PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins expect a playoff-like matchup when they face the Philadelphia Flyers at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA, SN1).
Philadelphia has been eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention, which has dropped the Penguins' remaining games against potential playoff opponents to two. Pittsburgh is welcoming those two games, against the Ottawa Senators on April 7 and New York Islanders on April 10, expecting to experience the style of low-scoring, defensive hockey required in the postseason.
"Our games with the Flyers this year, and I know in the past, they've been real battles," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "Playoff-like hockey. It's going to be one of those. It's Rivalry Night. I know that. It's fitting that the game will probably be played like that. It's two teams that don't like each other very much and they've had a history of very good battles.
"It will be a playoff-like tune up."
Despite the Flyers' failure to secure a playoff position, the Penguins think their two remaining games with their cross-state rival will provide the intensity they are seeking. The Flyers have had the Penguins' number recently, winning each of their previous games, 5-3 on Oct. 22 and 3-2 in overtime on Jan. 20. Last season, Pittsburgh didn't fare much better, winning one of out of five games while being outscored 15-11.
The Flyers are 12-2-1, including 10-1-1 in the regular season, at Consol Energy Center since it opened in 2010-11.
"Philadelphia, whenever we play them, it feels like a playoff game," forward Beau Bennett said. "There's that rivalry. There's that hatred for each other and they always give us their best. So, we have to play a good game and we know they're coming after us.
"The teams that are out of the playoff race this time of year are the toughest to play because they have nothing really to lose. They're playing loose out there. They're playing hard and we know what Philadelphia's about. They're a good team."
Several Flyers said they could not explain why they've experienced success in Pittsburgh, but that they hope it continues.
"It's always fun games when we play Pittsburgh," forward Claude Giroux said. "It's easy to get up from your nap and play against them … I didn't know [how well the Flyers have played at Consol Energy Center]. I think sometimes you play a team and find a way to win and I think we've been doing a good job against this team."
Forward Zac Rinaldo credited each team's fans for creating the hostility the rivalry exudes.
"I know we haven't been on our game on the road," Rinaldo said. "We're looking to get a road win here … [Playing the Penguins] gets our juices going, for sure. I think the fans make it more interesting because I know our fans really don't like Pittsburgh fans and Pittsburgh fans really don't like our fans. So, when you mix that up and people hear about this and people hear about that, it just gets everyone going a little more."
Philadelphia defenseman Mark Streit could return to the lineup after visiting his ill 99-year-old grandmother in Switzerland. He and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo missed the Flyers' 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday with the flu.
Here are the projected lineups:
Michael Raffl – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Matt Read – Sean Couturier – Brayden Schenn
Zac Rinaldo – Nick Cousins – Ryan White
Chris VandeVelde – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Vincent Lecavalier
Michael Del Zotto – Nick Schultz
Nicklas Grossman – Brandon Manning
Oliver Lauridsen – Mark Alt
Scratched: Jason Akeson
Injured: RJ Umberger (abdominal/hip surgery), Luke Schenn (lower body), Wayne Simmonds (lower body), Andrew MacDonald (upper body), Carlo Colaiacovo (flu), Mark Streit (flu)
David Perron – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – Blake Comeau
Nick Spaling – Brandon Sutter – Steve Downie
Daniel Winnik – Maxim Lapierre – Beau Bennett/Craig Adams
Derrick Pouliot – Ben Lovejoy
Rob Scuderi – Ian Cole
Injured: Kris Letang (concussion), Christian Ehrhoff (upper body), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (upper body)
Status report: Johnston said Letang, who sustained a concussion against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday, has not exercised and is continuing to be evaluated. Ehrhoff (upper body) skated on his own Wednesday, Johnston said … Johnston returned from visiting family in Nova Scotia following the passing of his mother, Sheila Margaret (Mickey) Johnston, on Friday.
Who's hot: Crosby has scored five points in his past three games and leads the NHL with 79 points, two more than Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and New York Islanders forward John Tavares … Voracek trails Crosby by three points. He has scored eight points in his past four games, including two assists against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.