Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins: Gameday Preview

Bleacher ReportAnalyst IOctober 8, 2009

Tonight marks the first of six regular season showdowns between the Philadelphia Flyers and their cross-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins at the Wachovia Center. With Ray Emery in goal, Philadelphia will attempt to start the season 4-0-0.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins will be bringing their 2-1-0 record into the City of Brotherly Love with Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes after a night off Wednesday.

Pittsburgh lost 3-0 to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Flyer defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen will make his debut tonight. Philadelphia goes with his physical defensive game over 24-year-old, offensive-minded blue-liner Danny Syvret, who played in the first four games.

Tollefsen isn't the only addition to the lineup tonight. 

Arron Asham will skate in his first game of the year, replacing James van Riemsdyk in a precautionary move to avoid any further damage to JVR's head injury—which isn't being called a concussion.

Asham, who recorded eight goals and 12 assists in 78 games in Flyers orange last season, is looking forward to making the most of his opportunity and working his way back into the everyday lineup.

Van Riemsdyk's loss isn't the biggest for Philadelphia.

During their electrifying 6-5 victory over the Capitals on Tuesday, center Blair Betts separated his shoulder in the last minute of regulation. 

The team's best penalty killer and faceoff guy will miss at least four weeks. Riley Cote will dress for his first game of the year.

Pittsburgh will play enforcers Eric Godard and Mike Rupp against the Flyers in what they expect to be a very physical contest. Danny Carcillo's best friend, Max Talbot, will not be in the lineup.

Flyers' Lineup:

Simon Gagne-Mike Richards-Mika Pyorala
Scott Hartnell-Jeff Carter-Danny Briere
Asham-Claude Giroux-Darroll Powe
Cote-Ian Laperriere-Carcillo
Chris Pronger-Matt Carle
Kimmo Timonen-Braydon Coburn
Ryan Parent-Tollefsen

Penguins' Lineup:

Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Bill Guerin
Pascal Dupuis-Evgeni Malkin-Ruslan Fedotenko
Matt Cooke-Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy
Rupp-Craig Adams-Godard
Sergei Gonchar-Brooks Orpik
Mark Eaton-Kris Letang
Alex Goligoski-Jay McKee

What to watch for:

These teams don't like each other at all, so expect a physical game with a lot of excitement.

The Penguins have handed Philadelphia their last two playoff exits, and last season left a sour taste in the Broad Street Bullies' mouth. Look for the Flyers to try to intimidate Pittsburgh early and often.

This will be the first time Chris Pronger faces the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the Orange sweater. It's the moment Flyers fans have been looking forward to since Philly acquired him at the draft.

Will Pronger introduce himself to Crosby and bring the Flyers' faithful to their feet?

Emery had a difficult time with Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin against the Caps. The two accounted for four of the team's five goals.

How will Razor fare against two of the best offensive players in the league in Crosby and Malkin?

Keys to the game:

Keep Jeff Carter away from Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal

In the playoffs last year, Staal completely shut down Philadelphia's top goal-scorer.

Without Carter's scoring, the Flyers were almost hopeless against the Pens. In order to have some success against Pittsburgh this year, they'll need to avoid Staal as much as possible.

Carter is a solid two-way center, so the Flyers will try and get him on the ice with Crosby or Malkin while putting Mike Richards on the ice with the other.

Special teams

Games are often decided on special teams and Pittsburgh typically has an elite power play.

This year, the Pens are off to a slow start with the man advantage, scoring one goal in 10 opportunities so far. But you know that's going to change.

With the Flyers lineup tonight, Pittsburgh should get the brunt of the power plays. The Philly penalty-kill will have to be sharp.

Stay away from a momentum-shifting game

Both teams are certainly looking forward to tonight's battle. But the Flyers have to avoid the momentum-shifting games that they are used to against Pittsburgh.

Play a safe, slow game against the Pens' usually high-powered offense. Avoid neutral zone turnovers and don't force Emery to win the game.

If they play like they did against New Jersey or Carolina, the Flyers should come away with a victory.

Where to catch the game:

You can watch the game on Comcast Sportsnet when the puck drops at 7:00 p.m. EST. You can also hear it on 610 WIP.

I will be hosting a live chat beginning at 6:45 p.m. EST.

Join the chat by clicking this link Flyers-Penguins Live Chat

Don't forget to check out my website: Operation Orange Crush


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