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Flyers vs. Penguins preview: Kicking off the first homestand of the new year

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Redemption time, baby

Flyers vs. Penguins 10.29.16
Kate Frese / SB Nation

Well, the holidays are officially over and we’re finally back to an uninterrupted hockey schedule. I mean, at least until we hit that five day break next week. Close enough.

The Flyers kick off their four game homestand with a divisional match-up against the Penguins tonight. Their last meeting was during the ten game losing streak, and the Penguins--you guessed it--beat the Flyers in overtime. But tonight they’ll be looking to even the score.

Coming off a triumphant victory over the Lightning, the Flyers are riding high--though maybe not as high as if they had almost managed to beat the Panthers. So it goes. Brandon Manning and Michal Neuvirth have returned to the lineup, though only the former has seen playing time, since activated off IR.

By contrast, the Penguins are in a bit more tenuous of a position. Having lost their last two games, seven of their last ten, and being without all of Letang, Schwartz, Ruhwedel, and Rust, they’re undeniably a little dinged up, and hurting because of it.

And the intensity of this game can be expected to be ratcheted up, for even more reason beyond the fact that it’s a divisional rivalry. The stakes? Loser goes home in sole possession of last place in the Metro. Oh boy.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Before we start looking at outcomes, let’s dive into our three things to look for, going into tonight’s game.

1. Start strong

Are you tired of having to hear me say that this is the big thing the Flyers have to do? Because I know I’m tired of having to say it.

So the Flyers haven’t been known for their particularly strong starts to games. They’re not giving away quite as much as they were, say, during the ten game losing streak, but they still haven’t cleaned up this area, altogether. And, even dinged up, we know the Penguins still have some weapons, so the Flyers will need to make sure that they’re not giving up too many quality chances while they work to get settled into the game.

2. Penalty killing

Another area where the Flyers have struggled, of late, is on the penalty kill. But Friday’s game against the Lightning saw this making a small turnaround. Over the course of the game, the Flyers only allowed one power play goal, and looked sharper, on the whole. And while just one game is, of course, a hard sample to go by, this seems a step in the right direction--and it’s one they need to take. Depending on how this game shakes out, it may well be the type where the hardest battle is fought on special teams. If that’s the case, just like we said in the point above, the Flyers need to tighten up and make sure they’re not giving anything away. And that starts with the penalty kill.

3. Brian Elliott

We’ve really been talking about Elliott a lot, huh? And for good reason. He’s been receiving the lion’s share to the workload, and performing well while doing so. And it doesn’t look like that will be changing anytime soon. The indication is that he’ll be getting the start over Neuvirth--who still hasn’t seen the ice during a game since returning from injury--and he’ll need to make sure he’s sharp. Due to both necessity and his performance, Elliott has earned the role of consistent starter; and he just needs to make sure he continues to live up to it.

The models over at Corsica have the odds pretty even for this game, but do give at least a small edge to the Flyers. Those with projections up so far have them at a high of 59 percent, and an average of 52 percent chance of winning. This seems like good news, so like, don’t mess it up, the Flyers.

Puck drops at 7 tonight. You can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below.

Forwards

Giroux - Couturier - Konecny

Raffl - Filppula - Voracek

Weal - Patrick - Simmonds

Leier - Laughton - Weise

Defensemen

Provorov - Gostisbehere

Hagg - MacDonald

Manning - Gudas

Goaltender

Elliott

(Neuvirth)