FLYERS (21-10-4) at PENGUINS (21-11-4)
TV: CSN-PH, ROOT (HD)
Philadelphia 6-3-1; Pittsburgh 6-4-0
Philadelphia won the first meeting of the season between the two teams three weeks ago, 3-2. Wayne Simmonds
scored a power-play goal and picked up an assist.
Big Story: Jaromir Jagr
returns to Pittsburgh for the first time as a member of the Flyers -- and since spurning his former team this summer in favor of its biggest rival. Stanley Cup hero Maxime Talbot
will also be back for the first time since joining the Flyers.
After beginning December with seven straight wins, Philadelphia has scuffled recently. The Flyers have lost four of their past five, and two of those games were routs -- a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Boston and a 5-1 loss at Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov
has struggled, yielding 16 goals in his past four starts (0-3-1). He stopped only 11 of 16 shots against the Lightning. While his thoughtful dialogue on HBO's "24/7" has made him the unquestioned star of the series, his expletive on live television after the game Tuesday when describing his performance was certainly less cheerful.
Pittsburgh has won four straight to pull even with Philadelphia and within two points of the New York Rangers for the Atlantic Division lead. The Penguins have won the past two games thanks to a flurry of goals early in the third period to break open a tie game.
leads the NHL with 19 points since Dec. 1, and while the Penguins would certainly be glad to have captain Sidney Crosby
and top defenseman Kris Letang
back, they have racked up 30 goals in the past eight games.
Who's Hot: Claude Giroux
leads the NHL with 44 points, and he has points on five of the team's seven goals in the three games since he returned from a concussion. … Pittsburgh's top line of Malkin, James Neal
and Chris Kunitz
dominated Carolina on Tuesday night, collecting as many shots (18) as the entire Hurricanes team. Neal has 21 goals, six shy of his career high, while Malkin has moved within a point of Giroux for the NHL scoring lead.
Philadelphia captain Chris Pronger
is out for the season with a concussion. Center Sean Couturier
is currently out with a head injury, but has begun skating with the team. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson
is also out after wrist surgery. … Crosby is out indefinitely with a concussion. So too are defensemen Kris Letang
and Robert Bortuzzo
. Defenseman Paul Martin
has been out the past two weeks with a lower-body injury, but could take the morning skate on Thursday.
While Bryzgalov has been inconsistent, backup Sergei Bobrovsky
has been fantastic in his young career against the Penguins. He is 3-1-1 against Pittsburgh with a 2.17 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.
Crosby hasn't practiced with the Penguins since Dec. 7, and hasn't played since Dec. 5 against the Boston Bruins. That was his eighth game back after missing nearly 11 months with a concussion.
The Penguins are 5-3 since that game against the Bruins and 16-9-3 without Crosby this season. He is exercising lightly, but a return to practice or playing games remains unknown.
"He's still having symptoms," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma told reporters Tuesday after practice.