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Flyers try to prevent Penguins from drawing even

by Adam Kimelman
FLYERS (45-20-10) at PENGUINS (45-23-8)

TV -- CSN-PH (HD), FS-P (HD)

Last 10 --
Philadelphia 5-1-4; Pittsburgh 8-2-0

Season series -- This is the sixth and final meeting between the top two teams in the Atlantic Division. The Flyers have a 3-2 edge in the season series, but the Penguins won their most recent meeting, last Thursday in Philadelphia, when Chris Kunitz scored game-deciding goal in a 2-1 shootout victory for the Penguins.

Big story -- The Penguins can pull even in points if they beat the Flyers in regulation. Both teams would have 100 points, but the Flyers would remain atop the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division standings based on their having played one fewer game than the Pens.

Team Scope:

Flyers -- Philadelphia entered last week knowing how important it was, as three of their four games were against the teams right behind them in the chase for the Eastern Conference lead. They won just one of those four games, but it was against the New York Islanders. They dropped one-goal decisions to the Capitals, Penguins and Bruins, all on home ice.

"I liked Washington the best and I think we should have won that hockey game but we didn't," coach Peter Laviolette said following Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Bruins. "Pittsburgh I didn't like at all and Boston was somewhere in the middle."

One of the most frequent criticisms coming out of the Philadelphia locker room has been an ability to play full, 60-minute games. Sunday was a prime example, as the Flyers played well in the first period, and then allowed the Bruins to take control over the final 40 minutes.

"We have only seven games left, and we can't go into the playoffs playing up and down hockey," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "It's not going to work. … I still think we can play better. It was a tight game. We had some chances and they had some chances, but overall I think we could have done a better job."

Penguins -- Prior to Sunday's 2-1 win against the Florida Panthers, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury received the team MVP award.

It's hard to argue with the decision -- he's won three straight games, is second in the League with 34 wins and is eighth with a 2.28 goals-against average.

"We've had two superstars go down, and he's taken over for both of them and really carried us," rookie defenseman Ben Lovejoy told the team's website. "He's unbelievable. If he doesn't win the Vezina (Trophy), he should win the League MVP."

"A lot of our wins have been not only because of the way he's played but because of the confidence that he's giving our team," coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's been outstanding for long periods of time. He's always been the guy to have the dramatic big saves. But I'm not sure he's ever played this consistently for this long a period of time.

"Given our injury situation and given the year that we've had … I think he's our MVP and I think he deserves to be mentioned for League MVP with his play this year."

Who's hot --
Kris Versteeg scored his 20th goal of the season Sunday, giving him at least 20 in all three of his full NHL seasons. It was his sixth goal in 20 games with the Flyers. … In Fleury's last 10 games, he's 7-2-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average.

Injury report --
Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger continues to rehabilitate from surgery to repair a broken bone in his right hand, with the hope he'll be able to return prior to the end of the regular season. … Penguins captain Sidney Crosby continues skating in hope of returning this season from a concussion. Nick Johnson (upper body), Dustin Jeffrey (knee), Brent Johnson (upper body), Mark Letestu (upper body) and Eric Tangradi (concussion) also are hurt.

Stat pack -- Since Crosby last played, the Penguins are 19-11-5. As great as Crosby is, the Pens have a tendency to do OK without him -- prior to this injury absence, they were 21-11-7 without him.

Puck drop --
The Penguins continue to place no timetable on Crosby's return from the concussion that has sidelined him since Jan. 5, but he's been impressing during his on-ice workouts, and has been taking a bigger role in the locker room.

"Sid's been around a lot for three weeks, four weeks, being a part of it," Bylsma told reporters Sunday. "He's in every day, talking to our players. He has been with our team for a while now. Again, there's been no expectations talked about, there's been no timetable talked about, when it's possible for him to even return with the team."

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