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Flyers Gameday: 4/12/14 @ Pittsburgh

April 12, 2014, 3:45 AM ET [880 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
FLYERS @ PENGUINS GAME PREVIEW (2:00 A.M. EDT)

Looking to clinch third place in the Metropolitan Division, the Philadelphia Flyers (41-30-9) are in western Pennsylvania to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins (51-24-5) in the next-to-last game of the 2013-14 regular season. Game time is 3:00 p.m. EDT. The match will be televised nationally on NBC.

This is the fifth and final meeting of the season between the teams. The Flyers have won three of the games played thus far after dropping the first game game of the season series.

On Oct. 17, the Flyers fell to 1-7-0 on the season after a 4-1 home loss to the Penguins. The Penguins utterly dominated the second period but a Wayne Simmonds goal in the closing seconds of the stanza cut a 2-0 deficit in half. In the third period, the Flyers came close several times to tying the game but the Penguins countered and added some insurance.

On Nov. 13, the Flyers eked out a 2-1 road win in Pittsburgh. Ray Emery was stellar in making 30 saves. Pittsburgh dominated the first period but the Flyers took a 1-0 lead to the locker room on a Brayden Schenn goal in the latter part of the period. Philadelphia was the better team in the middle frame and power play goals by the Pens' Sidney Crosby and the Flyers' Brayden Schenn canceled each other out. The first half of the third period was even and then the Pens made a late push that the Flyers survived to preserve a one-goal win.

On March 16, a focused and hungry Flyers team played virtually 60 perfect minutes of hockey in a 4-0 win over a decidedly less focused (and injury-riddled) Penguins team. Philadelphia went 1-for-4 against the NHL's top-ranked penalty kill at the time and 5-for-5 against the number one power play with a shorthanded goal.

Sean Couturier was stellar in the front end of the home-and-home, outplaying Sidney Crosby head-to-head. Apart from turning in yeoman checking work, Couturier had a pair of picturesque assists. Matt Read was the recipient, potting shorthanded and even strength tallies. The Flyers also got a semi-breakaway goal by Vincent Lecavalier off a Luke Schenn pass. Scott Hartnell opened the scoring early on a power play goal scored from inside the Pittsburgh penalty killing box at the hash marks (a puck rotation that has had good results in the past but which has not been used often by the Flyers this year).

Steve Mason earned a 25-save shutout for the Flyers, who outshot the Penguins by a 40-25 margin for the game. His was only tested a few times. At the other end of the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury had some rebound control issues and was beaten high twice but didn't get much help from the team in front of him. The Penguins were sloppy in their puck management and prone to yielding counterattacks.

The following afternoon, the scene shifted to Pittsburgh for the back half of the home-and-home set. The Flyers prevailed in regulation, 4-3.

Philadelphia jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first period on an even strength goal by Brayden Schenn and two power play tallies by Simmonds. Fleury was pulled after the third goal in favor of backup Jeff Zatkoff. Pittsburgh got a goal back late in the period on a goal by Brooks Orpik.

In the second period, the Penguins cut the deficit to one goal on a blast from the point by Matt Niskanen. Read restored the two-goal lead at 4-2 on his second shorthanded goal in as many days. Jayson Megna converted a two-on-one rush at 16:19 of the middle period to cut the deficit to 4-3.

The Flyers held the fort in the third period, as Mason made 11 saves to nail down the win. Sidney Crosby, who was held pointless along with Evgeni Malkin in both games of the home-and-home set, hit the post late in regulation.

Philadelphia will close out the regular season with a home game against the Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow. Depending on the outcome of today's match, the regular season finale will either be meaningless or will go a long way toward determining the Flyers' (and Penguins') first-round playoff opponents. Pittsburgh will host the Ottawa Senators tomorrow night in a game with no bearing on the final Eastern Conference playoff picture.

FLYERS OUTLOOK

The back-to-back wins over the Penguins last month spurred an excellent run for the Flyers.

