Saturday night.

Hart starts, Farabee looking for 4-straight, outscoring everyone

Carter Hart will get the start in goal. Meanwhile, left winger Joel Farabee will look to extend his season-opening goal streak to four games.

Through three games, the Flyers have outscored their first three opponents by a combined 16-9 margin. On special teams, they are 3-for-7 on the power play and 7-for-9 on the penalty kill.

For the Panthers…

Because the Tampa Bay Lightning are the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions and have a star-studded lineup, the Panthers’ rate of improvement since the start of COVID was thrown under the bus. Hockey fans leaguewide, however, will tell you that this Panthers’ team is the real deal and a contender for the cup.

Now that the Panthers are off to a 4-0-0 start and have outscored their first four opponents by a combined 18-7 margin, even casual hockey observers have taken notice. Florida is a very well-coach, relentless team under head coach Joel Quenville while general manager Bill Zito has constructed a balanced roster that may only have a couple blah names but is deep, talented, and competitive. Florida has a big lineup overall, but they also have speed and finesse.

Projected lineups

Flyers:

28 Claude Giroux – 14 Sean Couturier – 11 Travis Konecny
86 Joel Farabee – 19 Derick Brassard – 89 Cam Atkinson
23 Oskar Lindblom – 21 Scott Laughton – 25 James van Riemsdyk
62 Nicolas Aube-Kubel – 44 Nate Thompson – 17 Zack MacEwen

9 Ivan Provorov – 61 Justin Braun
6 Travis Sanheim – 70 Rasmus Ristolainen
3 Keith Yandle – 24 Nick Seeler

79 Carter Hart
[35 Martin Jones]

Panthers:

23 Carter Verhaeghe – 16 Aleksander Barkov – 10 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau – 9 Sam Bennett – 74 Owen Tippett
70 Patric Hörnqvist – 15 Anton Lundell – 13 Sam Reinhart
77 Frank Vatrano – 27 Eetu Luostarinen – 17 Mason Marchment

52 MacKenzie Weegar – 5 Aaron Ekblad
2 Gus Forsling – 7 Radko Gudas
44 Kevin Connauton – 62 Brandon Montour

72 Sergei Bobrovsky
[30 Spencer Knight]