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.