Flyers Face Penguins in Rivalry Showdown

The Matchup

Philadelphia Flyers (7-9-1) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-5-0)
Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.
7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Network and 93.3 WMMR

Setting the Stage

The Philadelphia Flyers have had an up-and-down six-game road swing. When it seemed like the team was on track after a tremendous homestand, the road trip brought back bad memories. Toronto, New Jersey and Montreal put perhaps the worst taste in the players' mouths, and captain Claude Giroux called out his team as a result.

After that rage session from Giroux, the Flyers responded with a complete domination of the New York Islanders on Monday, winning 7-0. Giroux scored two goals and an assist, Jakub Voracek added four helpers, and Danny Briere put the exclamation point on the game with two goals of his own.

For the Penguins, it has been just another season in Pittsburgh. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both healthy, both have dominated the league once again. The biggest goal scoring threat, James Neal, has scored 11 goals in 16 games—a torrid pace that could breach 50 goals in a normal season.

What to Expect

Pittsburgh took round one of the quarterfinal rematch from last season in the first game of this season by a score of 3-1—a surprising result after the tone of that playoff series. Both teams do not possess the most skilled defenses in the world. This could turn into a track meet fast.

The Flyers want no part of a track meet. Pittsburgh's transition play is the most dangerous in the entire league. The men in orange would love to dump the puck in and slow the tempo. A slower tempo favors the Flyers. A faster tempo favors the Penguins.

The Masked Men

Ilya Bryzgalov is slated to make yet another start for the Flyers. Bryz has rebounded completely off of a beleaguered season last year, putting up numbers reminiscent of his days with Phoenix. The Togliatti native posted his first shutout of the season, and the 30th of his career, against the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon.

Tomas Vokoun will start for the Pittsburgh Penguins this evening. Vokoun and incumbent starter Marc-Andre Fleury have split time in the net this season. The 36-year-old Czech is 2-2 in his last four starts, posting a .912 save percentage on average in those games.

Keys to the Game

1. Keep it going. No doubt a 7-0 destruction of the resurgent New York Islanders means plenty, but to keep that kind of dominant effort going on the road against a good Pittsburgh team will mean a lot towards turning the ship around towards the .500 mark in a shortened season.

2. Crosby and Malkin. It's obvious that these two players can post legendary performances on a nightly basis. Defending them with the defense corps the Flyers already own may be a challenge. Limit their time and space, and increase the chances of victory. If they break out, that spells trouble with a capital T.

3. Break the winning pace. The Penguins have won 7 of their last 9 games, several by 2 or 3 goals. They are also coming off of an inspired effort to come back against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, winning by a score of 4-3. Things are good in Western Pennsylvania. It's up to the Flyers to rain on their parade.

Quotable

"We played with attitude. High intensity, and we played as a team. That's how we have to play. A whole 60 minutes."

-Claude Giroux