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Penguins brace for returns of Jagr, Talbot as Flyers

by Corey Masisak /
FLYERS (21-10-4) at PENGUINS (21-11-4)


Last 10:
Philadelphia 6-3-1; Pittsburgh 6-4-0

Season Series: 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.

Team Scope:

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.

Evgeni Malkin 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.

Injury Report: 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.

Stat Pack:
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.

Puck Drop:
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.

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