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Flyers-Penguins Preview @NHL

The Philadelphia Flyers have their own talented young core of players, but they've grown tired of seeing Pittsburgh Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin continually put up gaudy numbers in their intrastate rivalry.

They might have to move Jordan Staal to the top of their growing list of concerns.

After Staal sparked a stunning comeback over the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Penguins will look for their fifth straight victory on Thursday night when they host the Flyers, who have lost seven in a row at Mellon Arena.

Crosby and Malkin are two of the NHL's best young players, and they've scored more points against Philadelphia than any other franchise in their careers thus far. Crosby has 16 goals and 37 points in 21 regular-season games versus the Flyers, while Malkin has 10 goals and 24 points in 16 games.

The two combined for five goals and seven assists as the Penguins (9-4-2) ousted Philadelphia in five games in last season's Eastern Conference finals, a series that also saw Staal score four goals.

Staal was held without a point in Pittsburgh's six-game loss to Detroit in the Cup finals, and the 20-year-old went 11 games without scoring to start 2008-09 before picking up two in his first three games in November.

He then played two scoreless periods Tuesday against the Red Wings as the Penguins went down 5-2, but that's when Staal got going. He scored three times in the third, then set up Ruslan Fedotenko in overtime, turning a near-certain loss into a 7-6 win.

"It obviously feels good," Staal told the team's official Web site. "The last couple of games I've been playing really well. The puck just wasn't going in for me but (Tuesday) night everything I touched went in. It was a great feeling and hopefully I can keep doing it."

It took overtime for the Penguins to top the Flyers (5-6-3) in their first meeting this season. Pascal Dupuis scored with just 11 seconds left in the extra period on Oct. 14 at Mellon Arena, lifting Pittsburgh to a 3-2 win.

Even though Philadelphia has lost seven straight at the Igloo - including three in the playoffs - the Penguins are expecting a battle on Thursday.

"It's going to be a tough game," said right wing Petr Sykora. "They always come to this building and play hard. It's always fun to play Philly."

The Flyers won their final four games in October, then followed that streak with three straight losses to open November, a skid they snapped Tuesday afternoon on Long Island.

Danny Briere and Mike Richards scored their fifth goals of the season to lift Philadelphia past the New York Islanders 3-1.

Briere has scored in four straight, though that streak was interrupted for two weeks as he dealt with a torn stomach muscle. He returned to the lineup Saturday, but after his goal in the second period Tuesday, Briere left with a groin strain.

He's expected to miss a week with his latest injury.

The other negative development for the Flyers was the benching of left wing Scott Hartnell, who hasn't scored in six games. Coach John Stevens kept Hartnell off the ice Tuesday for the entire third period.

"You just deal with it and work hard in practice," Hartnell said. "I have no problems sitting if he doesn't think I'm doing a good job. I'm a positive person."

Joffrey Lupul, who hasn't produced a point in five games, had seven goals and seven assists in 13 games against Pittsburgh last season.

EA SPORTS NHL09 Game Predictions
Philadelphia 2
Pittsburgh 3 (SO)
Three Stars
G: 2 | A: 0

G: 1 | A: 1

G: 0 | A: 2


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