Philly went on to defeat a series of playoff-bound opponents, downing the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars and St. Louis in succession. One week later, after suffering setbacks against the Los Angeles Kings (a hard-fought 3-2 loss that saw the Flyers tie the game after trailing 2-0 in the third period) and New York Rangers, the Flyers gained one point apiece from shootout losses against the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues.

Philly has not played nearly as well since that run of wins and overtime ties against top NHL teams. The club is just 2-3-0 in its last five games, with the two victories coming at the expense of NHL bottom feeders Buffalo and Florida.

The losses included a home shutout defeat at the hands of Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets and road losses in Boston and Tampa Bay in which the match entered the third period tied before the opposing team pulled away in the final 20 minutes.

On Thursday, the Flyers dropped a 4-2 decision to the Lightning. Simmonds tied the game at 1-1 late in the second period with a power play goal on a jam-in play swinging out from the side to the front of the net. Sean Couturier scored a fluky deflection goal off a Tampa player to temporarily cut a third-period deficit to 3-2. A bad penalty by Scott Hartnell and an ensuing Bolts power play goal sealed the game.

The Flyers were idle last night. All they could do was watch the scoreboard as Columbus and Detroit were in action. With a chance to move past the Flyers in Metropolitan Division standings, the Blue Jackets dropped a 3-2 regulation decision to Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, with an opportunity to jump past Philly in the race for the higher wildcard seed (if Columbus were to beat out the Flyers in the Metro standings), Detroit lost 2-1 in regulation to Carolina.

As a result of last night's game, the Flyers are still tied in points (91) with both the Blue Jackets and Red Wings. Philadelphia holds tiebreaker advantages over both teams and holds a game in hand on both teams.

Scenario 1: If the Flyers win in regulation or overtime today or tomorrow, they will clinch third place in the Metropolitan Division and play the New York Rangers in the first round regardless of what Columbus does tonight against the Florida Panthers.

Scenario 2: If the Flyers win via shootout today and Columbus wins in regulation or overtime tonight, Philly would need one point tomorrow against Carolina to take third place in the Metro. However, regardless of tomorrow's outcome against the Hurricanes, the Flyers could not finish in the lower wild card seed. As such, Philly would play either the Rangers or Penguins in the first round.

Scenario 3: If the Flyers lose in regulation today, Columbus can move two points past them in the Metropolitan Division with a win of any type against Florida tonight. If the Blue Jackets can manage the win in regulation or overtime, they will tie the Flyers in regulation and overtime wins this season (38), which would necessitate the Flyers beating Carolina tomorrow in either regulation or overtime to take third place via tiebreaker.

Scenario 4: If the Flyers lose in regulation today and the Panthers find a way to beat the Blue Jackets in regulation, Philadelphia would win the Metro regardless of tomorrow's outcome against Carolina.

Scenario 5: If the Flyers lose in regulation and the Blue Jackets lose in overtime or via shootout, the Flyers would need one point from tomorrow's game to take third place in the Metro.

Scenario 6: If the Flyers lose to the Penguins in overtime or via shootout, they would need a Columbus loss in regulation tonight to sew up the third spot in the Metro. If Columbus were to win in regulation or overtime tonight, the Flyers would need a win of any variety against Carolina tomorrow to finish third in the Metro. If Columbus were to win via shootout tonight, the Flyers would take third in the Metro with even an overtime or shootout loss tomorrow.

Scenario 7: Detroit is idle tonight, and their game tomorrow afternoon against the depleted St. Louis Blues will only have meaning from a Flyers standpoint if Columbus finishes ahead of the Flyers in the Metro standings. If the Flyers fail to come up with at least two points from today and tomorrow's games, Detroit could potentially move into the higher wildcard seed based on their outcome tomorrow against the Blues. The Red Wings moving past Philly would mean the Flyers would play Boston in the first round. If the Blue Jackets beat out the Flyers but the Red Wings do not, the Flyers would play the Penguins.

In Thursday's game, the Flyers rested Nicklas Grossmann (foot/ankle ailment) and started Erik Gustafsson in his place. Today, Zac Rinaldo will serve the third game of his four-game suspension by the NHL. It will carry through the remainder of the regular season.

