Flyers vs. Penguins preview: Let's get this thing started

Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

After 256 days, it's finally time to drop the puck. The Flyers host the Penguins in the season opener at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

It's been 256 days since the Philadelphia Flyers last hit the ice. That last game was a loss to the New Jersey Devils (who are considerably more awful at hockey than they were back then, by the way), a frustrating defeat in the second round of the playoffs. So really, the last happy hockey thoughts we have are courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins, this afternoon's opponent.

Pens_blue_mediumFlyers_orange_medium

Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers
3 p.m. | Wells Fargo Center | Philadelphia, Pa.
TV: NBC, NBCSports.com | Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

We had a conversation with fellow SB Nation blog Pensburgh on Friday afternoon -- the full Q&A will run be here on the site in a few hours, so be sure to check back -- and we asked them why we should expect the Penguins to be any better this season than they were last year, when the Flyers rolled through them in both the regular season and the playoffs.

The answer?

"The main difference for the Pens -- or so the docs say -- could be Sidney Crosby."

Oh, okay then. I seem to remember him being around for an entire playoff season last year too, and we all remember how that worked out. (God, that's never getting old.)

No, in all seriousness, Pensburgh told us that they believe the Flyers and Penguins are two pretty evenly matched teams, and we'd tend to agree. In a weird sort of way, I feel as though the Pens and Flyers are almost united as underdogs against the Rangers right now, the team that's clearly the class of the Atlantic Division, the Eastern Conference and probably the league.

Nevertheless, these four Flyers vs. Penguins games this season are going to be vital (obvious statement) and Pittsburgh can, you know, go to hell and stuff. They might have a totally healthy Sidney Crosby on their hands and they clearly still have Evgeni Malkin, but the Flyers have proven that they can shut those two down. Our team defense is definitely a concern heading into this short season, however, and it'll be interesting to see how Peter Laviolette aligns his lineup against the two Pittsburgh stars.

On the other hand, they're a little easier to matchup against now with the departure of Jordan Staal as their No. 3 center. Brandon Sutter came back to Pittsburgh in the trade and he's a fine young player, but at least for the immediate future, he's not even close to the level of player as Jordan Staal. A nice reprieve.

Here's a look at the projected lineups for this afternoon's season opener:

In goal, it's Ilya Bryzgalov vs. Marc-Andre Fleury.

Philadelphia Flyers

Hartnell - Giroux - B. Schenn
Talbot - Couturier - Voracek
Read - Laughton - Simmonds
Fedotenko - Wellwood - Rinaldo

Timonen - L. Schenn
Grossmann - Coburn
Foster - Meszaros

Scratch: Gervais, Sestito, Shelley.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Kunitz - Crosby - Dupuis
Tangradi - Malkin - Neal
Cooke - Sutter - Kennedy
Glass - Vitale/Jeffrey - Adams

Niskanen - Letang
Orpik - Martin
Despres - Engelland

Hockey is happening today. Go Flyers.

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