The Philadelphia Flyers have made just one visit to Pittsburgh
in the last 12 months, but they could find themselves spending
quite a bit of time in the Steel City in April.
Sunday’s first of two meetings at Consol Energy Center over the
regular season’s final week could be just the beginning for the
Flyers and Penguins, who appear to be on a collision course to open
the playoffs in western Pennsylvania.
That might not be a bad scenario for the Flyers (45-24-9), who
have never lost in four visits to Consol and could now find
themselves playing there as many as six times in the next
There’s still plenty of positioning to settle in the Eastern
Conference, but barring something unusual, Pittsburgh (48-24-6) and
Philadelphia will open the playoffs against one another for the
second time in four years. The Penguins trail the Atlantic-leading
Rangers by five points for the conference’s top seed, meaning
they’re currently in the No. 4 spot despite having the East’s
Philadelphia trails Pittsburgh by three points, and has a
comfortable lead over sixth-place New Jersey even after Saturday’s
4-3 shootout loss to Ottawa. The Flyers rallied from three down
after one period to grab a point, and were quick to look ahead to
the first of what could be quite a few matchups with the
“I think it’s important to be able to play our best hockey
against them,” center Claude Giroux, held without a point for the
third straight game, told the league’s official website. “It’s
going to be a big game for us and especially on the road. We’ve
been doing a good job on the road. We have mot make sure we’re
doing the same thing (Sunday).”
After a pair of surprising losses to the last-place Islanders,
the Penguins bounced back with Friday’s 5-3 win at red-hot
“It’s not as easy as just having one game and thinking you’re
there, it’s a process,” Sidney Crosby said after his third
four-point game in 18 this season. “You just try to take everything
in stride, whether you have a good one or a bad one and try to get
The Flyers can’t be too happy about having to play another
afternoon game Sunday. They’re 4-8-3 in matinees this season and
have been outscored in the first period of those games 24-6 after
an ugly opening 20 minutes Saturday.
They did, however, handle the Penguins during the day March 18,
snapping Pittsburgh’s 11-game winning streak with a 3-2 overtime
win – after naturally falling behind 2-0.
That was Philadelphia’s third win in four games in this season’s
series, and they’re 6-1-1 in their last eight against their
intrastate rivals. Crosby, however, has only played in three of
those eight contests.
Crosby has rarely had trouble producing against the Flyers – he
has 48 points in his last 29 regular-season games in the series –
but Pittsburgh could use more from Evgeni Malkin. The NHL’s leading
scorer has just nine points and is minus-4 in eight games versus
Philadelphia since the start of last season.
The Penguins’ star-studded duo could catch a break Sunday. Ilya
Bryzgalov, who was 10-2-1 with a 1.43 goals-against average in
March, is doubtful after sitting out the past two games with a chip
fracture in his right foot.
Sergei Bobrovsky, though, has plenty of experience winning in
Pittsburgh. He’s been in net for all four of the Flyers’ victories
at Consol, allowing two goals in each while posting a .929 save
While Philadelphia will look to get Giroux going – he has five
assists against the Pens this season – its fortunes could come down
to whether Scott Hartnell can score. The Flyers are 22-4-3 when
Hartnell finds the back of the net in 2011-12, and 6-0-0 when he
scores against the Penguins since Dec. 13, 2008.
Pittsburgh and Philadelphia conclude the regular season at
Consol on April 7.