A familiar —and hated— foe is all that stands in the way between the Flyers and some badly needed time off.
Pittsburgh is headed to town and are the Flyers’ last game until Jan. 31, when they travel to face these same Penguins to cap a home-and-home spread out over ten days and the NHL All-Star break.
Not that they needed any help, as they were already cruising, but the Penguins welcomed back Sidney Crosby four games ago and have rolled to a 3-1 mark since then with the latest a come-from-behind win over the Bruins on Saturday night. Ho-hum for No. 87 as the Penguins’ captain has returned with a vengeance, posting eight points in the four games.
Whether or not Crosby has been hot or cold has factored little in his systemic point production at the hands of the Flyers, and they’ll get a double dose of him in the next 10 days for better or worse.
The Flyers have won three of their past four, bouncing back from a dreadful loss to the Canadiens by soundly dispatching old friend Jeff Carter and the Kings on Saturday night. They currently stand just a lone point out of a wild card spot in the crowded Eastern Conference, but welcome a few days off as they try to get healthy a little bit here with Michael Raffl now banged up as well.
German Rubtsov was called up from the Phantoms on Monday, and figures to draw in for Raffl as the Flyers tread carefully with 10 days between games and extra rest on tap for their versatile forward.
Even with Raffl in the lineup, the Penguins represent a tall task for the Flyers in this one. They’re just rolling of late and the addition of Crosby really turns up the dial on the kind of pressure Mike Sullivan and his club can put opposing teams under. They’re among the best in the league in terms of goal scoring, and have been excellent at 5-on-5 while getting good not great support from their special teams.
In goal Matt Murray has been a mitigated disaster (.900 save percentage, 2.84 goals-against average), but the Penguins have been bailed out by Tristan Jarry, who has been excellent to help prop up an average defensive unit (.929 save, 2.16 goals-against, three shutouts). Brian Elliott figures to draw in again for the Flyers off of a win against Los Angeles as the team still awaits Carter Hart’s return from a muscle injury.
The Flyers would love to start their break with a win, and while it won’t come easy, boy would it be sweet to do it against these Penguins.
Players to watch:
The Flyers’ lone All-Star representative and a much deserved bid for the 22-year-old in the middle of a breakout season with 42 points in 46 games (17 goals, 25 assists). He scored twice in a big bounce back win on Saturday and has generally fueled the Flyers’ offensive in wins more often than not. Not spectacular career numbers against the Penguins, but he does have three goals in 12 games and needs to be a factor offensively if the Flyers are to get points out of this one.
While the Flyers saw one offensive stalwart get going with a trio of points from James van Riemsdyk against the Kings, Voracek has stalled out in two games following a solid efforts against the Bruins and Blues. Voracek has been a thorn in the Penguins’ side since he’s been in the Orange and Black to the turn of 21 goals and 20 assists in 41 games. Look for Jake to be a factor here.
Sure you probably know this, but these matchups between the Flyers and Penguins tend to get pretty hectic —and fast. For whatever reasons these always turn into track meets and the goalies end up spending too much time fishing the puck out of the back of their net. The Penguins love to blitz the Flyers, and especially in Philadelphia. When things start to get crazy, the Flyers will need saves and Elliott will need to come up with a couple of them early to keep things from getting out of hand.
One key matchup:
Crosby vs. the Flyers
There aren’t many ways around it: Sidney Crosby torches the Flyers —and especially in Philadelphia.
Crosby has logged 102 points in just 68 games against the Flyers total, but 48 points in 32 games in Philly. As the pressure of the environment heats up, Crosby turns up his game another notch and the Flyers are usually left holding the tab.
Contain Crosby and the Flyers have a shot at heading into the break on a high note, but if they don’t they’ll be in for a long night at the hands of their nemesis once again.
Flyers projected lineup
Giroux - Hayes - Konecny
Raffl - Couturier - Voracek
JVR - Laughton - Farabee
NAK - Rubstov- Pitlick
Provorov - Niskanen
Sanheim - Braun
Hagg - Myers
The Pens are coming in hot, having won six of their last seven, but the Flyers have earned some big wins too and should be amped up for one last home game before vacay. Jim Rixner of Pensburgh joins us to talk about the Pens season so far, why they keep winning, and how the Flyers might be able to beat them.