PENGUINS OUTLOOK

Pittsburgh has been on cruise control for awhile, having easily won the Metropolitan Division. The Pens are 5-5-0 in their last 10 games and have dealt with a slew of injuries since the Olympic break.

The Penguins got some uplifting news this past week when top-pairing defenseman Kris Letang returned to game action after suffering a mild stroke earlier this year. The team is still without Evgeni Malkin (foot injury) and Pascal Dupuis (knee surgery).

Both Dupuis and James Neal (concussion) missed the home-and-home set against the Flyers last month. Neal has since returned to the lineup. Likewise, left winger Chris Kunitz and veteran defenseman Paul Martin missed both ends of the home-and-home last month but is now back in the Pens' lineup.

Pittsburgh enters this game coming off a 4-3 shootout win over the Red Wings on Wednesday night. A pair of power play goals by Neal and an even strength goal by Jussi Jokinen (assisted by the returning Letang) enabled the Penguins to overcome deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 before taking the lead in the third period.

The Pens were unable to nail down the win in regulation, however, as a Riley Sheahan goal with 1:15 left in regulation sent the game to overtime. After a scoreless extra frame, the Penguins' Jokinen scored the lone goal of the shootout. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all three shots he saw in the shootout after turning back 34 of 37 in regulation and OT.

Although Crosby did not record a point in the home-and-home against the Flyers last month, he has generally feasted against Philly in his NHL career. In 47 career regular season games against the Flyers, Crosby has racked up 30 goals, 44 assists and 74 points to go along with 32 penalty minutes. Eleven of his goals have come on the power play, including one earlier this season.

Apart from Malkin and Dupuis, the Penguins remain without Joe Vitale (upper body), Marcel Goc (lower body), Chris Connor (hand surgery) and backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clot in hip). Vokoun, who has missed the entire NHL season, made a rehabilitation start for the AHL's Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins last night.

Robert Bortuzzo, Derek Engelland, Simon Despres, former Flyers forward Harry Zolnierczyk, and Adam Payerl are all potential healthy scratches today. However, if Penguins coach Dan Bylsma elects to rest other personnel, some of these players could see action.


KEY STAT COMPARISONS (NHL OVERALL RANKING)

Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.80 (11th), Penguins 2.96 (5th)
Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 2.74 (19th), Penguins 2.48 (8th)
Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 0.97 (17th), Penguins 1.03 (13th)
Power play efficiency: Flyers 19.3% (9th), Penguins 23.7% (1st)
Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 84.7% (7th), Penguins 85.8% (2nd)
Faceoff percentage: Flyers 50.1% (16th), Penguins 51.0% (13th)


PROJECTED LINEUPS (Subject to change)

FLYERS

19 Scott Hartnell - 28 Claude Giroux - 93 Jakub Voracek
10 Brayden Schenn - 12 Michael Raffl - 17 Wayne Simmonds
9 Steve Downie- 14 Sean Couturier - 24 Matt Read
15 Tye McGinn - 40 Vincent Lecavalier - 18 Adam Hall

44 Kimmo Timonen - 5 Braydon Coburn
8 Nicklas Grossmann - 32 Mark Streit
47 Andrew MacDonald - 22 Luke Schenn

35 Steve Mason
[29 Ray Emery]

Potential Scratches: Zac Rinaldo (NHL suspension), Jay Rosehill (healthy), Erik Gustafsson (healthy) or Nicklas Grossmann (foot/ankle), Hal Gill (healthy), Chris Pronger (LTIR, post-concussion syndrome).

PENGUINS

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 19 Beau Bennett
49 Brian Gibbons - 36 Jussi Jokinen - 18 James Neal
15 Tanner Glass - 16 Brandon Sutter - 22 Lee Stempniak
17 Taylor Pyatt - 27 Craig Adams - 59 Jayson Megna

2 Matt Niskanen - Olli Määttä
44 Brooks Orpik - 7 Paul Martin
58 Kris Letang - 4 Rob Scuderi

29 Marc-Andre Fleury
[37 Jeff Zatkoff]

Potential Scratches: See Penguins Outlook.

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