Pens Preview: Rivalry Reniewed

Posted on Nov 27 2017 - 10:03am by Jason McDermott
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Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins, fresh off of their impressive, special-teams-fueled win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, stay at home and welcome their cross state rivals the Philadelphia Flyers (8-9-6, 22 points) pay a visit to PPG Paints Arena at 7:00 PM.

This is the first meeting between the clubs this season and the Flyers come to town having lost their last seven games in a row.  As usual though, records do not seem to matter when these two clubs renew acquaintances.  You can be sure that when the Flyers see the hated Penguin crest across from them, it will jump-start a spring in their step and they will come ready to play in a building where they have enjoyed a decent amount of success since its’ opening.

A little under ten days ago, the NHL announced that the second half of the teams outdoor match-ups would take place on February 23rd, 2019 at the Linc in Philadelphia.  Pittsburgh took the first part of that series last year in Heinz Field with a 4-2 win in front of more than 67,000 people.

Pittsburgh is 12-10-3 on the season, good for 27 points and sitting in sixth place, five points behind the New Jersey Devils who sit in first place.  The Penguins however, have played two more games than NJ.

The status of center Evgeni Malkin is still up in the air as of this writing.  Malkin has missed the past three games with an upper body injury and now, not much more is known other than the fact that he is day-to-day on the injury report.

Another player to keep an eye on is Ian Cole…..if you can.  Cole has been a healthy scratch in the last two games for recent performance according to coach Mike Sullivan.

The Penguins will look to build on their 5-2 win over Tampa this past Saturday.  It was a game that saw Phil Kessel (team point leader with 31) rack up two goals and two assists and Sidney Crosby register a three-point night (2 goals, 1 assist).  As noted above, special teams took center stage as the power play went 3-for-5 and the penalty kill went an impressive 1-for-6 against a lethal Lightning setup.

You can expect to see Matt Murray back in goal after giving way to Tristian Jarry on Saturday.  Say what you want about all of the ills that Pittsburgh has battled over the last several week, but pointing a finger at Matt Murray would be foolish.  Murray has a goals against under 3, and a save percentage over .900 even after a few rough starts at the beginning of the season and relief appearances of Antti Niemi where the club just wasn’t playing well no matter what.

In addition to snapping a three game overall slide, Pittsburgh also got back on the winning track on home ice after losing their last two at the paint can.

Getting secondary scoring from guys like Riley Sheahan, who has five points in the last seven games and others will hopefully help Pittsburgh climb back up near the top of the division standings.

Of all of the losses recently for the Flyers, the last one may have stung the most.  Playing at home and erupting for a four-goal second period against the Islanders giving them a 4-2 lead entering the third period before watching New York tie it with two goals in the third before Nick Leddy won it in overtime.

Philadelphia’s top talent are leading the way point wise, (Jake Voracek has 29 points followed by Claude Giroux and Sean Coutuier each with 25) but the rest of the club has not pulled their share in support.  Only four other players are double digits in points for Philly and two of them are defenseman (Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov).

The Flyers are currently last in the Metro Division…..scary part is, they only trail the Pens by 5 points in the standings.

Stay tuned for my recap of the Pens and Flyers on Tuesday morning and thank you for reading!