Penguins-Flyers Preview

Having recently lost a lot of ground in the race for the

Atlantic Division lead, the Philadelphia Flyers now would settle

for remaining alone in second place.

The Pittsburgh Penguins could reclaim a share of that position

Saturday as they head to Philadelphia looking to beat the Flyers

for the first time this season.

A stretch of five losses in six games heading into this week,

including a fifth defeat in as many meetings with the first-place

New York Rangers, created a huge hole for Philadelphia in its quest

to defend the division title. However, the Flyers (32-18-7) hope a

big offensive outburst in their latest game has created some

momentum as they try to close an eight-point gap on the

Rangers.

Though no team has more power-play goals (50), Philadelphia had

gone a season-high four straight games without one before scoring

two in a 7-2 victory over Buffalo on Thursday.

“We’re a hard team to play against when we’re moving north and

skating hard,” coach Peter Laviolette said.

His club now looks to win back-to-back games for the first time

since Jan. 10-12.

More than a month also has passed since the Penguins (32-20-5)

lost two straight in regulation, a fate they’ll try to avoid

Saturday as they enter within two points of the Flyers.

“Every game right now and throughout the rest of the season is

always a big two points,” center Jordan Staal said. “A lot of

desperate teams out there, which makes it even that much more tough

hockey to play. We’ve gotta find a way to win games every night if

we wanna make a good push.”

Pittsburgh has been dealt regulation losses in each of the first

two matchups this season – both in December. Philadelphia is 5-0-1

in the past six meetings, allowing two goals or fewer in all of

them.

The Penguins have been held to six goals in four road games this

month, losing three. They scored 13 in a recently completed

three-game homestand, but Staal’s first-period goal was all they

could muster in a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday.

“We just have to stick to our gameplan, shoot more pucks and get

bodies in there,” winger Chris Kunitz said.

The Penguins fell to 4-8-0 when Evgeni Malkin goes pointless. He

hasn’t gone back-to-back games without scoring a goal since Dec. 31

and Jan. 6.

Malkin leads the NHL with 69 points and Philadelphia’s Claude

Giroux is next with 67 after getting five Thursday, all on

assists.

Wayne Simmonds scored two power-play goals against the Sabres

despite needing 25 stitches in his upper and lower lips after

getting hit with an errant puck in warmups.

“He’s a warrior,” goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said of Simmonds, who

has seven goals in eight games this month.

Former Penguin Max Talbot also had two goals Thursday and has

four in his last four games.

Talbot could have a new teammate on the ice after the Flyers

acquired defenseman Nicklas Grossman from Dallas on Thursday for

two draft picks. The 27-year-old Grossman has five assists in 52

games this season.

“He is experienced. He is a bigger body and he is a good solid

defensive defenseman,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “He can

kill penalties for us and play regular shifts. He can chew up

minutes.”

The Flyers had allowed six power-play goals in a three-game span

before holding Buffalo scoreless on six chances Thursday.

Pittsburgh has killed all 17 of its opponents’ power plays this

month.