Sidney Crosby Returns: Will The Flyers Be the Team That Suffers the Most?

Rob KirkCorrespondent IIMarch 15, 2012

Sidney Crosby is strapping on his big boy pants, and coming back to the rink tonight.

While most Pens fans are beside themselves with giddiness and excitement, the rest of us are left to wonder what that means for the rest of the league.

More specifically, what does the return of the Chosen One mean for the Flyers?

It could be argued that Crosby's return means absolutely nothing to the Flyers.

After all, Ilya Bryzgalov has found his groove in goal with consecutive shutouts. The scoring has gone down, but the Flyers have been able to lean on, and give invaluable experience to an unprecedented number of rookies. The defense, bolstered by some key additions, appears to be getting as sturdy and stingy as it's been all year.

On the other side of the state, the Pens have been the hottest team in hockey.

Winners of nine straight, can the Pens get better?

If anything, Crosby's return could potentially be a distraction/disruption to some remarkable chemistry put together by Pens coach Dan Bylsma. Evgeni Malkin has been almost unstoppable lately, while James Neal is putting together his finest year to date.

The Flyers and Pens meet three times between now and the end of the season. Included is an afternoon game Sunday in Philly, then two meetings at the Consol Energy Center in seven days to close the season.

What better way to gauge yourself against arguably the best one/two combination in the league?

With 13 games left in the season, the Flyers currently sit fifth in the East. Coincidentally, the Pens are fourth, which would make for an interstate matchup in the first round of the playoffs.

The fan in me would love to see a Pens/Flyers series in the playoffs, though it would be a waste in the first round. At least we get to see a best of three between now and April 7th, just in case they don't hook up in the postseason.

Philadelphia has been a tough team to figure out all year.

I don't think anyone expected the offense to be so good early, or the goaltending to be so bad. While Giroux was already a star on the rise before the season, no one saw this kind of season coming. With Bryzgalov on a tear, and the scoring dipped, the Flyers seem to actually be playing like the team everyone thought they would be.

Conversely, the Pens have to be looked at as a bit of a surprise.

Missing their captain from the start, they were hot and cold early. Malkin has had an MVP year, and they seem to be clicking along well now after their early season struggles.

With all the fanfare and overzealous coverage sure to center on Madison Square Garden later this evening, the Flyers will be 30 miles east on Long Island to face the Islanders. The hockey world will be buzzing over Sid the Kid for the next three weeks, but the Flyers will be looking to make some noise of their own.

With the Sunday matinee at the Wells Fargo Arena, Philadelphia will look to make their statement as the team to watch in the Eastern Conference and in Pennsylvania.