When we last left these two teams in October, Kris Letang(notes) was accusing Scott Hartnell(notes) of munching on his finger during a postgame scrum. Due to lack of video evidence, the Flyers' curly-haired forward was not suspended, but as with any Penguins-Flyers meeting, the love shall not be lost when they meet at Mellon Arena tonight. Given the current situation of both teams with the Penguins one point behind the Washington Capitals for first place in the Eastern Conference and the Flyers, winners of two of their last nine games, you can safely predict that we might be seeing a VERSUS "Tale of the Tape" graphic several times tonight.
Philadelphia's coaching change hasn't provided a spark to right the ship just yet, but an encouraging win in Boston last night coupled with the stealing of two points on the road in Pittsburgh could go a long way for the Flyers fortunes. Of course, there won't be any time to forget about hard feelings as these two teams will meet in Philadelphia on Thursday evening on the back end of a home-and-home series.
With the expectation of a lot of penalty minutes to be doled out tonight (there were 66 PIMs in their last meeting on October 9), the Penguins might have the opportunity to work on their 29th ranked power-play a few times. Baffling as it is with a unit that features Evgeni Malkin(notes), Sidney Crosby(notes) and Sergei Gonchar(notes), Pittsburgh has only a 13.6% success-rate with the extra man and just 19 power-play goals on the season. During practice yesterday, Pens head coach Dan Bylsma changed the look of his No. 1 power-play unit hoping to give his team more scoring chance opportunities once they are set up in the offensive zone.
For the Flyers, they're hoping Brian Boucher(notes) can fill Ray Emery's(notes) skates now that their No. 1 goaltender is out for an extended period of time. Strong goaltending and Philadelphia hockey have not been associated together for past two decades and with the Flyers claiming Michael Leighton(notes) on waiver from Carolina, depth issues could creep up if they continue to slide. Would Jaroslav Halak make any difference?
Adding another goaltender to the mix may or may happen, but as Ian laperriere(notes) told CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio over the weekend, winning will be the only thing that can prevent Flyers GM Paul Holmgren from shaking up the roster:
“I think so,” Laperriere said. “But what can you do? The only thing that is going to stop this bleeding is winning. We know that. We have a great bunch of guys in this room, but it’s business. A winning business. And if you lose, change is coming. You don’t want to see that.
“We need to win. We need to get confidence back. There’s no lack of working hard here, but sometimes I think there is a difference between working hard and working smart ... We need to get the confidence back to win. … I didn’t come here to lose.”
Philly doesn't face an easy task with two games against Penguins this week, but with their next 13 games against Eastern Conference opponents, the points up for grabs could either set the table for a Flyers rebound or give them a reason to start thinking about the NHL Draft a little earlier than planned.