Wells Fargo Center

Pittsburgh Penguins Gameday 66: Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins (44-17-4) @ Philadelphia Flyers (33-25-7)
ROOT, NHLN-US, CSN-PH – 1:00 pm/et
Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers meet in the first game of a home-and-home as the Penguins visit Philadelphia.

The Flyers currently hold the second wild card spot in the East, barely. They’re tied in points with Detroit, but have played one fewer game, so this is a big series of them. The Penguins are currently second in the East, one point behind Boston, who has played one more game. The Metro Division is basically a disaster.

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For the Pens, James Neal is out and Chris Kunitz is uncertain.

For the Flyers, they have an article on their website that uses the words “Claude Giroux” and “Hart Trophy” in the same piece.

When it comes time to vote for the Hart Trophy, the members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association are apt to vote the NHL scoring leader as one of the finalists for the award, if not the outright winner.

As such, Crosby seems to be a lock as one of the three finalists for the award.

Looking around the league, it’s hard to find other players making that significant an impact. Phil Kessel in Toronto is probably on a very short list and he’s a distant second to Crosby in the scoring race and is probably going to be a finalist as well.

But who is the third choice?

But the name that should start getting into the conscious of the hockey writers with a vote is Claude Giroux.

This, of course, comes with the codicil that the Flyers make the playoffs, but if they do, Giroux has been the biggest reason.

Take the first 15 games of the season out of the equation, and Giroux has been among the best in the game.

STATS, INFO & NOTES:

Leading Scorers:

Penguins: Sidney Crosby (31G, 57A: 88P)
Flyers: Claude Giroux (23G, 42A: 65P)

Starting Goaltenders:

Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury (34-14-3, 2.26 GAA, .918 Sv% )
Flyers: Steve Mason (26-16-6, 2.62 GAA, .914 Sv%)

Last Games:

Penguins: Defeated Washington Capitals 2-0.
Flyers: Lost to New Jersey Devils 2-1.

Previews from Team Websites:  [Penguins] [Flyers]

Opposition Blog: [Broad Street Hockey]
What They’re Saying:Home-and-home set begins with must-win game

Yes, the Penguins are very good. They currently hold a 19 point lead over the Flyers in the standings, and we’re only through 65 games on the year.

They are a better team than the Flyers. There’s no way around it.

However, there’s really no reason the Flyers should lose this game against their cross-state rivals today. You could make a pretty legitimate argument that the Flyers are the better team *today* … and, well, that’s all that matters right now.

Pittsburgh is without the following regular players in this first half of the weekend home-and-home series: Kris Letang, James Neal, Paul Martin, Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett and Chris Conner. Lee Stempniak is on their top line. Brian Gibbons is getting power play time. I think I went to high school with Brian Gibbons.

What Happened Last Time: November 13, 2013 – Pens lost 2-1 [Our Recap]

The Penguins have now gone three games without an even-strength goal.

That is just a troubling stat. Teams are taking away the Pens’ bread and butter. It’s clear the Pens haven’t changed much in terms of attack, and it’s hard to tell if the book is out or if the Pens just aren’t executing. We’ve all been down this road before. People will get jammed about Bylsma, then the Pens will win like 10 in a row, and people will talk shit, etc.

Dumping and chasing is great, but when it fails, yikes. If unsuccessful dumps counted as turnovers, Pens would lead the league.

Penguins Player(s) to Watch: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, because they’re basically the only players left. Please don’t get hurt.

Flyers Player(s) to Watch: Claude Giroux, because of something something MVP, something something baton, something something hype.

Gif that Seems Appropriate for Today’s Game: 

Best. In. The. World.

Pittsburgh Penguins lines via Daily Faceoff:

Chris Kunitz (?) – Sidney Crosby – Lee Stempniak
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin - Brian Gibbons
Tanner Glass – Brandon Sutter - Marcel Goc
Jayson Megna/Taylor Pyatt – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams

Olli Maatta - Brooks Orpik
Rob Scuderi – Matt Niskanen
Deryk Engelland/Simon Despres - Robert Bortuzzo

Marc-Andre Fleury

Philadelphia Flyers lines via Daily Faceoff:

Scott Hartnell – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Vincent Lecavalier – Brayden Schenn – Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read – Sean Couturier – Steve Downie
Chris VandeVelde – Adam Hall – Michael Raffi

Braydon Coburn - Kimmo Timonen
Mark Streit – Nicklas Grossman
Andrew MacDonald – Luke Schenn

Steve Mason

The Penguins line combinations are basically a big question mark right now, but it’s not pretty regardless of how you put them together. The Flyers, however, have Steve Mason in goal, so…

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