NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, March 16th (All times Eastern)
Philadelphia Flyers (34-25-7) at Pittsburgh Penguins (44-18-4), 12:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Flyers certainly played like a team that is chasing a playoff spot in Saturday's opener of a home-and-home series with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Flyers hope to pick up another two points against the Metropolitan Division leaders on Sunday afternoon when the rivals wrap their set in Pittsburgh.
While the Penguins own a comfortable 16-point edge over the second-place Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers in the division, the Flyers are a point back of those two clubs as they battle for one of the three automatic playoff bids awarded in each division.
Philadelphia is currently holding the second wild card position in the Eastern Conference by two points over the Detroit Red Wings and has gone 8-2-1 in its last 11 games.
The Flyers came out fast at home versus the Penguins on Saturday, scoring twice in the first period. Scott Hartnell had a power-play marker and Matt Read scored shorthanded.
Steve Mason took care of the rest, stopping all 25 shots fired his way in a 4-0 shutout victory.
Read scored twice, Vincent Lecavalier also tallied and both Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier finished with two assists as Philadelphia snapped a two-game slide.
"Going into this hockey game, we needed the two points more than they did, and the guys really went out and earned it," Mason said. "From my standpoint, everything was just very controlled, from our breakouts to our backchecking, end zone play; everything just felt very under control the whole game."
Giroux remained red-hot with 21 points in his past 14 games. His 67 points on the season are tied for seventh in the NHL.
Of course, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby is leading the league with 57 assists and 88 points, but was held off the scoresheet on Saturday. Marc-Andre Fleury allowed all four goals on 40 shots as the Penguins' three-game win streak came to an end.
"They are good at the power play and we gave them that opportunity. They cashed in on it to get the lead and a short-handed goal against is the two goals in the first period," said Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma. "We expected them to come hard like that with their forecheck early in the game and they did. We didn't handle it."
The Penguins went into the game with a long list of injuries, one that includes defenseman Kris Letang and Paul Martin as well as forward James Neal. Things got worse when Chris Kunitz was a late scratch due to a leg injury suffered on Tuesday that also held him out of practice on Thursday.
Kunitz is tied with Crosby for the team lead with 31 goals, but could return to action today.
Pittsburgh is set to play eight of its next 10 at home, where it is 24-4-2 on the season. The Pens, though, have lost seven of nine and eight of their last 11 at home to the Flyers, who have won two of the three meetings overall this season.
Sunday's meeting could feature both backup netminders.
Philadelphia's Ray Emery, recently returned from a lower-body injury, could make his first start since Feb. 8 and is 5-4-2 with a 2.78 goals against average versus the Penguins.
Bylsma opted not to pull Fleury from the game on Saturday despite falling behind 4-0 in the second period and that may have been because he planned on starting rookie Jeff Zatkoff today.
Zatkoff is 10-3-1 with a 2.70 GAA in 14 games this season and has never faced the Flyers.
03/16 10:22:36 ET