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Game 43, Preview and Open Thread: Assessment Time, Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins

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#10 Philadelphia Flyers (20-19-3, 43 pts) at #4 Pittsburgh Penguins (27-16-1, 55 pts)
Mellon Arena -- 7:30 PM ET - Pittsburgh, PA
TV: CSN Philly HD, FSN Pittsburgh HD, NHL Network US HD
Radio: 610 WIP (internet stream), XM 208
This is the open game thread.
Get Pittsburgh reaction at Pensburgh

While 5-1-1 in their last seven, the Flyers have not put together a win against a team the standings would call good in a really, really long time. It's hard to say they've proven anything while on this little win streak, and saying that they've turned it around is even more of a stretch. A win tonight against Pittsburgh is, well, you know the deal.

These are always benchmark games when the Flyers take on the Penguins, at least over the last few seasons. Given this current situation, tonight that seems to be the case more than any of the previous three meetings this season. A win tonight will go a long way toward the Flyers proving to us that they have in fact turned the season around.

I found an interesting link over at Pensburgh this morning in their preview of tonight's contest that shows how many times teams play certain opponents on the back leg of consecutive games. The Flyers have a total of nine back-to-backs all season long, and in three of those nine, Philadelphia plays Pittsburgh on the second night of a back-to-back. They are one of only five teams that plays a single opponent in that situation that many times.

Obviously, it's not easy to play a team of Pittsburgh's caliber multiple times after playing the night before. But before we get all bent out of shape and go complaining about how bad the NHL schedule makers are, the Pens have to do the exact same thing against the Devils. So who really cares? Still, it's an interesting little note.

Claude Giroux could miss tonight's game with the flu, but the Flyers are calling him probable. There has also been no official word on the Flyers starting goaltender, but indications are that Brian Boucher will get the start. If he does in fact get the nod, it'll be his first start since December 21 against Florida. UPDATE -- Leighton will get the start.

The Penguins' Sergei Gonchar will be a game-time decision tonight. He hurt himself when he took a shot off the skate last week against New Jersey and has missed three games. Forward Chris Kunitz is also out of the lineup. More to know about the Penguins? Their power play is just God awful all of the sudden, which I doubt the Flyers penalty killers will be too sad about. They're dead last in the NHL, converting at just 14.7 percent.

While the Flyers were on the road before the New Year winning four straight, the Penguins were doing the opposite. They lost all four games on a road trip that straddled January 1, but in their return home against Atlanta on Tuesday they righted the ship a little with a 5-2 win.

One final note about Pittsburgh before moving on: Seth Rorabaugh, who runs the Empty Netters blog on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website creatively called Philadelphia a pig-pen today while previewing tonight's game. See it there, under the Finger/Hartnell fight video at the bottom? He crossed it out cause it's supposed to be clever or something. I'd just like to point out that Pittsburgh is one of the dirtiest cities in America according to the most recent study done in 2008. The Steel City is ranked number one on the list in short-term particle pollution, which is a major cause of cancer and other nasty things, and it creates what the American Lung Association calls "a deadly cocktail of ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals, and aerosols." So that's what's in a Primanti Bros. sandwich!

The Flyers will climb back into playoff positioning with a win and a Montreal loss tonight. Go Panthers. After the jump, a look at the lines and probable starting goaltenders, questions to answer, and our in-game open thread.

Flyers Line Conbinations -- nothing to see here, really. same old story.

Hartnell - Carter - Briere
Gagne - Richards - Giroux
JVR - Powe - Asham
Carcillo - Betts - Laperriere

Carle - Pronger
Timonen- Syvret
Coburn - Bartulis

Starting Goaltenders

2009 - Michael Leighton 15 764 6 4 39 3.06 370 331 .895 1

Marc-Andre Fleury 36 2093 22 13 90 2.58 951 861 .905 0

Questions To Answer

  1. Do the Flyers have their swagger back? They looked intimidated against Pittsburgh in their last two outings. Do they look the same tonight or are things different?
  2. If Boucher starts, can he jump in and play well despite not starting a game in weeks and only seeing two periods of action since? If Michael Leighton starts, can he show the front office why they should keep him around?
  3. Does Claude Giroux show any effects of playing with the flu?
  4. Jeff Carter, while clearly having an off year, had five points in three games against the Pens. Can he keep that up?

Tonight's game is on CSN Philly on the home side of the state, FSN Pittsburgh on the enemy side of the state, and NHL Network in the US everywhere those channels aren't. Remember, the game's on at 7:30, not 7 PM, because Pittsburgh is weird. As always, join us here for the conversation. LET'S GO FLYERS!