PHILADELPHIA -- One can look at the Philadelphia Flyers and their 1-6-0 record and come to the conclusion that they're playing poorly and the record reflects that. Someone else can look at the Flyers, see that they blew a third-period lead and lost to the Vancouver Canucks two nights ago and think they are primed for a breakout.
Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma falls into the latter category. He isn't preparing to face a struggling team Thursday at Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US); he's expecting to face a dangerous one that played better in a loss Saturday at the Detroit Red Wings and nearly beat the Canucks on Tuesday.
"I don't look at the Flyers' record as an indication of the quality of opponent or what we're going to see [Thursday] at all," Bylsma said. "They do have some injuries, but they have key players in, good players in, a special teams that is good and dangerous with what they bring. That's what we expect from them. Especially early on in the season, when you get off to a 1-3, 1-4, whatever it is, the limelight is on you but I still think they're a very good team and that's what we're focused on, not what their record is."
The Flyers are 1-3-0 since Craig Berube replaced Peter Laviolette as coach three games into the season. Claude Giroux doesn't have a goal yet. Neither does Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek or Matt Read, who doesn't even have a point yet this season. They're 29th in the NHL in goals per game (1.43), 28th in in power play (6.9 percent) and 18th in penalty kill (79.4 percent).
Worse yet, Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavalier, two forwards who normally would be in Philadelphia's top six, are out of the lineup with injuries.
With a regulation win Thursday, the Penguins can put a 10-point cushion between themselves and the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division.
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby sees all that information and doesn't find much relevance to the task at hand.
"I think you expect them to come probably even harder," Crosby said. "You expect a pretty desperate hockey team that wants to win a hockey game. … You have to prepare even more for a desperate team. You don't look at their record."
The Penguins, who have won two in a row and are 5-1-0 this season, say they are ready to match that desperation. Bylsma is prepared to match the intensity and toughness he's expecting from Philadelphia on Thursday, one reason Deryk Engelland, normally a defenseman, will play as a fourth-line right wing in place of Dustin Jeffrey.
Engelland isn't moving up to play forward because of his skill; he has seven goals in 189 NHL games.
"I like having that grit and that guy in our lineup," Bylsma said. "Having that grit, having that person there, having that physicality, what he can bring, for this game for sure."
Engelland has played forward before, at least once in his NHL career and a few times when he played for the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL.
"We know he has the understanding of what the position implies and what he needs to do," Bylsma said. "He's shown he has an aptitude to have success there and do it."
Here is how the Penguins' lineup likely will look:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - Chuck Kobasew
Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Craig Adams
Harry Zolnierczyk - Joe Vitale - Deryk Engelland
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Matt Niskanen
Olli Maatta - Robert Bortuzzo
Scratched: Dustin Jeffrey
Injured: Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), James Neal (upper body), Kris Letang (lower body), Beau Bennett (lower body), Matt D'Agostini (lower body)