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Gameday: Battle of PA, matinee style

Pittsburgh Penguins (16-9-4, 36 pts) at Philadelphia Flyers (15-7-6, 36 pts)
Wachovia Center - 1 PM EST - Philadelphia, PA
TV: CSN HD, FSN Pittsburgh
Radio: 610 WIP, XM 206
Check Here for Internet Streams
Behind Enemy Lines: PensBurgh | Pensblog

What to Watch For: This is Flyers-Penguins. You have to watch EVERYTHING. Anything can happen when these two teams meet. This should be a damn good hockey game, not only because it's Flyers/Pens. Look at where they are in the standings. That's right, deadlocked. Each team has 36 points, although the Flyers do have one game in hand.

Scouting the Enemy: Before Thursday night's 9-2 destruction of the Islanders, the Penguins were beginning to toil in mediocrity a bit. They had lost three straight to the Senators, Sabres, and Devils coming in, an they were falling in the standings. They've also been decimated by injuries, most recently to big veteran defenseman Hal Gill and forward Maxime Talbot.

But boy did the offense really pick it up for Pitt on Thursday. Pascal Dupuis and Petr Sykora both scored hat tricks. In fact, it was the first hat trick of Sykora's career; that's quite the feat for a guy who has amassed 285 goals in an NHL career spanning 15 seasons. You know Pitt will have high energy early (especially coming off such a big win), as they always do in Philadelphia, and the Flyers will have to match it to avoid getting in an early hole.

Between The Pipes: Pierre LeBrun of ESPN is reporting that Marc-Andre Fleury will NOT start against the Flyers. Helloooo, Dany Sabourin.

Marty Biron is in goal for the good guys.

Questions to Answer: This idea has been taken from Hockey Wilderness, a Minnesota Wild blog, because it's just such a good idea. Hats off to them. I pose a few questions before the game, and then post game we take a look at the answers.

1. Who fights first? And why?

2. Will the defense be able to contain Crosby and Malkin? If they do, will the Penguins supplementary scorers, such as Sykora and Dupuis, take control?

3. Will the Flyers use the momentum from Thursday night's comeback win to their advantage, or do they even have momentum coming into Saturday given Pittsburgh's romp over the Islanders?

4. Can the Flyers play a complete 60 minutes of strong, like-the-third-period-on-Thursday hockey, or will they snooze through the first 40 minutes again?

These questions will be answered following the game.

Injury Report: Matt Carle returns to the Flyers blueline all the sudden, just a day after published reports said he hadn't felt any better despite missing four games, which yielded speculation of him hitting the LTIR, he's magically better. Carle spoke to the media during following practice on Friday.

It felt good [Thursday] and [Friday] and I maybe could've played [Thursday] but wanted to get another day under my belt, another practice, and I feel good to go. It's just minor [now], not like before where it was really ripping at me. It's something I can handle.

When asked if he would play Saturday, Carle responded:

I'd say about 90 percent sure right now unless there's a huge minor (heh, oxymoron) setback between now and [Saturday] morning, I'll be coming to the rink ready to play tomorrow.

Is it just me, or is this becoming a trend? Ossi Vaananen came back from injury too early and wound up missing more time. Danny Briere did the same. It's happened numerous times over the last few years, dating back to Lindros even, and the Flyers medical staff has kind of gained a reputation for clearing guys to play when they could still use some time off. If Carle says he's at 90 percent, I don't want him playing. He's been a major addition to this blueline and his absence has been noticable. Carle is a guy this team is going to depend on later in the season, and if his health means sitting out one or two more games now, than he better damn well do it.

But of course that's not the case. Let's just hope for the best.

As said already, Marc-Andre Fleury is eligible to play for Pittsburgh. Forward Max Talbot was hurt against New York.

Milestone Watch: Credit for the Milestone Watch goes to chaosof99 from HFBoards. Milestones possible in tonight's game include: Mike Knuble needs two goals to reach 200 in his career. Marty Biron is one shutout away from the 25th of his career.

Hot Off The Presses: Ed Moran of the Daily News asks which Flyers team we'll see on Saturday. Carchidi writes about how the Penguins are not the Hurricanes, and a complete effort is needed on Saturday.

Today in Flyers/Penguins History: On December 13, 1980, the Flyers came back from a 5-2 deficit to win 6-5 at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena. Bob Clarke had a hat trick, with all three goals coming in the second period, to answer a four-goal performance by Pittsburgh's Paul Gardner. Mel Bridgman scored the game-winner just under five minutes into the third.

In 2006, the Flyers fell to the Penguins 8-4 in front of 14,150 at Mellon Arena. Sidney Crosby had a goal and four assists, while Flyers goals were scored by Mike Knuble, Kyle Calder, Todd Fedoruk, and Ryan Potulny.

Let's Go Flyers!