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
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
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
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
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