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NHL Rivalry Night: Preview and Prediction for Flyers vs. Penguins

Lyle FitzsimmonsFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2013

NHL Rivalry Night: Preview and Prediction for Flyers vs. Penguins

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    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    It’s an all-Keystone State, Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference version of NHL Rivalry Night this week, with the City of Brotherly Love’s Philadelphia Flyers (6-10-1, 13 points) traveling west to the Steel City to visit the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-6-0, 22 points) at the Consol Energy Center.

    The game will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday on the NBC Sports Network.

Viewing Info and Key Stats

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Game Time: 8 p.m. ET

    Television: NBC Sports Network

    Team Records: Philadelphia (6-10-1, 13 points), Pittsburgh (11-6-0, 22 points) 

     

    GOAL LEADERS 
    Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh8
    Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh8
    Jussi Jokinen, Pittsburgh8
    Vincent Lecavalier, Philadelphia7
      
    ASSIST LEADERS 
    Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh15
    Claude Giroux, Philadelphia9
      
    POINTS LEADERS 
    Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh23
    Vincent Lecavalier, Philadelphia10
    Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia10
    Claude Giroux, Philadelphia10

     

    Cool Flyers Stat: Through Monday's games, the three players tied at the top of the Philadelphia scoring list—Lecavalier, Schenn and Giroux—were tied for 167th place among all NHL players.

    Cool Penguins Stat: Of the 166 players ahead of the Flyers trio, no fewer than six of them were on the Pittsburgh roster, including centers Crosby and Evgeni Malkin; left wings Kunitz, Jokinen and Pascal Dupuis; and defenseman Matt Niskanen.

The Rivalry

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    The teams share a state, a division and a conference, and are separated by 309 miles on Interstate 76. They entered the NHL together as part of the league's first expansion—from six teams to 12—in 1967.

    They've been division-mates in 33 of 45 seasons since then and have met in the playoffs six times, with Pittsburgh winning twiceand the Flyers lead the all-time series with 142 wins, 85 losses, 30 ties and eight overtime losses.

    And not surprisingly because of the teams' familiarity, the fanbases have developed a hearty enmity, with Philadelphia saving a particular zeal for booing Sidney Crosby after he described the Wells Fargo Center as a less-than-welcoming place to play.

What's on the Line?

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    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    Though they’re separated by nine points in the conference standings and five places in the Metropolitan Division, the Penguins and Flyers enter Wednesday’s game as two entities on different momentum tracks.

    Philadelphia is climbing from the depths of a hideous start to the 2013-14 season, but two straight wins and points in four of the last five games have provided a fleeting bit of optimism for a team that’s already endured a coaching change (Peter Laviolette to Craig Berube) and four losing streaks sandwiched around just six victories.

    Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has dropped multiple games in a row for just the second time so far this season, having lost 5-1 to the New York Rangers on Nov. 6 at Madison Square Garden and 2-1 three days later to the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center. The Penguins are 7-2 on home ice, though, and haven’t lost there since Oct. 25.

    The first meeting of the year came on Oct. 17, when the Penguins beat the Flyers 4-1 at the Wells Fargo Center.

Key Skaters

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    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    Philadelphia: Claude Giroux

    Though he’s still nowhere near the point-per-game pace he carried through the entire abbreviated 2012-13 schedule, right winger Giroux has revved up as of late, including assists on a pair of goals by Jakub Voracek in Tuesday’s 5-0 blanking of the Ottawa Senators.  

     

    Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby

    In his ninth year in the league, Crosby is off to yet another all-world start with 23 points in 17 games. He scored once and assisted on another goal in the first go-round with the Flyers last month while putting in 22 minutes, 41 seconds of ice timetops among Penguins skaters.

Goaltender Breakdown

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Philadelphia: Steve Mason

    Twenty-five-year-old Canadian Steve Mason hasn’t played back-to-back nights all season, but Wednesday night in Pittsburgh might be a good time to change that trend, given his 24-save performance in a 5-0 defeat of the Senators on Tuesday. If not, look for Ray Emery to appear for the sixth time this season.

     

    Pittsburgh: Marc-Andre Fleury

    The Penguins goalie allowed just five goals in a three-game win streak against the Carolina Hurricanes, Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1. He’s struggled in two starts since, however, surrendering seven goals in losses to the New York Rangers and St. Louis. He stopped 24 of 25 shots while beating the Flyers 4-1 on Oct. 17.

Biggest X-Factors

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Philadelphia

    Will the real Flyers offense please stand up?

    Philadelphia equaled a league record for scoring impotence with just 22 goals through its initial 15 games of the season, but the Flyers have busted loose for nine goals in their two most recent games, a 4-2 defeat of the Edmonton Oilers and a 5-0 defeat of Ottawa. Four players—Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn—scored two points apiece against the Senators.

     

    Pittsburgh

    On-ice workhorse Paul Martin, who logged 27-plus minutes the first time the teams played last month, missed Saturday’s 2-1 loss to St. Louis with a lower-body injury. He’s also missed three consecutive practices, and his absence from the game with the Flyers was described by coach Dan Bylsma as “a possibility,” per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Rossi.

    If Martin does not play, look for the pairing of Kris Letang and rookie Olli Maatta.

Prediction

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    Mark Buckner/Getty Images

    What means more, momentum or conditioning? That could be the determining factor in the matchup, with the Flyers rolling with two straight wins and a would-be offensive resurgence, though they’re playing the second of two games in two nights against a team that likes to skate.

    The Penguins haven’t played since Saturday and haven’t won in 11 days since downing Columbus 3-0 behind 19 saves from backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff. Fleury is the likely starter in the rivalry game, however, and a solid performance from him combined with Pittsburgh’s superior game legs should propel the hosts to a two-goal win.

    The Pick: Penguins 4, Flyers 2

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