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Flyers-Penguins Preview @NHLdotcom
Flyers-Penguins Preview

GAME: Philadelphia Flyers (20-8-5) at Pittsburgh Penguins (8-18-7).

TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been working hard this week for new coach Michel Therrien. Now, they're ready to see if it pays off.

The Penguins try for their first win under Therrien as they host the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Penguins lost their first two games under Therrien, who replaced fired coach Eddie Olczyk on Dec. 15, dropping both ends of a home-and-home series with Buffalo on Friday and Saturday. Pittsburgh, which lost 4-3 to the Sabres on Saturday, has dropped 10 of its last 11 and is in last place in the Eastern Conference.

Therrien lived up to his reputation as a demanding and methodical coach this week, running his team through brutal practices and getting players used to his system.

"We had a great week of practice here," 18-year-old rookie star Sidney Crosby said. "Everyone has been pushing themselves. We have high expectations of ourselves to come and play 60 minutes (Friday)."

Several of Pittsburgh's younger players played under Therrien at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where he compiled a 21-1-2-1 record - the best start in AHL history. Michel Ouellet, whom Therrien brought back with him after the Penguins sent him down the week before, scored his first two NHL goals against the Sabres.

"I think it gets guys used to the work ethic for the work we need to do for 60 minutes in the game," Ouellet said. "The way he starts showing it is, if you work hard in practice, you'll work hard in the games."

The Penguins will continue to be without owner-captain Mario Lemieux, who missed Saturday's game with a recurrence of an irregular heartbeat. Lemieux played Friday after sitting out four games with the same problem, but his pulse began racing during the overtime loss.

He will be out of the lineup indefinitely and won't practice for 10 days to two weeks as doctors adjust his medication.

"We're all concerned about Mario," general manager Craig Patrick said. "That's why we're going to make sure we do this right."

Winger Mark Recchi injured his groin during Saturday's game and did not play in the third period.

The Flyers won for the fourth time in six games on Thursday, beating the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators 4-3. Simon Gagne had a goal and an assist in his first game back after missing five with a strained groin.

He played on the same line with Peter Forsberg, who earlier missed six games with a groin injury, for the first time since Nov. 25.

"You always want to do something special when you're coming back," Gagne said. "You want to play a good game. In the first period I felt a bit tired. A couple of times I had a couple of long shifts, but overall it was pretty good, especially when you play a good team like Ottawa."

Mike Knuble scored to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games. He has five goals over that span.

"It was great for us to come out and play the way we did today," said Forsberg, who had two assists. "Right off the bat, getting the puck deep, hustling, and getting a lot of goals, we came out hard and showed we have a lot of healthy guys. We're a good team."

The Flyers are opening an 11-game road trip, the longest in franchise history.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 22): Flyers - 45 points, 2nd place, 1 PB, Atlantic Division. Penguins - 23 points, 5th place, 23 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - Gagne, 24 goals; Forsberg, 37 assists and 47 points; Donald Brashear, 43 PIM. Penguins - Crosby, 14 goals, 19 assists and 33 points; Brooks Orpik, 61 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 22): Flyers - Power play: 19.2 percent (40 for 208), 7th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.3 percent (159 for 203), 28th. Penguins - Power play: 15.2 percent (32 for 211), 25th. Penalty killing: 78.9 percent (176 for 223), 27th.

GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Robert Esche (11-4-2, 0 SO, 3.14 GAA); Antero Niittymaki (9-4-3, 1, 2.77). Penguins - Jocelyn Thibault (1-9-2, 0, 4.41); Marc-Andre Fleury (2-6-2, 0, 3.05).

SEASON SERIES: Flyers, 2-0-1.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 19; Flyers, 6-3. At Pittsburgh, Gagne had two goals and an assist for the Flyers, who scored three third-period goals.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flyers - 7-3-2 on the road; Penguins - 4-8-4 at home.

Associated Press
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