NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, March 15th (All times Eastern)
Pittsburgh Penguins (44-17-4) at Philadelphia Flyers (33-25-7), 1 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Battle of Pennsylvania is set to resume Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, as the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center for the opener of a home-and-home series.
The Flyers and Penguins haven't met since mid-November but will face each other on consecutive days this weekend. Pittsburgh opened the 2013-14 season series with a 4-1 triumph in Philadelphia on Oct. 17 before the Flyers halted a three-game slide in this matchup with a 2-1 regulation decision on Nov. 13 in the Steel City.
Following today's encounter and Sunday's meeting in Pittsburgh, the clubs will face each other once more in the regular season when the Pens host the Flyers on April 12.
The Penguins have won three straight and four of their last five games in Philly and enter Saturday's showdown riding a three-game win streak overall.
Pittsburgh, which holds a 16-point lead atop the Metropolitan Division, last played on Tuesday when it completed a home-and-home sweep of the Washington Capitals. The Pens recorded a 3-2 regulation win in D.C. on Monday before taking the home portion by a 2-0 score.
Jussi Jokinen and Sidney Crosby scored for Pittsburgh in Tuesday's win, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves for his fifth shutout of the season and 28th of his career.
Crosby extended his NHL lead with his 88th point, well ahead of both Phil Kessel of Toronto and Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf, who are tied for second in the NHL with 73 points.
Fleury had six saves in both the first and second periods, then made 20 in the third to keep the Capitals off the board.
"The second half of the game they really came at us," said Crosby. "To keep them off the board was important ... especially when they're hanging around when it's 1-0. A lot can happen."
The Pens did lose forward James Neal to a concussion on Tuesday and the winger is sidelined indefinitely. Neal is fourth on Pittsburgh this season with 49 points on 22 goals and 27 assists.
"You don't know if you're talking about 1-2 days or much longer," Pens head coach Dan Bylsma said on Friday. "You hope the symptoms subside and it's shorter than longer."
Chris Kunitz, meanwhile, returned to practice for the Pens on Friday after sitting out Thursday's session due to what Bylsma deemed "bumps and bruises." Kunitz, who is tied with Crosby for the team lead in goals with 31, is questionable for Saturday.
Pittsburgh, of course, has managed to perform at a high level while dealing with a rash of injuries for much of the season.
The Pens have won two straight and three of their last four on the road. They are 20-13-2 away from Pittsburgh this season.
The Flyers, meanwhile, have lost two straight after beginning the month of March on a three-game winning streak. Philadelphia lost in overtime at Toronto on Saturday and then dropped Tuesday's controversial 2-1 decision against visiting New Jersey.
Philadelphia thought it had tied the game at 2-2 in the final minute of regulation when Scott Hartnell charged the net in pursuit of a rebound. Hartnell skated to the New Jersey crease and was hit from behind by Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov. The force of the contact pushed New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur back towards the goal and the puck over the goal line.
After being immediately waved off, a brief review upheld the official's decision. Following the game, the league revealed the play could not be subject to review and could not be reversed since contact plays in the crease are subject to on-ice calls.
"The only way they can reverse it was if the kicking motion but I don't think there was a kicking motion," offered Flyers captain Claude Giroux. "I think Volchenkov and Hartsy kind of collided. I think Volchenkov and Hartsy pushed Marty in the net, it's not just Hartsy. You can see Hartsy tries to stop. I don't know. It's a tough call."
Nicklas Grossmann provided the only goal for Philadelphia and Steve Mason stopped 24 shots in the loss.
The Flyers are on their first two-game losing streak since a four-game slide from Jan. 20-25. A loss today also would give Philly back-to-back home losses for the first time since dropping games against Carolina and Boston on Jan. 22 and 25, respectively.
Mason expects to get the start for the Flyers on Saturday. He is 2-2-1 with a 3.17 goals against average and .908 save percentage in five career games versus Pittsburgh.
Fleury is 24-14-1 with a 2.74 GAA and .903 save percentage in 44 regular- season games against the Flyers. Pens backup Jeff Zatkoff has never faced Philadelphia.
03/15 10:21:04 ET