Published on February 20th, 2013 | by James Conley0
Penguins Precap 17: Philadelphia Flyers
Since meeting in one of the NHL’s marquis opening day match-ups over a month ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers have gone in opposite directions. Pittsburgh (11-5-0, 22 points) is second in the Eastern Conference and leads the Atlantic Division.
Pittsburgh has won eight of its last 10 games, while the Flyers (7-9-1, 15 points) have gone 5-4-1 in their last 10 and sit just two points ahead of the New York Islanders for last place in the Atlantic.
The Penguins’ 3-3-0 home record is only slightly better than the Flyers 2-4-0 record against teams from the Atlantic. Both teams will try to improve their marks in the division Wednesday at CONSOL Energy Center.
Pittsburgh enters the meeting coming off a 4-3 comeback win over the Buffalo Sabres. Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis each had three points in the win, which moved Pittsburgh ahead of the Devils in the Atlantic.
Philadelphia, 2-3 on their current six-game road trip, will try to capture momentum created by their 7-0 dismantling of the New York Islanders on Monday. The win was a big points grab for many Flyers forwards who had been struggling to find the score sheet just one year removed from leading the league in team scoring.
The Penguins’ first line of Chris Kunitz, Crosby and Dupuis is on a tear. The trio have combined for 15 points during the team’s current three-game winning streak, with Crosby (7-17-24) just one point shy of Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek for the league lead in points. Kunitz and Dupuis, with 19 and 12 points, respectively, are scoring at career paces. The line has quickly recaptured the chemistry that made it among the most productive in hockey through the first half of the 2010 season, before Crosby’s first head injury brought everything to a standstill.
In Philadelphia, injuries and inconsistency have kept the Flyers from putting together any sustained periods of winning. The Flyers sit 10th in the East, two points behind the 9th-place New York Rangers and just four points out of the Eastern Conference basement.
While Pittsburgh managed to take the first meeting of the year from the Flyers and enter Wednesday’s action with a much better record, the Flyers have owned CONSOL Energy Center, winning seven of their last nine in Pittsburgh, including two of three playoff matches there a season ago.
Off the ice, former Pens defenseman Mark Eaton is back in Pittsburgh to skate with the team after completing the terms of his pro tryout contract with the WBS Penguins in the AHL. Eaton hasn’t played with Pittsburgh since 2009-10, and reacquiring the 35 year old would likely see him play as the eighth defenseman on Pittsburgh’s depth chart.
As of now, Eaton hasn’t signed a new deal and is only skating with the team informally.
Tomas Vokoun (3-2-0, 2.27 / .918) will get the start for the Penguins, just his first in the team’s last seven games.
A win against the rival Flyers would move Pittsburgh’s divisional record to 6-3-0 and see them reclaim first in the East from the Montreal Canadiens, while Philadelphia will try to close out a tough road trip with another win, one that would put them into a points tie for the final playoff spot in the East.